I recently got the chance to tick off the number one course on my bucket list
A Love Letter To Sunningdale…
For anybody who knows me, I am rather obsessed with golf. I work in golf, I play golf every weekend, I watch golf every weekend. The game is quite simply my life.
Top of my bucket list has, for the past decade, been to spend a day at Sunningdale (tied 1st with St Andrews I’ll add).
Yes, I’d love a game at Augusta, Pebble Beach and Royal Melbourne, but realistically I knew that there was no way on earth I would leave this planet, barring an unfortunate accident, without traipsing my clubs round the Old and New courses at what is the mecca of inland, heathland golf.
As my name suggests, I am quite obsessed with heathland golf. For me, it simply can’t be beaten.
On Monday evening I headed home after a day at Sunningdale and three days later I still can’t get it out of my mind.
Was it real? Did that actually happen? Yes, I played 36 holes and received exceptional hospitality at Sunningdale Golf Club.
The club commands a very high fee to play its two courses (£425 to be precise) which some will rightly feel is far too much for a day’s golf, although the experience you’ll get from that £425 is simply priceless.
From the amazingly friendly welcome to the world class practice facilities, the world-leading golf courses, the sausage sandwich, the freshly squeezed orange juice and the mesmerising clubhouse, terrace and wisteria, Sunningdale is simply class and, in my view, unbeatable.
Related: Sunningdale Old Course Review
Yes it might be posh, it might be expensive, but it’s a place for golf aficionados and there’s a reason why it’s so renowned.
As you can tell, I’m rather emotional from my day and it probably still hasn’t quite sunk in.
I knew the Old Course very well from walks around the property with my dad as a young teenager, attending the 2009 Senior Open (where I have vivid memories of a post-Turnberry Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Larry Mize) and watching the Sunningdale Foursomes.
The course is historic, beautiful, peaceful and supremely challenging.
It’s also currently in wonderful condition, in part thanks to the lockdown that gave greenkeepers time to get it in tip-top shape ahead of its third Senior Open later this year.
It’s a well worn phrase that the modern day golf ball has made Sunningdale obsolete but any European Tour Pro would be tested to the maximum up against Harry Colt’s deceptive bunkering and phenomenal green complexions.
I’m really not a design guy but Sunningdale’s Old course definitely has a bit of Augusta about it – you can’t just turn up (like I did) and keep hitting it in the wrong spots all day as double bogeys will be racked up quicker than you can say bifurcation.
My favourite hole would probably be the 7th (main image), featuring a blind tee shot where a 14-year-old me watched Greg Norman hook his second shot over and around the trees on the left to find the green after pulling his tee shot.
As you crest the hill and walk down the fairway you’re confronted with what I can only describe as a work of art.
Related: Sunningdale New Course Review
Beautiful bunkers, mounds, shrubs, colour everywhere you look. It is a visual treat and I was taken aback.
The beautiful par-3 8th (which was my only birdie on the Old) is followed by the drivable 9th and then the downhill par-4 10th which leads you to golf’s most famous sausage sandwich.
The halfway hut is also accessible after the 10th on the New, which is an absolutely beautiful par-3, again looking more like a work of art than a golf hole.
Whilst the Old is just ‘The Old’ and synonymous with the history of the game, the New was unknown for me and felt like of a mix of Hankley Common, Swinley Forest and Wentworth West, three of my favourite courses.
Needless to say I was a huge fan of the New and if it wasn’t for the history and my memories of the Old I may just side with it.
The amazing holes just keep coming and the par-5 6th, which is now my desktop background, was a real goosebumps hole for me.
I’ve seen the stunning images from David Cannon many times and it more than lived up to my huge expectations.
The dogleg-right par-5 plays out in the middle of Chobham Common, this open, natural heathland wilderness, and I got the sense that I was in the middle of nowhere with the world’s most beautiful golf course in front of me.
I grew up just 10 minutes away yet I felt like I was on the other side of the world deep away from civilisation, that’s how immersive the course can be.
The ride you then go on for the next three hours is filled with gorse, heather, pines, doglegs, blind shots and beautiful par-3s to create an experience that I can’t imagine will be replicated anywhere else.
As mentioned above, I arrived at Sunningdale with high expectations but was simply blown away by the place.
Never has anything in my life blown away my expectations like Sunningdale did.
My 24 points around the Old was one of the best mornings of my life and the day as a whole will never be forgotten.
If you’ve not played at Sunningdale yet and love your golf like I do, then you simply need to experience what has to be one of the greatest days in golf.