Sunningdale Golf Club (Old Course)
Ascot, Berkshire, United Kingdom

Eighth hole, 195/170 yards; When Colt moved a Park green, it was generally to higher ground (e.g. the fourth, seventh, here, and twelfth).  Agronomic benefits ensued but so did the requirements for higher, more precisely struck shots. Loathe to stereotype, nonetheless it seems fair to say that Colt’s greens repelled while Park’s tended to gather. Today’s eighth with its steep fall-off right is formidable. Modern sand wedges make misses more manageable than recovery shots attempted with a niblick (a.k.a. nine iron) splayed open during Colt’s time. Darwin, never one to mince words, said of his friend’s end product, ‘The eighth is quite a good short hole now (it used to be bad and blind and stupid).’

Colt’s manufactured one shotter features both a tee benched into the hillside and a pushed-up green pad. Such earthwork wasn’t done pre-1900. Park’s green was snuggled into the valley below and played from to a tee well right, back and much lower.

Tenth hole, 475/460 yards; Grandness is elusive; holes either have it or they don’t. It can’t be faked. London’s heath-belt is littered with good, charming designs of the sort sorely needed in the United States. Such ~6,300 yard courses are human in scale and delightful to walk (often in less than three hours). Sunningdale possesses these same qualities but they are amped up a notch. Here, like the fifth, the golfer enjoys one of the game’s most grandiose tee shots. The sight of one’s tee ball bounding down the green fairway between the heather never ceases to delight. The author can’t recall two such abrupt drops without hill-climbing to follow. Park’s (and to a lesser degree Colt’s) neat routing ploy avoids such an unwelcome ascent.

Patric Dickinson quipped in A Round of Golf Courses, ‘If the tee shot from the fifth is Alpine, this 10th is Himalayan, almost vertiginous.’

Sunningdale's halfway house greets the golfer after completion of the tenth. Perhaps a sausage roll or '...other things' (as Darwin noted with a smile) are in order? Put another way, people without an aversion to alcohol are also welcome.

Sunningdale’s halfway house greets the golfer after completion of the tenth. Perhaps a sausage roll or ‘…other things’ (as Darwin noted with a smile) are in order? Put another way, people without an aversion to alcohol are also welcome.

Eleventh hole, 320/300 yards; Discomfort is a desirable quality for a short two shotter. Without it, the hole is likely of little consequence; it’s better that the player be pestered by one or another feature. An unsettling blind tee ball over a bank of heather is the first conundrum, followed by a wall of pine trees that extend from the right side of the green for some fifty-five yards. The slightest push or fade immediately transforms the golfer from hunter to prey. Finally, the raised green, at 4,700 square foot the smallest target on the course, completes the discountenance. Brilliantly, the mighty tenth (that plays to the largest green on the course) is juxtaposed to the drivable eleventh, representing sterling variety of the sort that few designs possess.

The view from the eleventh tee: Blind and better for it. A lesser club would have consulted with a lesser architect and bulldozed the ridge.

Replete with shells, the sand quality is such that one might think that the North Sea lies just ahead. Sheridan, a Scot from North Berwick noted, ‘Another thing I found most strange was the great number of people playing golf in the winter months.’ Play year round is another benefit afforded heathland courses.

Should the golfer prematurely come out of his tee shot to peek at his tee ball, his weak fade will result in this discouraging view of the flag shrouded by boughs of pine.

Does the player capable of hitting such a mighty tee ball also possess the finesse and delicacy required to get this little pitch close?

Does the player capable of hitting such a mighty tee ball also possess the finesse and delicacy required to get this little pitch close?

The margin of error greenside is small. The eleventh green once wrapped around this bunker and protruded left but technology rendered such hole locations defenseless so the left portion of the green was removed over sixty years ago.

Twelfth hole, 440/415 yards; For a course to be considered word class – among the top 25 or so  – it must possess world class golf holes. It’s indisputable that this is one such hole. This is one of Colt’s post 1910 alterations and a masterstroke. By moving Park’s green some seventy yards up and to the left, Colt created a hole that is as searching as it is handsome. Anyone can build a difficult hole, but a hard hole that inspires affection is something wonderful.

Not revealed from the tee is the manner in which the fairway elbows left. There are different ways to use heather and creating uncertainty is one of them.

The diagonal array of bunkers richly sets off Colt's green complex.

The diagonal array of bunkers richly sets off Colt’s green complex.

Dickinson opined '...the thing about Sunningdale is that it seems such 'natural' golf. For an inland course this is a rare quality.'

Dickinson opined ‘…the thing about Sunningdale is that it seems such ‘natural’ golf. For an inland course this is a rare quality.’

Colt’s large plateau green required substantial earth-moving but it’s tied perfectly to the hillside.

Park’s lower right green location (near the golf cart) lacked natural defenses.

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