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Sunningdale Old Course: is there a better golf course in England?

The 18th at Sunningdale with the iconic clubhouse beyond
The 18th at Sunningdale with the iconic clubhouse beyond

Bobby Jones hit the nail on the head when he said of Sunningdale Old Course, “I wish I could take it home with me.”

It may be the only thing he and I have in common but I certainly share that sentiment as I step off the 18th green after a round I’d be happy to repeat every day for the rest of my life.

When you receive the invitation to visit Sunningdale, the feeling is comparable to the excitement you feel as a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve: you know you are in for something very special, you hope the day lives up to the hype and you don’t sleep because of the excitement the night before.

The great American golfer, Bobby Jones
The great American golfer, Bobby Jones

SUNNINGDALE GOLF CLUB: A CLASS ACT

The whole experience is effortlessly classy. The Sunningdale Estate is tucked away behind gates just off a quiet lane near the village centre. Once the gates close behind you, you could be forgiven for forgetting a world outside of this idyllic spot exists. It simply melts away, disappears delightfully into soft focus.

The clubhouse is majestic and packed full of the kind of history and traditional you would associate with one of England’s grandest clubs. The main bar overlooks the practice putting green near the first tee and, of course, onto the famous Oak tree that has become the symbol of the club. There is a driving range away to the left that is functional rather than fancy and the short game area is extensive and varied enough to ensure even the most dedicated of golfers is ready for the round of their lives.

Sunningdale Golf Club UK
The 14th green at Sunningdale Old Course

SUNNINGDALE OLD: AN INLAND CLASSIC

The course itself is nothing short of aninland masterpiece – it’s not hyperbole to suggest it’s as good as anything you will find anywhere in the world. Willie Park Jr, who designed it in 1900, carved through the Berkshire heathland and forest so carefully, so delicately as to create a layout that feels as if it could only ever have been a golf course. It rises and falls over varied and challenging landscapes and it presents so many wonderful and memorable holes – one after, another after another. It never lets up. And as you would expect, the condition of the course is nothing short of immaculate throughout. The only reason the best players in the world no longer grace these hallowed fairways is because Sunningdale Old Course is not a long golf course. It is not a beast. It doesn’t need to be. It prioritises placement above power. But this place does not need the addition of the world’s best players on its fairways to enhance it in any way.

Sunningdale Golf Club UK
The beautiful par-4 12th at The Old Course

SUNNINGDALE GOLF CLUB IS TIMELESS

That Sunningdale has not tried too hard to keep up with the march of time is actually its greatest quality. The opening hole is a good example. The 1st is a 492-yard par 5, which invites you to begin your round with a birdie, even if you often have to settle for something a little less satisfying. The 2nd is a gentle reminder that things get harder quickly – a 470-yard par 4 with a wicked green which slopes sharply front to back.

The 4th is a delightful uphill par-3 that requires total focus off the tee and then the 7th, with its blind tee shot, is perhaps the best hole on the course – certainly the most photographed. As is the the long 10th, with its incredible view from the tee. The bunkering is clever and subtle throughout and the fairways, although not narrow, are framed delightfully by towering trees, vibrant heather and, at times, challenging rough. If you miss these fairways you will drop shots.

A SUNNINGDALE SAUSAGE SANDWICH

The halfway house is worth stopping at. The sausage sandwiches have become the stuff of legend, while the setting in the middle of a delightful woodland is idyllic and tranquil. It’s a perfect spot to consider the challenge ahead. The 12th is another outstanding par 4, stretching some 416 yards. I could go on, but I won’t – I am sure you get the picture. Sometimes golf courses and luxury resorts receive so much acclaim that, when you finally get there, the reality can’t possibly live up to it. Sunningdale Old Course is the total opposite of that. It may well be England’s best golf course, let alone it’s best inland course. And yet when you come to play it, as I have been fortunate enough to do on a number of occasions now, it still manages to surpass your expectations.

It is majestic. It is beautiful. It is challenging and varied. It is a joy to walk and to play. And I think I know what I want for every Christmas from now on.

SUNNINGDALE GOLF SCORECARD

The Old Course scorecard at Sunningdale Golf Club
The Old Course scorecard at Sunningdale

Sunningdale Golf Club UK: the facts

Phone Number:01344 621681
Designers:
Willie Park Jr.
Cost: £95-£230
Where it ranks:At the very top. 12th in Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses in the world.
Length:6,329 yards from the back tees. Par 70.

Sunningdale Golf Club: frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Where is Sunningdale Golf Club?

Sunningdale Golf Club sits just outside the village of Sunningdale, Berkshire around 30 miles west-southwest of London. It sits on the famed Surrey/Berkshire sand-belt, which includes other courses such as Swinley Forest, Wentworth and The Berkshire, among others.

What is the Sunningdale Golf Club dress code?

All visitors to Sunningdale Golf Club are advised to “dress in keeping with the character and standing of the club.” That means denim or casual clothing is not allowed, shirts must be tucked in, shorts must be tailored, although short socks are allowed. You can wear golf clothing in the clubhouse at Sunningdale Golf Club but men must wear a jacket before entering the Dining Room.

How much is Sunningdale Golf Club membership cost?

Sunningdale is one of England’s most exclusive and private golf clubs and the fees associated with becoming a member are certainly in keeping with that reputation. But before fees even become a consideration, you would need to get onto the waiting list to join the club which runs into many years.

What about Sunningdale Golf Club members? Are there any famous members?

The short answer is yes. The likes of Hugh Grant, Tim Henman and Gary Lineker are said to be members at Sunningdale. While the likes of Michael Jordan and Samuel L Jackson are among its most famous visitors. But on both counts, the list is long and distinguished.

What makes Sunningdale Golf Club UK so special?

There are a whole host of factors that contribute to Sunningdale Golf Club UK being widely viewed as one of England’s best golf courses. The quality of both The Old and the New Courses are at the heart of it, though, the way each are laid out and maintained is another factor and the privacy and exclusivity of Sunningdale Golf Club UK, make it even more desirable given that it isn’t open for play to the public.

How much are Sunningdale Golf Club Old Course green fees?

Visitors are welcome at Sunningdale from Monday to Thursday. Sunningdale green fees will depend on the season you play in. For the latest rates visit SunningdaleGolfClub.co.uk

Sunningdale GOLF CLUB map

Map of Sunningdale Golf Club UK

SUNNINGDALE NEW COURSE SCORECARD

Sunningdale Golf Club New Course Scorecard
The scorecard for the New Course

The founder of The Wandering Golfers, Ben grew up on the links of Scotland learning the game from his beloved Grandpa. Previously a writer and broadcaster for The Times and BBC

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for any other fantastic article.

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