Sunningdale Golf Club – New Course
Designer: Harry S. Colt
After leaving his mark on the heathland near London with a host of acclaimed courses, such as Swinley Forest, Stoke Park, and St. George’s Hill, Harry Colt returned to his beloved Sunningdale for an encore of sorts. The former secretary of the club was instrumental in the evolution of the original course at Sunningdale, and in 1922, necessitated by the growing popularity of the game, Colt was tapped to design a second links for London’s preeminent club.
In building what would come to be known as the New course, the task which faced Colt was a monumental one. The original course – now known as the Old – was already a highly regarded masterpiece in the world of golf. Any course that bore the Sunningdale name would surely be held to an almost unattainable standard of greatness, yet if anyone was qualified to deliver on those lofty expectations it was Harry Colt.
Perhaps the greatest testament to this is the manner in which the two courses embody the overall character of Sunningdale, while also standing in contrast to one another. For example, both courses require driving the ball exceptionally well. Where the Old administers that test with narrow, tree-lined fairways, however, the New instead asks the player to make lengthy carries to safety. The wider, more forgiving fairways on the New may embolden the golfer to swing for the fences, but just as it does on the Old, the sea of heather stands ready to punish such ill-advised play.
The New course puts an enormous premium on the approach game, due mostly to its perilously deep assortment of bunkers. Nowhere is this better embodied than on the par-3s, which constitute a collection of short holes almost without equal. The 5th is one of the most picturesque holes in golf, while the 10th is a brutish test at over 200 yards. Both are certainly a sight to behold, yet they also drive home the lasting advice from Sunningdale New: Find the green, or pay the price.
There is a strong case to be made for Sunningdale as the best 36 holes of golf in the world. In fact, both courses once found themselves ranked in the world’s top 100. Such a feat would never have been possible were the Old course not paired with its equal in every way. Yet identifying which is the superior of the two, is a debate that has gone on for decades and will never be settled. It does, however, make for a lively discussion on the clubhouse terrace, in the shade of Sunningdale’s famous oak tree, with the last rays of sunshine fading over one of golf’s great treasures.