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James Boon

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Sutton Coldfield GC
« on: December 06, 2009, 09:52:12 AM »
I’m sure if most people are heading to Birmingham for golf they are likely to be playing at Little Aston, Beau Desert or even dare I say it… The Belfry! But more people really should be heading towards this Alister MacKenzie hidden gem.

Set within Sutton Park on common ground, it is another of our courses were the greens are surrounded by fencing to keep animals off. Having played there before, I always assumed that it would be deer in the park, but I was proven to be wrong on this trip.

My trip was actually back in July though its taken me a while to get round to posting this. Here is a link to the clubs website:
http://www.suttoncoldfieldgc.com/index.htm

One of the novelties of Sutton Coldfield is that a public road separates the course from the clubhouse, and this road is flanked by mature trees, so there is no view of the course.


Hole 1
320 yards
Par 4
The ground is level, and a long iron or fairway wood, followed by a wedge, means it’s a pretty straightforward opener. The mature trees, that characterise the parts of the course nearest to the clubhouse, make for a nice backdrop, for this green that slopes away slightly from front to back.


Looking back from behind the green, you can see that it’s a fairly open hole, with a the mature trees some distance from play.


Hole 2
132 yards
Par 3
The mature trees really are evident here, but it will only be a short iron in hand, so shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


A cross bunker short of the green and bunkers right and left, with another green that slopes away from the player.


With all the trees, this green can be very wet and receptive. So much so that in the winter it is often closed and a temporary hole comes into play between the 5th and 6th holes.

Hole 3
445 yards
Par 4
The feel on the tee is more open here, and the holes name “Moorland” suggests so also. This is the start of the open heathland that stretches across the full width of Sutton Park. This long par 4 dog legs from right to left.


Here’s the approach with all the trouble short and right


From under the trees to the right you can see in detail the fences that surround the greens, and the hoops through which players walk to access the greens.


Hole 4
385 yards
Par 4
This time the hole dog legs left to right. The gorse in view isn’t really a problem, and a fairway wood off the tee means you wont run through the fairway into the silver birch on the outside of the dogleg. There is a small drainage ditch to the right of the fairway.


Heres the approach with bunkers left and right


And from just short of the green, you can see the next hole behind and how much the heathland opens up.


From behind you can clearly see the dogleg, and you can also see how the rough around the greens stays long in comparison to the rest of the course, as animals cant get at it for lunch.


Hole 5
482 yards
Par 5
This looks like a real open your shoulders type drive, but the fairway itself is very tight. This is because the width of the fairway is pretty much the only defence off the tee, as with the Park being common land, there are no fairway bunkers.


Here’s the approach, and you can see on the left what appears to be the remains of a fairway bunker?


A tricky green with both subtle and very clear breaks, levels and humps and hollows.


Hole 6
520 yards
Par 5
Another dogleg, with a tight landing area.


Heres a view from just short of the green. The diagonal cross bunker is on the line of an old path across the park.


Hole 7
478 yards
Par 5
The third par 5 in a row. Your view on the drive here is obscured by gorse bushes.


The approach is to a raised up green, with deep bunkers right and left


A closer look at the short right bunkers. You can also see the drop off short of the green.


Hole 8
382 yards
Par 4
So those fences around the greens are for deer are they, what with this being a park? Wrong, its for the cows!


And after whacking a drive over the cows,


You will have seen the mature trees coming back into play, with ones short right and left to be avoided on the approach. This is also a tightly bunkered green


Hole 9
160 yards
Par 3
The second par 3 on the course, is again surrounded by trees. Perhaps the best shot in, is to drop it on the green from a helicopter?  ;D


A slightly pushed shot will probably catch the branches and fall into the bunker


Back nine to follow shortly.

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

James Boon

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2009, 09:59:25 AM »
Hole 10
329 yards
Par 4
A short par 4 brings us back to the open area of the first hole.


Here’s the approach


Hole 11
428 yards
Par 4
This is a good par 4 that dog legs to the left. The fairway is actually not as tight as it appears from the trees just short of the tee.


A good size green which has a lower tier running across the front


Hole 12
432 yards
Par 4
The drive is blind and down into a valley, and appears as if all the room is left. However, your drive needs to be tight to the trees on the right.


You can see the humps and hollows in the fairway


And looking back from behind the green, you can see that as well as being blind the tee shot is to a fairway that pinches to a narrow point, before the hole rises up again to the green.


Hole 13
352 yards
Par 4
This hole and the next run parallel with an old roman road, down the left on here, then down the right on the next. The road has also been crossed on 1, 10 and 11, and there is some evidence of its existence if you look carefully. After avoiding Roman Road and trees off the tee, this is your approach

A closer look at the green from short left, with some challenging undulations again


Hole 14
501 yards
Par 5
Another drive over gorse


Here’s the view from the fairway


And a closer view of the green


Hole 15
189 yards
Par 3
A great par 3 this one, played from the open heathland of the park, towards a backdrop of mature trees, to a well bunkered raised green, with a false front.


A closer look at the green


The front left bunker


And the view from behind


Hole 16
406 yards
Par 4
This hole dog legs to the left. On the outside of the dogleg are more old bunkers.


Here’s the approach to the green


And here’s the right hand greenside bunker


Hole 17
198 yards
Par 3
The par 3 penultimate hole, just long enough to keep it a good challenge, with a long iron or maybe a fairway wood.


Hole 18
410 yards
Par 4
The drive on the last is from a raised tee, across a valley to a fairway sloping uphill. There is a band of rough crossing the fairway to trouble the longer hitters.


The tee here is back to back with the 13th with the holes playing away in opposite directions. The 13th plays over and through the trees you can see. There is a gap, honest…


Slightly uphill approach


And a close up of the green


Looking back down the last, as seen from the 11th tee


So that’s a par of 72, played at a total length of 6,549 yards off the whites. The yellows are a little less at just over 6,200 yards.

Of the MacKenzie courses I’ve played, I’m always intrigued when there aren’t 2 loops of nine, and Sutton Coldfield is a curiosity as it’s a loop of 10 then a loop of 8. However, I noticed an old plan on a clubhouse wall on this visit that showed a routing as follows:
1, 2, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
11, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
It seems to me that the change may be due to the relatively simple nature of the current 8, 9 and 10 as a finishing stretch, whereas the current last 3 or 4 holes can be quite a challenge.

This course is very special to me. My granddad who died when I was young used to play here, and on my only previous visit I got lost on the way, so pulled over to ask my dad for directions only to find I was outside his old house where he had grown up. I then went on to be 2 under gross through 12 holes, playing off 8, when I had to call it a day because of lightning.

But personal feelings aside, I think it’s a very good course. Off the tee you need to be very straight but wont be challenged much strategically, however all the greens and their surrounds are a good and fun challenge, and the setting of mature parkland and heathland is a delight.

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2009, 10:26:03 AM »
Hi James,

its strange that although I have lots of relations in the midlands I have not played many courses there. The course looks very good and typical like many many of Doc Mak's courses in the Leeds area. The fifthteen has some similarity with Moortowns Gibralta hole. Thanks for showing it to us :)

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2009, 05:58:39 PM »
Thanks for the reminder James I've been lucky enough to play here a couple of times and really enjoy it.   It features lots of Mr Arble's favourite grade level greens. Strange how the cattle grid around the green seems to add to the feeling that you’re playing a 'natural' course.

I love this diagonal bunker, but I don't recall so much rough around it a few years ago.



Heres a view from just short of the green. The diagonal cross bunker is on the line of an old path across the park.



I don’t think of it as one of the top division of heathland courses but still like it more than any objective analysis might suggest.

There’s a club history where they don’t spell it out, but reading between the lines indicates the course is probably less than 50% Mackenzie these days.  The three par 5’s in a row do not date from his time there.  I will try and check it tomorrow night and post more.

I’ll be in Sutton Coldfield twice in the next four weeks but unfortunately no time to play golf.
Thanks for this excellent tour.

Jon interesting comment re the 17th, but isn't the original slightly angled rather than face on?
Let's make GCA grate again!

Neil_Crafter

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2009, 08:54:08 PM »
James
Thanks for posting your pics and comments. It really looks like a fun course.

Tony
Here is what we have listed for Sutton Coldfield in our spreadsheet on his courses:

DSH list as a 1925 major revision of 1889 layout constructed by CA Mackenzie. Not listed by Hawtree or C&W. Club history book describes Oct 1919 plan by AM, revised in July 1922. Construction commenced shortly after and the course opened on 8 October 1924. MacKenzie commented on his proposals "If the suggested alterations are done....... there will not be a single weak hole on the course, and there is no reason why it should not compare favourably with the best inland course in Britain, and be vastly superior to many seaside ones".

I do have the club's history book and there is a chapter on Mac's involvement but sadly I do not have the time to post anything on it today. They certainly seem to have a plan by Mac too as this is reproduced in the book.
cheers Neil

Sean_A

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2009, 01:57:25 AM »
James

Thanks for the pix.  SC isn't a bad little course, much like the other ones I have played in this general area (Worcester & The Worcestershire).  Its difficult to know what Dr Mac is left sometimes and one gets the feeling that all of these courses should be better and perhaps they were at one time.  As is, none (including WsM) do much for me though all have their moments.  That said, they are all pleasant games even if they aren't really worth a trip to see.  What is slightly different about SC is that this was at one time proper heathland and could have produced a great course, but I don't see the bones of any such thing. 

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2009, 05:29:54 AM »
James, Many thanks for posting. There may not be many great courses around the West Midlands, but there are plenty from the next division down of decent quality. It's many years since I played at Sutton Coldfield and this served as a nice reminder.

Jon Wiggett

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2009, 02:04:57 PM »
Tony,

it was the 15th I was thinking about and yes the original is at more of an angle these days although as I remember there were some old b/w photos that I have seen showing it from a straighter angle. This hole did however give me the feel of being similar although the slope and angle are not quite the same.

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2009, 05:09:51 PM »
The Club makes a great deal of the Mackenzie connection. In the official history book there are only five chapters, one of them entitled “The legacy of Dr Mackenzie”

 The good Dr. first visited and reported by Oct 1919 when he was officially a partner of Colt, Mackenzie and Alison. The proposed changes involved moving all the holes across the road and retaining only 6 of the previous holes albeit with changes.

What was actually done that remains? Even the book only claims some of the holes illustrated (in a photo of the map he supplied) “are recognisable today”
The hummocks at the back of the first green. “The lines of the second and third holes are familiar even without their proposed bunkers, and the fourth hole was to be modelled on the 16th at St Andrews” A new tee making the current 6th hole. (His plan shows the 6th as a par 3?) The order has been changed so today s 12th “is not unlike” the fifteenth “and the eighteenth is approximately the hole which is played now”.  Fires in 1921 and lack of funds meant he was invited back to make other suggestions and a report in July 1922 resulted in the “present fourteenth and fifteenth at least” Again in April 1923 work was stopped for lack of funds.

Subsequently there have been many changes n 1924 the order of play was changed and in 1976 serious fires included peat reserves burning underground again necessitated changes.

Still I like the course and think it’s one of the loveliest heaths on which to play but I don’t think of it as a Mackenzie.

Jon it’s possible the 15th is based on his ideas although he'd been gone a couple of years before thelast 3 holes were finished.  Originally it was called ‘Camp’ and played at 161 yards.

Let's make GCA grate again!

Sean_A

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2011, 05:20:10 AM »
Neil

Are you able to post Dr Mac's plan of SC?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

Neil_Crafter

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2011, 04:19:27 AM »
Hi Sean
Here is the 1920 plan the club has, this was not in the history book. It's a lovely plan too, pencil drawn.


Sean_A

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2011, 05:04:40 AM »
Thanks Neil

I can't make head nor tails of how the current routing fits in with this map.  I assume many changes were made, but that some holes were just re-numbered.  The are only a few markers i can see as the same hole as today though.  #s 1, 6, 9(?), #14(?).  The bunkering has obviously been drastically altered and for the most part it llooks to be to the detriment of the course. 

Do you have any idea of how the map fits in with today's routing?  Boony - how but you?

Ciao
New plays planned for 2024: Fraserburgh, Hankley Common, Ashridge, Gog Magog Old & Cruden Bay St Olaf

James Boon

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2011, 07:55:45 AM »
Neil,

A beautiful plan!
Thanks for posting. Please remind me, was the course ever in this layout or was this Mackenzies first layout before the current one? If so, did Mackenzie do the current layout, as I'd always had the current 15th as one of my favourite Mackenzie holes...

Sean,

I think the plan actually isn't too different from how the course is now. Something like as follows I think:

Current 1: As shown on 1920 plan
Current 2: New short par 3 in the woods
Current 3: Hole 2 on 1920 plan
Current 4: Hole 3 on 1920 plan
Current 5: Now a short par 5 from 4 tee as shown on 1920 plan to 5 green
Current 6: As shown on 1920 plan
Current 7: Now a short par 5 from 7 tee to approx 9 green as shown on 1920 plan
Current 8: Approx as shown as 10 on 1920 plan
Current 9: Hole 11 on 1920 plan.
Current 10: Hole 12 on 1920 plan
Current 11: Now par 4 from 13 tee to a green somewhere before the 14 green on 15 on 1920 plan
Current 12: Tee roughly shared with current 3 (2 as 1920) to 15 green on 1920 plan.
Current 13: New hole, short par 4 heading to right as shown on 1920 plan.
Current 14: New hole, par 5 heading further right off the area shown on 1920 plan
Current 15: New hole, par 3 heading back to left, but still off area shown
Current 16: New hole to a green approx where the fairway bunkers are on the 16 hole of 1920 plan?
Current 17: Par 3 to 17 green as shown on 1920 plan
Current 18: Approx as shown on 1920 plan but plays further away from the road.

That's an approximation of the layout, though some holes may have more turn to their doglegs or some of the greens and tees may not be exactly as shown. I've highlighted the holes that seem to be approx as shown on the 1920 plan. Also, there aren't any fairway bunkers on the current Sutton Coldfield layout.

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Neil_Crafter

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2011, 05:16:13 PM »
James
Thanks. I'm not sure if it ever was in this layout or not. I took a quick Google look at the aerial of the course today and agree there are some holes in the same locations, but certainly not all. Your analysis certainly feels right to me.

Greg Taylor

Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2011, 07:00:57 AM »
Guys, I am a member at Sutton!

James' analysis is correct above... the other significant change is that there are now no fairway bunkers, given that cows roam Sutton Park and the issues that this would cause.

There are more documents, including the routing attached above, on the club house wall. I'll sneak some pics when I get chance.

Ben Stephens

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2011, 07:12:23 AM »
Guys, I am a member at Sutton!

James' analysis is correct above... the other significant change is that there are now no fairway bunkers, given that cows roam Sutton Park and the issues that this would cause.

There are more documents, including the routing attached above, on the club house wall. I'll sneak some pics when I get chance.

Greg,

Welcome on board the GCA bandwagon! I really enjoyed Sutton Coldfield played there with Boony 2 yrs ago and look forward to playing it again if the opportunity arises. Could not believe how many cows there were! :)

Boony is spot on with the differences between Dr Mac's 1920 plan and today's course

Cheers
Ben

Greg Taylor

Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2011, 11:56:06 AM »
Guys, I am a member at Sutton!

James' analysis is correct above... the other significant change is that there are now no fairway bunkers, given that cows roam Sutton Park and the issues that this would cause.

There are more documents, including the routing attached above, on the club house wall. I'll sneak some pics when I get chance.

Greg,

Welcome on board the GCA bandwagon! I really enjoyed Sutton Coldfield played there with Boony 2 yrs ago and look forward to playing it again if the opportunity arises. Could not believe how many cows there were! :)

Boony is spot on with the differences between Dr Mac's 1920 plan and today's course

Cheers
Ben

Hi, and thanks!

You and anyone from GCA is more than welcome to play Sutton with me...

Have to say the greens and course has improved since the original post above. We've got in a consultant agronomist and as a consequence the greens are excellent... fast and true. If you play them after they have cut the holes in the morning they are a joy.
This was all as a consequence of holding the English Amateur with Little Aston which is just up the road...

Thanks for the welcome.

Adrian_Stiff

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2011, 12:18:09 PM »
Looks lovely, this is a course I really want to play. Do they have buggies? Might have to make a trip and play with Ben.
A combination of whats good for golf and good for turf.
The Players Club, Cumberwell Park, The Kendleshire, Oake Manor, Dainton Park, Forest Hills, Erlestoke, St Cleres.
www.theplayersgolfclub.com

Greg Taylor

Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2011, 08:16:47 AM »
Looks lovely, this is a course I really want to play. Do they have buggies? Might have to make a trip and play with Ben.

Yep we have one buggy I think....

If you want a game Sundays are good for visitors - generally quiet. Drop me a message and we can work something out I'm sure.

With a member I think it's £20 which is good value in anyone's book!

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2011, 09:10:51 AM »
Greg,

I'd forgotten we had a Sutton Coldfield member on board!

I don't recall the condition being too bad last time I was there, but thanks for letting us know about the improvement. Next time I get there, I'll take a little more time studying the plans on the clubhouse walls you mention!

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Travis Dewire

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2011, 03:41:08 PM »
WoW!!!!

My Mind is BLOWN!!! Great course, thank you for posting


Any information on the others you mentioned? Little Aston, Beau Desert ?

Travis Dewire

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2011, 03:45:47 PM »
Beau Desert looks amazing!

Does Little Aston get accredited to Harry Vardon? Or were the improvements too many to include him? The website says 4 holes he built remain in play today.

What happens if you hit the cattle in the fairway - does it hurt them at all?

Jason Baran

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2011, 03:57:40 PM »
What a charming little track!  Looks like a ball striker's paradise.  Thanks for sharing.

Jason

James Boon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2011, 04:56:09 PM »
Travis,

Try these photo tours from the ever dependable Mr Arble:
Little Aston http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,38973.0.html
Beau Desert http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,30965.0.html

Cheers,

James
2023 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Aberdovey, Royal St Davids, Woodhall Spa, Broadstone, Parkstone, Cleeve, Painswick, Minchinhampton, Hoylake

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Travis Dewire

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Sutton Coldfield GC
« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2011, 08:37:32 PM »
What happens when you hit the cattle - does it hurt them?

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