Swinley Forest Golf Club Course Review

Swinley Forest is a shining diamond; a Colt classic that has passed the test of time with flying colours

The closing hole with the first on the left (Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Swinley Forest is a shining diamond; a Colt classic that has passed the test of time with flying colours

Swinley Forest Golf Club Course Review

Top 100 Ranking 2021/22 - 39 Previous Rankings 2019/20 - 39 2017/18 - 38 2015/16 - 38 2013/14 - 34 2011/12 - 40 2009/10 - 36

Summer Green Fees

Round - contact club for details

Visitors: weekdays only

Medal Tee: Par 69 - 6,431 Yards

www.swinleyfgc.co.uk (opens in new tab)

Changes since previous ranking

None advised

Swinley Forest Golf Club Course Review

Resolutely traditional and as uncommercial as any club in the Top 100, Swinley Forest is very much one of a kind.

There is no need for a captain here, there are no strokeplay competitions; this is very much its own club. And while the course raises expectations by appearing in various world lists, it is one that lives up to the highest expectations.

The opening green with the second hole beyond

If you had to close your eyes and imagine your own version of a picture of a perfect, beautiful, traditional, pine-clad golf course… this would be it. This is one of Harry Colt’s greatest legacies. One where apart from the addition of a new back tee here or there, it has been so perfectly designed and enjoys such a wonderful location, that little has changed or ever really needed to.

Swinley Forest is one such shining diamond, and despite recent tweaks you genuinely feel as though you are stepping back in time from the moment you arrive. This is a course where subtlety and guile are key.

The fourth green with the fifth stretching away to the right

It is also one where rather than standout holes, there is great strength in depth. If you had to choose a signature hole it may be the 4th, but there is plenty to be enjoyed at each of the other seventeen.

The view from the homely clubhouse sets the scene perfectly. The 1st is on your left, the closing hole to the right. Each runs down through the valley and over the burn, although it really shouldn’t come into play on the former. The 18th green is perfectly situated and calls for a well struck shot to clear the welcoming party of two bunkers just short.

With just two par 5s on the card and five short holes, it plays every inch of its modest yardage.


There is a terrific trio of holes from the 3rd, the first of which is a short par 4 that raises birdie hopes so long as you stay out of the heather.

Redan - the par-3 fourth

As mentioned, the 4th is a greatly admired par 3. It is a Redan, rather like the 15th at North Berwick, with an angled green slightly above the tee and a sea of sand and fall-off areas. Such a simple concept but such a wonderful hole.

The water on the 5th is more in evidence than it was some years ago. Although it should not really come into play, it makes for a fabulous vista. The short 8th does not need any bunkering, and the tough 9th calls for two strong connections to get anywhere close.

The back nine starts with a testing par 3 with a long carry, and the 12th seems to play like a double dogleg to a green backed by a riot of rhododendrons.

Delight follows delight, and the relatively new bunkering at the par-3 17th now makes it a must-hit green.

The remodelled short seventeenth

The closing hole is a classic of its type and provides a very fitting finish.

Assessor Feedback

Not the easiest place to arrange a game, but more than worth whatever effort it takes!

GM Verdict

Swinley Forest is a shining diamond; a Colt classic that has passed the test of time with flying colours

Rob Smith
Rob Smith

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012 specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played 1,150 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions last year, he still managed to play 80 different courses during 2021, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. Rob is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.