St. George’s Hill
Designer: Harry Colt
As long as golfers traverse the fairways of the London heathland, an unsettled debate will fester as to which of its magnificent courses is the best of the bunch. Many will make an argument for the duo at Sunningdale, while the great Harry Colt – the architect responsible for many of the entries – favored Swinley Forest as his “least bad” design. While it may lack the notoriety of Sunningdale or the exclusivity of Swinley, no debate on this topic is complete without, at the very least, a mention of St. George’s Hill.
When it comes to first impressions, St. George’s Hill has mastered the art thanks to one of the finest clubhouses in England. This castle-like structure served as a military hospital during the First World War, and was largely destroyed by a fire in 1920, yet it looms on the hilltop in fitting grandeur. More than anything, however, the view from the clubhouse provides the visitor with a preview of what’s to come, followed by one last entry in the memory bank when the round is said and done.
What separates St. George’s Hill from most of the other heathland courses is the exhilarating topography. The ground twists and turns its way through the countryside, with Harry Colt’s masterpiece seemingly laid upon it without a scratch. The result is a number of resplendent views from the tee, paired with many elevation changes on the approach, which will bring joy and difficulty in equal measure. And although the topography makes for outstanding golf, it’s important to note that what goes down must come back up. It is St. George’s Hill, afterall.
Like other Harry Colt designs across the heathland, the par-3s are likely to be the highlight of the day. The player who avoids missing left on the 3rd hole will be glad they did, while the tee shot on the 8th across a deep ravine is one of the best in the London area. Ahead on the back-9, the par-3s stand in stark contrast to one another. At just 119 yards, the delicate 11th can wreak havoc on the scorecard if the wayward approach is right of the green. Meanwhile, the 14th, measuring at 211 yards, will require nothing short of a firm, true strike to clear the small pond and pot bunker.
The London heathland is perhaps the best region for inland golf on the globe, thanks to its numerous renowned courses and its striking natural beauty. For over a century, St. George’s Hill has stood quietly alongside its notable neighbors, delivering a tranquil, charming, and delightful place to play the game. Although the debate as to which is the finest of the heathland will never be settled, as you survey the scene from the clubhouse terrace, there will be no doubt that St. George’s Hill makes a very strong case.