Sunningdale golf club (new) - 18 POINTS
The New Course at Sunningdale is a bit like the New course at St Andrews - so titled only because it came after the Old one! The New course was built by the then club secretary, Harry Colt, in 1923 adjacent to the Old Course on this stunning piece of Surrey land.
I’m not sure there is anywhere else in the world with two courses of such high quality on the same property and the rankings would support that. The average ranking of the two courses is 38 with the next best (the two properties at Bandon) coming in at 46. If anything, I think they have under-rated this amazing place.
There is a debate among course architecture buffs about which of these courses should rank higher. The Old has traditionally held that position but Golf Monthly have called it for the New in their latest ranking.
Before you start your round make sure you pick up a strokesaver from the proshop - it has a wonderful innovation to help you get round. On each hole’s description they have included a graphic of the view from the tee with little cross hairs showing the best line. This really helped us on several occasions and I could have done with it the previous day at West Sussex. So simple, and yet so efective!
When I posted on Twitter that I was playing the New Course, one follower commented that its front nine was the best nine holes on the property. There are certainly some magnificent holes there - the run of 4th, 5th and 6th particularly stand out. The 5th is a great Colt par 3, carry over heather and a vast bunker to a two tier green with trouble all around. The old cliche of ‘you’ll be delighted with a par’ is probably never truer than here. It is a hole that will make you smile whatever happens.
There are 5 par 3s on the course and they are among the strongest you will find anywhere. None of them are crazily long or particularly short but all of them are reluctant to make par an easy score.
After the sweeping dogleg par 5 6th, the great holes keep coming to the turn. (Make sure you stop after the 10th green for one of the legendary sausage sandwiches (other sandwiches are available!) at the halfway house.) I think it is true that the back 9 never quite hits the heights of the front nine. There are some very strong holes but the front 9 is so good, it is hard to live up to.
At times the New course has more of a moorland feel than the Old which plays mainly through the trees. You get great 360 degree views of acre upon acre of moorland and the place has a feeling of scale to it in a way you very rarely find.
My expectations had been set that the New course was a tougher course, likely to mean harder scoring and a sterner test than the Old. I think this is probably true but don’t worry too much about the challenge as this is a course you can get round. It is tough but it is playable from the tee. There are some carries required, but, from the yellow tees, if you can get the ball out 200 yards you should be OK, and while there is plenty of heather to gobble up errant shots, it doesn’t come into play on every fairway and sometimes is a good distance back from the fairway line.
The conditioning of the course was fantastic when we played, after a long hot summer in southern England. The greens ran just beautifully and the bunkers were a pleasure to play from!
In short, the Sunningdale’s New Course is tough but playable, with some wonderfully designed holes that will test you without totally beating you up. I would recommend playing the New Course first if you are doing 36 on the property, as the Old is definitely a little more accessible and probably a little more picturesque. But don’t just play the Old and leave this wonderful place or you’ll be missing something pretty special.
BOOKING THE COURSE
Sunningdale is well set up for visitors. You can play the courses year round from Monday to Thursday and the summer green fee is £220 for the New with a £350 day ticket for the Old and the New together. In the off-season you will pay £135 a round. To book you need to phone or email - all details are here.
Definitely make sure you have plenty of time to explore the clubhouse and take advantage of the hospitality. On arrival we went into the Critchley Room - the main dining room - and there was a complementary bacon roll and pastry awaiting us. The place is full of curios and interesting memorabilia and is well worth a look around. Many professional events were held here back when a 6,500 yard course was relevant for professional golfers and memories of them adorn the world.
It is possible to come out to Sunningdale from London for a day trip, which may work if you are only playing here rather than touring the area. Train is probably the best way, it’s only 47 minutes from Waterloo. However, if you are looking to play a few courses in the area then staying in the leafy Surrey suburbs makes sense. If you are happy with a relatively laid-back nightlife then somewhere like Bagshot would do the trick. There is a perfectly serviceable Premier Inn there.
If you are looking for something a little grander then Pennyhill Park (where the England rugby team stay) would give you a nice base with a good restaurant and spa facilities although you are looking at quite a step-up in cost from the Premier Inn and it isn’t walking distance from anywhere else.
If you are looking for a little more in the way of nightlife then consider Woking (20 minutes drive) or Guildford (30 minutes) where you will get more food and drink options as well as better connections to London - Woking is just 25 minutes on the train from Waterloo.
In terms of other courses to play in the area, there are some obvious candidates. Swinley Forest is open to visitors now and both St George’s Hill and Walton Heath are in the world top 100. West Sussex is just an hour away and well worth a trip, while closer by, Woking and is another obvious choice. If you have good connections and can get a game at Queenwood or Wentworth then you can spin out a trip here for over a week!
Sunningdale Golf Club,
Phone: +44 (0) 1344 621681