July 23, 2014
Of all the courses I had added to my schedule to play, Sunningdale was my most anticipated round of golf during my two week visit in England. The weather was perfect and the old or new course, both of which I played on the same day, did not disappoint. I am a big Bobby Jones fan and the old course is one of the highlights of Jones' career.
It was on Sunningdale's Old Course during a 1926 Open Championship qualifier that Jones shot what has been described as a perfect round. The standard scratch score on the Old Course at the time was 75. He shot a total round 66, with a 33 on the front and a 33 on the back. He had 33 full shots and 33 putts. The highest number written on his scorecard was a four. Keep in mind, he was using hickory shafted clubs and a golf ball that wouldn't be recognized today. On ten holes he hit his shot to the green with a two iron or a wood. The scorecard for the Old Course also lists Bobby Jones' round, as well as what he shot on each hole, allowing for you to compare your round to his, or how well you played a particular hole against what Jones did. It is an extra, added and neat experience while playing the Old Course that helps reinforce just how special the experience is.
|Entrance sign by the front gate.|
|The entrance to Sunningdale GC.|
Sunningdale Golf Club is located just down the road from Wentworth Estate in Ascot, Surrey, adjacent to land owned by the Crown Estate (The Queen). It was designed by Willie Park Jr. in 1901 and was worked on over several years by H.S. Colt who served as the secretary at Sunningdale. Besides the air of history that Bobby Jones lent to the club, the clubhouse, locker room, pro shop and property make for an awesome and complete golf experience.
Heathland courses, such as Sunningdale, were developed primarily because of the underlying land's resemblance to seaside links courses. They take advantage of sandy soil, the absence of mud in the winter and good drainage. Most of the area around London has a clay base and thus is not ideally suited for golf. Sunningdale, in the Surray heathland, is one of the exceptions.
The course is surrounded by deep woods and is very peaceful. Compared to the courses around the world I have played thus far, Sunningdale's scenic beauty stacks up against any of them. Of particular note, it achieves a high ranking in the world without having hosted any Open Championships. The combination of the natural terrain, sand, birch trees, heather, gorse, pines and water come together beautifully to create a unique environment. Sunningdale is the quintessential English golf club in many respects. Aside from the dignifed English clubhouse, there are walking paths around the course where people stroll about with their dogs or stroll hand-in-hand with their significant other. As I mentioned to quite a few family and friends, if there was only one course in England I could play with my son, it would be Sunningdale Old. It is just that special.
|The clubhouse and iconic tree at Sunningdale GC.|
|The Sunningdale GC clubhouse.|
|The iconic oak tree of Sunningdale GC.|
|The proshop and golf pro office at Sunningdale GC.|
|A look at the clubhouse and the club's flag.|
|A close up of the Sunningdale GC flag.|
|The starter hut at Hole #1 on the Old Course.|
- Hole 5 is listed as one of the top 100 holes in the world.
- Hole 15 is listed as one of the best 20 par 3s in the United Kingdom.
- Hole 5 is listed as one of the best 40 par 4s in the United Kingdom.
There are three tees for men to play at Sunningdale Old. They are the white, yellow, and red from back to front. I chose to play from the white tees as it was a perfect golf day with no wind to speak of. The white tees came in at 6,316 yards and my body was feeling good and up for the challenge.
|A look down the fairway from the 1st tee box.|
|A look at the "bumps" on the right side of the fairway,|
|A look into the 1st green from 125 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 2nd tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the top of the rise.|
|A look into the 2nd green from 8- yards out,|
|One of the three flags found on Sunningdale's Old Course.|
|A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee box.|
|A look onto the green from just behind the left, green-side bunker.|
|Another of the three flags used at Sunningdale Old.|
|A look into the green from the 4th tee box.|
|A look onto the green from just beyond the left green-side bunker.|
|A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.|
The green is a relatively flat area so the opportunity to putt for birdie is good unless you find the bunkers surrounding the green.
|A look into the 5th green from 120 yards out.|
|A look at the 5th green from the 6th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.|
Once you clear the heather and the hill, it doesn't get any easier. There are mounds and traps and bunkers that make for an interesting shot just about anywhere you find your ball. Par is definitely a good score on this hole.
|A look into the 6th green from 30 yards out,|
|A look up the fairway from the 7th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the top of the hill.|
|A look into the 7th green from 150 yards out.|
|A look into the green from the 8th tee box.|
|One of the old, large English houses that you can glimpses of while playing a round.|
|A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.|
|A look onto the 9th green from 65 yards out.|
|A look onto the 9th green from 50 yards out.|
|A look onto the 9th green from the back.|
|The third flag used on the Old Course.|
|A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.|
|A look onto the 10th green from 40 yards out.|
|A look onto the 10th green from just off the right side.|
|The halfway house has quite a good selection of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. It also has a ton of history on display.|
|Covers of various magazines documenting the different tournaments hosted on the course.|
|A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.|
|A look down the 11th fairway from the top of the bunker.|
|A look into the 11th green from 80 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 12th tee box.|
|A look into the 12th green from 150 yards out.|
|A look onto the 12th green from 75 yards out,|
The 13th hole is a par 3 that plays to 173 yards. This downhill par 3 is protected by a wide bunker at its front and grassy gullies around the back and sides. A fold in the green often complicates the putting.
|A look onto the green from the 13th tee box.|
|A look down the fairway from the 14th tee box.|
|A closer look at the cross bunkers.|
|A series of large bunkers guard the left side of the relatively flat 14th green.|
|More cross bunkers help to guard the area immediately in front of the 14th green.|
|A look into the green from the 15th tee box.|
|A look into the 15th hole from 50 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 16th tee box.|
|A look into the 16th green from 120 yards out.|
|A look onto the 16th green from the left side at approx. 70 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 17th tee box.|
|A look towards the 17th green from the turn of the fairway.|
|A look into the 17th green from 50 yards out.|
|A look down the fairway from the 18th tee box.|
|A look into the 18th green from 45 yards out.|