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Sean_A

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SUTTON COLDFIELD GC
« on: March 03, 2012, 02:15:18 PM »
Sutton Coldfield GC is laid out on the extreme western edge of the immense Sutton Park, a mere seven miles from Birmingham city centre and quite near Icknield St (an old Roman road) down the 13th fairway.  Prior to the 16th century this park was part of Cannock Chase where Beau Desert is located. More than 2000 acres in size, Sutton is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. A significant section of the park is natural heathland and this is where the club chose to build its course just before the turn of the century. 

Dr Alistair MacKenzie submitted a proposal to redesign the course in 1919 which with amendments was eventually opened in 1934. The basics of this plan remain today with some major alterations including all the fairway bunkering being removed.   Interestingly, about half the course is not to Dr Mac's plan below; including what I think is the best hole, #7, though it is likely the teeing area and greensite (I think the 9th in the map below) were cannibalised from his design.  Two other very good holes which aren't to the plan are #s 14 (a long testing par 4 on the winter course) & 15 (a tough Redanish par 3). 

In the last few years the club has embarked on tree removal and bunker renovation projects. Much of the work has enhanced the design, but there is a long way to go with trees!



This is the fourth time I had the opportunity to play the Blue Course, often referred to as the Winter Course.  The total length is about 600 yards shorter than the medal tees, however, par is reduced by two to 70.  This is due to the fabulous 7th being reduced to a par 4 length, same for the 14th.  Also of note is the addition of the par 3 fifth to replace the short 2nd.  These changes serve the dual purpose in breaking up the unusual stretch of three par 5s in a row and creating one of the best two-shotters in The Midlands.   



The opening hole is one of the least prepossessing one is likely to come across in golf, however, the green is deceptively slippery as it runs away from the fairway.  After a pleasant walk through a wood, the second (the normal third) introduces the golfer to a vast heathland which stretches to the other side of the park.  This is a brute of a hole into the wind.

The summer second hole, one of two par 3s replaced in the winter. It is very obvious the green is overcrowded with trees.


Winter 2nd before & after.






The third turns right at an awkward angle against the terrain (a feature of Sutton Coldfield). 




A rugged par 5, the 4th heads uphill and into the prevailing southwesterly breeze.   On this hole, the 6th and 7th, one can see the numerous bunkers which have been filled in with trees now narrowing the corridors. 




I rather like the par 3 relief hole (#5) and think it better than either the normal second or 9th for as both of these par 3s are choked by trees. The reverse cambered 6th is an interesting hole because of the drive working away from the green and for the diagonal cross bunker some 50 yards short of the green.  That said, I count five holes at which the dogleg turns significantly in the driving zone, four of these examples do so against the lay of the land.  This is an interesting feature to use once or twice in a round, but certainly not four times. 

Its a grand treat when one re-discovers something and a light switches on.  The seventh is one such re-discovery.  I can't understand why the club would ever dream of playing this hole as anything but the long, tough, demanding par 4 that it is in the winter.  Like, the 6th, this hole turns against the grain of the terrain.  It is essential to keep as far right as possible even if it requires a lay-up. 


The green is set at a perfect diagonal benched into a hill.  The entire package makes this hole nothing short of one of the finest in The Midlands. The before and after reveals a stark improvement!






The funneling 8th features excellent use of sentinel trees guarding both the drive and the approach.


A closer look at the green.  If there is a criticism to be levelled at Sutton Coldfield, it is the similar look and feel of several green sites.  All the greens are interesting in and of themselves, but as a set they are slightly repetitive.


The escape routes from the greens are not exactly man-size.


The final hole of the front side is a diminutive par 3 which plays parallel to the summer 9th - also a par 3.  I prefer the winter hole because the green is diabolically small and sloped back to front.  The summer 9th is a problematic situation. The trees crowding the green are very fine specimens, but there is no question they compromise the playing characteristics.

Summer hole.


Winter hole.


Retracing our steps through the wood from the first to the second, the opening hole on the back nine is a short two-shotter generally sloping right to left.  The left edge of the right bunker is a good line. Before and after.






#11 is a very curious hole.  Its another with the terrain working opposite the dogleg, but there is precious little room through the trees.  I reckon one just has to lay-up and hope for a good long second.  What should be glaringly obvious by now are several holes which turn at the driver zone - effectively leaving a much smaller landing area off the tee than it appears unless one shapes the ball precisely.   I spose for a course which doesn't have fairway bunkers this is an effective technique.  As stated earlier, in an effort to create a bit more variety in the design, I would prefer if some of the fairway bunkers were restored and perhaps the landing areas widened here and there.  Anyway, the lack of space is a great shame on this hole because the green is one of the more interesting on the course. Before and after.




The green.


Turning right, the 12th features a creek crossing the fairway. The normal tee isn't at nearly such a sharp angle as it is located well left, but it plays far longer. Below is a view from the normal tee.


A short two-shotter, #13 heads into more open heathland.  The green is angled and shallow making drive placement paramount. Before and after.




The following hole is another long par 4 converted from a short par 5 in the winter.  The drive is far more daunting from the normal tee, but for that the hole is really better as a par 4 because of the severity of the green angle.

Before and after.




The first par 3 on the back nine is a cracker and reminds me a ton of Formby's 5th.  They are both takes on the Redan, but can't really be labelled as such.  I don't believe this hole has had bunker work, but I rather like the look of the large left bunker. 




It had to happen eventually - a hole I really dislike - both versions of 16.  Although, I like the name of the hole.


Unfortunately, the 16th triggers a rather disappointing finishing three holes. #17 is a solid par 3, but still feels as if jammed into a corner due to trees.


The home hole too is adequate, but after so many very fine holes one hopes for more. I would, however, like to point out the fairway has now been extended.  Previously, the short grass ended rather awkwardly.   

I much prefer Sutton Coldfield's winter card with less foliage on the trees and the rough down.  The experience of playing in the park is sublime and very different from other Birmingham courses as a rooftop isn't seen the entire game.  Rare for me, I really enjoyed the set of long par 4s and think this is the core of the winter course.  I honestly can't see how anybody could be disappointed with the course in winter.  I reckon my attitude shouldn't come as much of a surprise; together with Little Aston, Sutton Coldfield co-hosted the 2010 English Amateur - surely a sign of quality when one reviews the list of hosts for this championship.  2021

Previous stops on the 2013/14 Winter Tour

Tadmarton Heath
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,26579.0.html

Nex scheduled stop; Worplesdon

Ciao
« Last Edit: August 21, 2021, 01:50:42 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Jeff_Mingay

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Re: Sutton Coldfield GC: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 02:38:25 PM »
What a beautiful map by Mackenzie. Gorgeous. Thanks for posting, Sean.
jeffmingay.com

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2012, 03:59:46 AM »
I've played it a few times and really like it, although I would struggle to recommend people travel any distance to play it.  It has a wonderfully natural feel to it and perhaps the lack of bunkers adds to that.  The greens mostly just flow and bouncing a ball in, in summer is a great joy. The feeling of isolation and the turf bring that joy to be playing golf feeing,  to a degree that  one can associate with  a really top notch course.


Re MacKenzie.   I do think the club overstate his involvement a bit.   The greens donít seem to have his stamp on them and the history is a little unclear if he finished his work and what changes have been made since. 

Winter Course with itís own card is surely a rare thing.? About a month ago I encountered it for the first time playing Teignmouth another Dr M course where they do this.  In their case a short par 3 with a small green just gets too many Ďhitsí in winter to be maintainable, so they have an alternative one and re route part of the course including turning a long par 3 finisher into a dogleg short 4.   I was told some members prefer the winter version.  A photo tour soon.


Thanks again Sean.
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

James Boon

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Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2012, 04:28:35 AM »
Sean,

Many thanks for the pictures of Sutton Coldfield. I didnt realise they played the course with a specific winter layout? It actually looks rather good. The summer 2nd is way too crowded by trees and so nothing is missed there and shortening a few of the par 5s to long 4s seems to work well. I have always liked 7 as a short 5, but can imagine its an awesome long 4. Though it is a shame to miss the quirky nature of the three par 5s in a row.

Here is a tour of the course in summer for anyone interested
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,42442.0.html

Tony,

Pretty much every course I've come across that has a specific winter course (and card) has a short par 3 with a small green, that naturally taked too much hammer in the winter. Often its just an alternate green to the side or a replacement hole, but one near here, Erewash Valley, has back to back par 3s in a quarry that close over the winter, to be replaced by a par 4 thats not used in summer, and a par 5 becomes a par 3 and a par 4.

Look forward to seeing your pics of Teignmouth! Its been a while since I played there.

Cheers,

James
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 11:11:28 AM by James Boon »
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa

"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: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2012, 11:14:22 AM »
Brian,

They do look somewhat different don't they! I think its simply that the heather is much more evident in the winter, as in the summer the long rough is much more prominent?

Cheers,

James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa

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

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2011/12 Winter Tour
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2012, 05:45:49 PM »
Brian

There is no question in my mind the course shines brighter in the winter.  I had very little interest in seeing SC again.  I thought the course was terribly choked with vegetation and rough so the holes thru trees were awful and the holes which turn against the terrain were tiresome.  The combo of the more interesting par 3s, shortened par 5s, superb greens and light rough (SC does have a rep for harsh rough) all make for a very pleasant winter's day golf - comfortably the best inland course experience this tour.  It really is incredibly apparent how we adjust our expectations for inland golf in the winter (I was slightly critical of Whittington Heath's greens last week and was assured they were fairly good compared to what my playing partners had experienced this winter), but honestly, the greens were light years beyond WH and better than most courses (inland or seaside) in the summer. The pro said they have been excellent for a few years, but couldn't offer an opinion as to why.

Spangles - play SC in the winter, it may be a very pleasant surprise.  Sure, its not a great course per se, but golf isn't just about the quality of the holes.   The park setting is lovely, seeing a ball bounce along the fairways in winter is golf as its meant to be and the price is right.  For sure SC will remain on the Winter Tour rota.

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 11:13:46 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2013, 06:48:11 AM »
The Winter Tour continued yesterday with a game at Sutton Coldfield.  Its very fine golf without being overly fussy.  See the updated tour.

Previous stops on the 2013/14 Winter Tour

http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,26579.0.html Tadmarton Heath NR

Nex scheduled stop; Worplesdon

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2013, 12:15:38 PM »

Sean,
Splendid stuff (as usual). I have a great deal of time for the course at Sutton Coldfield and could happily play it frequently, winter, summer, spring or autumn for that matter. The views across the course are extremely pretty as well, especially in its November colours - apologies for the eye candy photo re-posted above. Given that the course is only a few miles away from the centre of the UK's second largest city it's also a surprisingly peaceful and tranquil place to play. There are, as you correctly say, some weaker holes but also quite a few real crackers, like the very fine par-3 15th (summer).

I'm looking forward to your Worplesdon tour. BTW, have you played/photo-toured Burford? I've heard favourable reports and it's supposed to be free draining.

All the best
« Last Edit: November 23, 2013, 03:25:56 PM by Thomas Dai »

Mat Poade

Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2013, 07:06:54 PM »
I'm a big fan of Sutton Coldfield. Already have a visit planned for Friday. Personally I quite enjoy the 3 par 5s in a row. I like the quirkiness of the separate ladies clubhouse & club as well :-)

Greg Taylor

Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2013, 09:59:59 AM »
I dread to think how many rounds I clocked up at Sutton when I was a member.

Pre kids this course was pretty much my daylight hours play ground!

My opinion on the winter ("blue") course and the summer course ("stones") is very different to Sean's... We have discussed before Sean but the relief 9th was to my eye an uninteresting par 3 with a tiny green... And it was only like that to keep the maintenance costs down as it was used for short game practice during the summer.

And, the bona fide 9th is a great hole, through the trees to a fun green which most times seemed to bring the ball towards the hole.

The other winter hole, the 5th was equally unexciting... To fair it used to be gorse between the tee and green but I understand it's been cut back now as too many balls were lost.

There are some great holes... but I agree with Sean that the rough can and did get out of hand... One club championship I remember the lowest gross being 78. The carry on the 14th too is 220 yards, alot of members struggle to carry the gorse. The run of holes from the 11th thru to 15 is excellent.

I liked the summer 13th where there is a risk/reward on the drive, and the 14 but from the back tee - a par 5 where going for it in two really is a function of how far you hit your drive.

The 16th and 17th are somewhat drab, but the 18 is a fine closing hole.

For me it was the little things that I didn't like... the course is on common ground and there are dog walkers, the club house being over the road, and the wires in the summer months. That all being said, the course itself is in the second tier in the Midlands behind Beau and Whittington Heath.

Off track: I don't rate Little Aston any higher...

Thanks for posting the pics Sean...!
« Last Edit: November 25, 2013, 10:34:22 AM by Greg T »

Sean_A

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Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2013, 11:08:02 AM »
Greg

Thats fair enough.  I obviously value space to play the game much more than you do and the two lost par 3s are incredibly narrow.  The fact they don't get any winter sun and therefore fail to dry out is testimony to this. If the holes were cleared out there wouldn't be near the need for two winter greens.  I wonder if there is some sort of park regulations prohibiting the clearance of trees in these areas - especially the 2nd?

To me, the summer course is a lay-up fest, there is just no space to play.  If folks think Whittington Heath is narrow, it has nothing on SC. Just walking past all the filled in Dr Mac bunkers buried 10-20 yards in the rough tells the story.  Its a great shame and in the winter one can really see the potential.  Sutton Coldfield could be far better if it went back to Dr Mac's ideas.  Hell, I don't even think the course is that wide in the winter!  Its playable, but not generous if there is any wind.  But there are some wonderful holes on the winter course: 2, 7, 14 & 15 are my pick of the bunch.  I also like the approaches for #s 6, 8, 10, 11 & 13.  

HHmm, no way I am buying what you are selling concerning Litte Aston. 

Ciao
« Last Edit: November 25, 2013, 11:24:38 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Greg Taylor

Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2013, 12:22:46 PM »
I obviously value space to play the game much more than you do and the two lost par 3s are incredibly narrow.

Let me tell you... when ever a visitor or someone else used to join us on the first tee, they'd say "yeah I'm off 3 at my home club," and I'd think to myself, "yeah, sure - we'll see about that in four hours time".

And sure enough they'd shoot 87 and would walk off hating the course...! We also had someone joined who was off 2 at the municipal (Boldmere) and it was 12 moths before he broke 80 at Sutton.

Now having spread my wings a bit can I appreciate how tight and tough it is. As I say, the low point was the club championship where the rain had brought the rough up and it was windy too. The first round, there was one score in the 70's.

I think they have softened it a bit, but granted not a lot. Reading your reply makes me feel a little bit better about my own game too!

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013/14 Winter Tour
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2020, 06:23:25 AM »
A recent game at Sutton Coldfield reminded me what a very fine golf course SC is even more so now that a considerable amount of tree and vegetation clearance has been undertaken with more to come and an upgraded irrigation system has been installed.
A lovely spacious open aspect course and although being on common land there are walkers around it's difficult to believe from the peace and tranquility that the course is located only a few miles from the centre of the UK's second biggest city, Birmingham.
Here at right is the terrific par-5 7th with the par-4 4th at left.

And then you notice a yellow 360* operating in the distance and you walk around a corner and there's bunker restoration being undertaken. Quite a bit of it as well. Back to Dr MacK's original intensions.
Below is an example of the work, it's the 3rd green. Others are being worked on as well with the already excellent 7th looking particularly epic in the making.

Worth mentioning that the course was in super condition and the greens, which have much more contour than at first meets the eye, rolled splendidly true and quick.
If your in the area or passing by SCGC is well worth playing and when the bunker restoration work and even more clearance work is complete it should be a bit special.
atb
« Last Edit: October 15, 2020, 06:25:05 AM by Thomas Dai »

Ben Voelker

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Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013-14 Winter Tour
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2020, 09:15:31 AM »
Thomas/Sean,


I nearly joined SC when I moved to the UK and about 10 minutes up the road but chose Beau Desert instead (as Sean knows).


The course looks really good; I need to get out and play the winter configuration.


Maybe just an oddity, I see the cow fences are gone?  I assume the cows and their business have moved on as well?

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013-14 Winter Tour
« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2021, 04:22:54 AM »
I had the opportunity to return to Sutton Coldfield recently. And a delightful heathland course it is too. The recent 'opening-up' of much of the course is terrific as is the renovated/restored bunkering. Greens super smooth and much more sneakily contoured than I recalled from previous visits. A pretty peaceful and tranquil course too. Hard to believe it's only a few miles away from the centre of the UK's second largest city.
Note that the cows that used to roam the course and the surrounding common/heathland now wear electronic collars which emit a small pulse that directs them away from the course onto the rest of the common/heathland.
atb

Some photos -
Below - looking from the left side of the par-4 4th green with the par-5 5th hole stretching away in the distance

Below - two photos of the lovely par-5 7th green


Below - more tree-lined than most of the other holes but nevertheless the  dog-leg left, adverse camber par-4 11th is a cracker. A hole with a terrific green complex and an evilly contoured putting surface.

Below - the par-4 3rd green

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013-14 Winter Tour
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2021, 12:42:15 PM »
From those few photos, I think that bunker work is much better and less fussy than Iíve seen in a lot of other recent GB renovations (or restorations).


Who built them?

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013-14 Winter Tour
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2021, 03:44:08 PM »
From those few photos, I think that bunker work is much better and less fussy than Iíve seen in a lot of other recent GB renovations (or restorations).
Who built them?
I asked and was told that the architect/advisor was Jonathan Gaunt and the shaper was Mick Wells both working in conjunction with Course Manager Chris Wood and his team.
A fair amount of tree surgery, scrub removal and opening-up of the heathland has been undertaken too. All very nice.
Atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC: 2013-14 Winter Tour New
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2021, 01:50:22 PM »
From those few photos, I think that bunker work is much better and less fussy than Iíve seen in a lot of other recent GB renovations (or restorations).

Who built them?

Ally

I agree. The new bunkers are outstanding. I played the course for the first time in years and I was somewhat impressed. Where the course has been opened up it is fantastic, but there is a long way still to go with tree removal.

See the significantly updated tour.

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 15, 2021, 03:23:30 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: SUTTON COLDFIELD GC
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2021, 03:06:29 PM »
I've played the course a couple of times in the last year or so and have been very impressed. Still more 'opening-up' needed.
Below are some now coloured old b&w photos showing views of Sutton Coldfield as it was in times gone bye (don't ask which holes they are coz I dunna ken).
atb















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