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Sean_A

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SUNNINGDALE'S Certain Something: THE OLD COURSE New
« on: August 29, 2012, 05:28:19 AM »


Many a golfer has loyalty to one or the other, but few doubt the greatness of Sunningdale’s Old and New courses.  Each has their origins in the heathland revolution which was ignited by the likes of Willie Park Jr, WH Fowler, A McKenzie, HS Colt; all grandees of British golf architecture history.  All would have their opinions made known through their heathland masterpieces, though it is Willie Park Jr who is often forgotten.  Ironic then that it is likely him more than anybody who is responsible for the first attempt to transplant some of the ideals captured in links into inland designs.  An epic year, 1901, saw the opening of three iconic Park Jr designs, Sunningdale Old, Huntercombe & Notts.  While altered to one degree or another, these courses clearly demonstrate that change in golf course design was afoot.  Amazingly, at the time, it was not advisable to build a course over sandy heathland terrain.  The concept required a breakthrough in that Sunningdale was the first course to be wholly sown from seed.  Combined with the prodigious scale of the design (trees and a severe reduction of green size would later visually reduce the scale dramatically), the two concepts launched Sunningdale into instant fame. 

That isn’t to say Sunningdale left no room for criticism.  In The American Golfer of March 1917: Park and the Past, Henry Leach stated  “He (Park Jr) was responsible for the primary design of the latter (Sunningdale), a beautiful course cut out of a wilderness of heather on some high, rolling land in Berkshire.  Mr Colt soon set himself to work on the first designs when they had been applied, and he has carried out vast improvements on the original model, so that Sunningdale as we know it now, the inland course that I still consider as the best and most delightful to play upon in the whole of Britain is not at all what was at first. Still Willie was in at the beginning with Sunningdale; that is a lasting distinction.”

Bernard Darwin, among others, believed Sunningdale had major deficiencies with the short holes and that the course played extremely long for the handicap player.  As if by magic, the introduction of the Haskell solved the length problem.  It would take the hand of an experienced architect to develop Sunningdale into the course we see today; enter HS Colt...except, Colt wasn’t terribly experienced! Colt left the legal profession and would have taken a significant cut in salary when hired as the club secretary in 1901 for £150 per annum.  Colt would over the course of the next decade, if not alter the fabric of Sunningdale Old; essentially use the course as a canvass for the invention of what has become modern design.  One of the primary traits of Colt’s style was to place greens on plateaux; a design concept which carried through the next 115 years and remains popular to this day.  Two of the most high profile examples at Sunningdale are short holes, the 4th and 8th.  In all, I believe Colt created four new holes (4, 8,12 & 17), altered seven green sites, altered the bunker scheme and a completed a striking reduction in green sizes (1, 6, 11, 12 & 15 are about half their original size). 

Sunningdale has hosted countless top flight events including the inaugural Professional Matchplay Championship in 1903, The Women’s British Open, The Walker Cup and of course The Open’s first sectional qualifying in 1926 when Bobby Jones shot an “incredible and indecent” 66; 33 going out, 33 coming back, 33 putts and 33 other shots.  However, the club may well be most proud as the host for the annual Sunningdale Foursomes. Amateurs and professionals alike vie not for prize money, but for the distinction of one’s name appearing in gold letters on the handsome honours board.



Prior to the opening of the New Course, the first tee was under the shade of the famous oak.  Even so, the current shot is attractive.  In days gone by, the fairway was further left.  When land was acquired the area where the humps are became part of the course.


The Sunningdale Urns which contained Iron Age body parts found in these mounds are now in the Reading Museum.     


Looking back to the house; at one time the 1st and 17th greens were combined.


The difficult 2nd and short two-shotter 3rd are very much as Park designed.  One can readily see the similarity between the 2nd and many holes at Huntercombe. 




3rd.


3rd back in the day.


As noted previously, the short 4th was completely changed by Colt.  Just this year the tee was moved further right.  This new placement offers the advantage of shots less likely leaking right onto the rear path and the green fully opens up.  Previously, trees on the left hindered the shot a bit too much.


4th back in the day.


4th green during 1912 PGA Matchplay. Look at the contours! 


The 5th is reputed to be the first hole in the UK to incorporate a specific golf-related man-made water hazard.  Many people dislike the hazard, but I like it.






At some point between Colt resigning as Secretary in 1913 and prior to the completion of the New Course in 1922, the green was sensibly moved further right behind the pond.


I suspect this heather clad mound is spoil from the pond; very Walton Heath like. 

The attractive 6th is as Park Jr designed.  In essence, with a required carry for the approach, the 6th is quite similar to the 5th.









Radically altered from Park Jr's 7th, Colt considerably shortened the hole by eliminating the dogleg left to a green well removed from the present green.  After a blind drive, the hole moves slightly right over an interrupted fairway.  I believe the empty pit on the left now has sand in it.


Looking back to the tee.


Darwin thought Colt's change to the seventh making the once blind par three 8th more visible was to great advantage.  I am not convinced visibility was the main problem with the hole. The Colt version isn't a paragon of visibility. I don't think there is enough green surface to properly accomodate keen conditions. 


The short par 4 ninth and much longer two-shot 10th are essentially Park Jr holes, but the 10th is decidely better.  Although, I think the club recently placed bunkers in the heathery upslope area of the 9th.


H Rountree Watercolour of the 10th.




The 10th as Park Jr and later Colt designed the hole.




Closer to the green.


Looking back to the tee.


More to follow.

Ciao   
« Last Edit: July 08, 2022, 04:18:59 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Martin Toal

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2012, 06:09:45 AM »
Lovely looking course. Awaiting the back 9 and a report on the famous sausage sandwich too, of course.

Matt MacIver

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2012, 06:37:13 AM »
Great pictures and write-up.  I've always loved the look of heathland courses and Sunningdale especially. The angles on both shots on the 10th hole look very compelling, I'm sure I could convince myself to overswing every time.

David_Tepper

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2012, 08:15:52 AM »
Sean -

Great pics of a wonderful golf course. I am not sure there is anything prettier in golf than a heathland course when the heather is in bloom.

DT 

Simon Holt

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2012, 08:16:52 AM »
I think my gent of a host told me that the water on 5 was the first ever artificial water feature on a golf course which is pretty cool.
2011 highlights- Royal Aberdeen, Loch Lomond, Moray Old, NGLA (always a pleasure), Muirfield Village, Saucon Valley, watching the new holes coming along at The Renaissance Club.

John Ezekowitz

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2012, 08:34:21 AM »
The clubhouse and food is exceptional. I'll never forget walking up the stairs to the visitor's locker room past the scorecard of Jones' Perfect Round. Once we arrived in the visitor's locker room, we were surprised to find it empty, except for Hugh Grant!

Tim Gavrich

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2012, 09:08:58 AM »
Of any club where I have been fortunate enough to play golf in my life, Sunningdale tops the list of places I would most like to be a member (and I have only played the Old). Just a completely exceptional place.
Senior Writer, GolfPass

Mark Saltzman

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2012, 09:28:17 AM »
Sean, are you fan of the location of the that left fairway bunker on 10?

Josh Tarble

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2012, 09:49:33 AM »
Thank you for the tour...Sunningdale Old and New are on my short list of courses to visit sooner than later.

Just from pictures, it seems like the two courses are very complimentary of each other.  Would be awesome to be able to have that choice as a member.

Sean_A

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course New
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2012, 10:28:16 AM »
Brian

Knowing that pix are mostly about light, I am not one to spend much on cameras.  I use a Samsung ES71 - picked it up for £80 a year or so ago.

Mark

The left bunker isn't bad.  It more or less keeps longer players who want to bail left honest.  I don't like how it is angled the same as the bunker middle bunker. I think it should be facing more toward the tee.

SUNNY OLD TOUR CONT

It was the case with the Park design that a large bunker had to be carried off the 11th tee because the green was some 60 yards left of the present green.  Recently, that bunker seems to have been restored  :D (though I don't have a photo of it).  It would seem Colt's original green was far bigger than today's.  A tee shot bailed left on this short par 4 will encounter difficulties for the approach to this raised green with a bunker on the left corner. 


A view of the 12th green as it is today. Some may ask what happened?











Simpson's sketch of Colt's 12th.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 08:36:52 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

PPallotta

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2012, 10:53:14 AM »
 :) :-*

Peter

Mark Chaplin

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2012, 12:05:25 PM »
One of my good mates is a member of Deal, Sunningdale and the R&A jealous or what!!
Cave Nil Vino

Terry Lavin

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2012, 12:29:05 PM »
I want to be Sean Arble when (if) I grow up.

Very handsome, in full bloom, heathland classic.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.  H.L. Mencken

Sean_A

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course New
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2012, 05:59:17 PM »
SUNNY OLD TOUR CONT

Perhaps the most radically altered hole, the short 13th used to be a blind, short par 4 played from a spot right of the 12th green.  I believe the photo below was the view of the green from the top of the hill.  As is the case today, the second runs behind the green from right to left.  Today, views of the 17th beyond are blocked by trees. 


The original Park Jr green was rectangular.  The large ditch at the rear of the green is possibly a remnant of a Park Jr coffin bunker.  The heavily criticised new hole was dubbed Colts Po! (chamber pot) by the members.  A blind par 4 here sounds quite compelling to me, especially if the Colt green is in place with bunkers in the face of the hill as I suspect may have been the case for a while.




14-16 would likely be recognizable by Park Jr as not much has changed.  The 14th is a reachable par 5 followed by a demanding long one-shotter.  I can't help but think the green should extend much further forward on the 15th.  The sixteenth turns the golfer toward home and features a plethora of bunkers including  a string of pearls.  Right bunkers off the tee are blind and some near the green are blind.






The lovely 17th legs hard right, so much so that it is very possible to run out of room driving down the middle.  The hole originally continued straight to share a double green with the first.  The green was also briefly further right than today's placement.  When Colt built the New Course the green had to be pushed left to make space for the New's 1st and 18th.  In any case, this is one of my favourite holes on the property. 




The 17th back in the day, not much has changed.




For the same reasons as the previous hole, the 18th green too had to be moved left.  Further alterations were made courtesy of the Luftwaffe in 1940.  Several bombs were released around Sunningdale with the result being the right side of the 18th green was bombed into submission, the same could not be said for the remainder of England.  Instead of repairing the damage, two bunkers were created in the perfect spot to catch out the overly aggressive golfer.   


There isn't much more to say...except Sunningdale has that certain something.  2*    2017

Ran's Review.
http://golfclubatlas.com/courses-by-country/england/sunningdale-golf-club-old-course/

Sunningdale New Course
www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,33173.msg659312.html#msg659312

A special thank you to the Good Doctor for his kind offer.

Ciao 
« Last Edit: July 08, 2022, 04:22:18 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies & Crystal Downs

Ash Towe

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2012, 07:15:52 PM »
Sean,

Thanks for the terrific photos.  I think I will be going back to this thread on many occasions. It looks like a great course and your effort has made it available to all.

Bob_Huntley

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #15 on: August 29, 2012, 07:19:30 PM »
Sean,

Thanks for the wonderful images and a look at one of my favorite clubs.

One thing I do remember about Sunningdale was the size of the bets, I thought my stay at Riviera was a bit of an eye-opener but it did not prepare me for the gaming by the Brits.

Bob

Ben Jarvis

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2012, 07:19:42 PM »
Phenomenal photos Sean - thank you!

I played Sunningdale Old in mid-June. Even though the heather wasn't in bloom, I thought it was one of the most stunning golf courses I've seen.

When did you play here Sean - recently? If so, the mowing lines have altered since I played - they were cut with a light/dark shade with the stripe running down the middle. I'm not sure which I prefer.

Twitter: @BennyJarvis
Instagram: @bennyj08

Josh Stevens

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2012, 08:08:53 PM »
Have those silly bunkers either side of teh 16th settled down

played there about 4 years ago when they were newish and they looked so out of place

Paul_Turner

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2012, 08:40:44 PM »
Sean

Nice tour.  

I still think the new Hawtree bunker remodels on holes like 3, 10, 16 are way too curvy and symmetrical, it doesn't work and looks modern.  All it needed was the rugged, "torn out ridge" heathland look that Coore does...

I think the 11th was once a big double plateau green...the bunker would have been where the middle of the green was...with the fairway plateau joining the current green.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2012, 08:48:55 PM by Paul_Turner »
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

John Mayhugh

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2012, 10:06:54 PM »
For instance, Mure Fergusson demonstrated that a course could be cut from the wilds of heathland forest at New Zealand in 1895.  This simple enterprise which would today be seen as commonplace, must have set off alarm bells for the likes of other British architects such HS Colt, H Fowler and Dr Mackenzie; for it is Park Jr, along with these men which propelled a revolution in design which is difficult to exaggerate.  If one were to add CB Macdonald and T Simpson to that list it might be reasonable to claim that between these six men the canon of golf architecture is encapsulated.  

Certainly if one only played courses by those six, life would be pretty good.

Great tour & photos. I have to make a London trip next year.  Sunningdale & Huntercombe are tops on my list to visit, and returns to Deal, Sandwich, and Swinley would make pretty much a perfect trip.

What are they feeding some of that heather?

Tom Birkert

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #20 on: August 30, 2012, 10:08:53 AM »
The heather has been so strong this year, think it is due to the changeable weather, we had a hot dry spring followed by a wet summer which means it is very thick indeed (as is the rough).

Lovely pictures by Sean, as always.

Dan Moore

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2012, 11:07:19 AM »
Great tour Sean.  Sunningdale (both courses) is just stunning!  Nothing more really needs to be said.
"Is there any other game which produces in the human mind such enviable insanity."  Bernard Darwin

John Mayhugh

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2012, 01:09:52 PM »
Sunningdale (both courses) is just stunning!  Nothing more really needs to be said.

Heathland courses with heather in bloom are, for me, every bit as attractive as seaside courses with more dramatic views. 

Sunningdale on a day like Sean caught it seems about all one could ask for. 

Philip Gawith

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2012, 02:00:03 PM »
Great pics Sean. In some ways the most striking feature is the luminous, nearly Irish, green colour of the fairways. What a summer it has been!

I agree with Paul re the Hawtree bunkers, especially on 16 - did not use to look like that.

I am surprised you did not make more of the slope on the second green, which makes the approach and playing of it so difficult; and also that you were not more complimentary about 11 which is a great hole - small yet exceptionally tricky if you are out of position.

I think one of the protections of some of these holes is the semi-blind approaches such as to 2, 3, 18 which makes it hard to get the ball close.

Agree that the approach to 7 is maybe the best moment on the course - but also, as you say, that it is hard to match 4-6 on the New. But what a pleasure it always is to be at Sunningdale!

Philip

Mark Chaplin

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Re: SUNNINGDALE'S CERTAIN SOMETHING: The Old Course
« Reply #24 on: August 30, 2012, 02:22:32 PM »
Bob - Sunnngdale has long been famous for big bets. Within a foursome £1 or a £1000 a week bet usually evens out over a period of time, the issue is when the "mug" guest is taken into the bet.

From my experiences bets of more than £20 are pretty rare at the clubs I've been involved in. My favourite is the $1 betting at Chicago where the competition and winning is the important thing.
Cave Nil Vino

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