Sunningdale Golf Club — New Course
The general consensus is that the New Course is the stouter of the two at Sunningdale Golf Club. “New”, however, it’s not. Designed by the highly regarded English architect H.S. Colt, Sunningdale’s second course opened in 1923. At 6,729 yards from the championship tees, the New is slightly longer than the Old. And while there are fewer trees and bunkers to contend with, there’s more heather in play and longer carries over hazards. One golfer with fond memories of the New is South Africa’s Gary Player. In 1956, the “Black Knight” won his first event as a professional on the New, and in 2000 he and Jack Nicklaus played a match here for “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf.”
Sunningdale Golf Club — Old Course
The Old Course is definitely the better known of the two layouts at Sunngindale Golf Club outside London. Opened in 1901 and designed by two-time Claret Jug winner Willie Park Jr., the Old Course was the site of a famous round of golf in 1926. During qualifying for that year’s British Open, Bobby Jones turned in a 66. The total included 33 shots and 33 putts, no score on any hole was higher than 4, and it was accomplished with hickory-shafted clubs. It’s still considered one of the greatest rounds ever. Today, the Old Course measures 6,637 yards from the championship tees. This parkland-style layout, however, is well protected. Many of the holes are lined by pine, birch, oak and heather, and there are 103 bunkers scattered about the facility.
Walton Heath Golf Club — New Course
Somewhat similar in design to the Old (a parkland-style layout that plays like a links), the New Course at Walton Heath debuted in 1907. Like the Old, the New is protected by menacing bunkers and impossible-to-play-out-of bracken fern and heather. When in bloom, the heather is quite beautiful — even where it’s used to border many of the bunkers (double-trouble, so to speak). The New is only a tad shorter than its more famous older brother (7,026 yards from the championship tees), but it’s considered to be much more manageable. Both courses here are usually in peak condition — even in winter. Walton Heath’s practice putting green, by the way, might be the largest in all of England. And while you’re visiting, be sure to visit the Braid and Fowler rooms in the clubhouse.
Walton Heath Golf Club — Old Course
Annually ranked as of the top courses in England is the Old at Walton Heath Golf Club south of London. There are two fine layouts at Walton Heath and both were designed by Herbert Fowler (the Old was his first). Highlighting the grand opening of the Old Course in 1904 was an exhibition match that featured England’s three greatest players of the day: Harry Vardon, James Braid and J.H. Taylor. Since then, Walton Heath has been the site of over 60 amateur and professional events, including the 1981 Ryder Cup matches. While technically incorrect, a frequent description of the Old Course is that it’s an “inland links.” The greens are large, the bunkers are deep, and wind is always a factor. From the championship tees, the Old measures just over 7,000 yards.
Wentworth Golf Club — East Course
Just like Sunningdale, Wentworth Golf Club has two courses that are ranked among the 20 best in England. However, many golfers who have played Wentworth’s third layout — Edinburgh — feel that it should be included in the top 20 as well. Designed by H.S. Colt and Charles Allison, the East opened in 1924. Rather short by today’s standards at just over 6,200 yards, the East is by no means easy — the tree-lined fairways are tight and the greens are heavily bunkered. Historical fact: Prior to the British Open in 1926, an exhibition match was held on the East between players from America and Britain. The match was so enjoyable the players squared-off again in 1927. The competition is now known as The Ryder Cup.
Wentworth Golf Club — Edinburgh Course
Open since 1990, the third layout at Wentworth was co-designed by world famous golf instructor John Jacobs, Gary Player and former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher. Tall and majestic pine trees line many of the holes here, and they are frequently found standing sentry at the corners of the numerous doglegs. Unlike its older siblings, though, the Edinburgh Course features wide fairways and large greens. This makes it — along with the East — a popular choice for golfers who prefer the middle tees. As the annual site of the British Masters Championship, however, Edinburgh can be stretched to over 7,300 yards from championship markers. From the tips, Wentworth’s West and Edinburgh courses will provide even the best players with 36 holes of very challenging golf.
Wentworth Golf Club — West Course
The West Course at Wentworth is by far the best known. Also designed by Colt & Allison, this very sturdy parkland-style layout opened two years after the East. In 1932, the West was the site of the first Curtis Cup matches. The 1953 Ryder Cup matches were conducted here, and it’s been the annual site of the World Match Play Championship since 1964. Past champions include Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els. Ballesteros, a three-time Masters champion, said this about the course: “I rate [the West] at the top of my list of favorite places, alongside Augusta.” Measuring over 7,000 yards from the championship tees, the West is a big, beautiful, tree-lined layout that winds its way over rolling terrain.