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Sean_A

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Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course New
« on: September 14, 2018, 05:43:20 AM »
Berkshire's Parking Map. 


Set amongst towering pines which seemingly originated in Ascot, The Berkshire is one of the few clubs in GB&I which can boast of having two courses of high repute.  Designed by Herbert Fowler in 1928, it is natural that some comparisons might be made with Walton Heath; Fowler’s other 36 hole master class of design in London environs. Other than generally being classed as heathland courses, there is little resemblance between Walton Heath’s stark battlefield of golf and Berkshire’s elegant and civilized approach to architecture.  Twenty or so years separate the founding of the clubs and it might be said that between the two is Fowler’s Alpha and Omega.  Regardless of which style one prefers, Fowler should be greatly admired for his skill.

Many believe Simpson was the mastermind behind Berkshire (and Beau Desert).  I believe the previous Berkshire secretary investigated the matter and could find no references related to Simpson.  It could well be that the similar bunker style (which I always thought was very loosely similar) between Simpson's work elsewhere and The Berkshire is down to the construction company.  Franks Harris Bros, the construction firm most often associated with Colt, built the two courses at The Berkshire.  While their work with Colt doesn't reflect a bunker style quite as complicated as some of Simpson's bunkers, there is little doubt they did elegant work which could possibly be confused with Simpson's.

Windsor Estate encompasses nearly 16,000 acres of Crown lands which includes Great Windsor Park, Ascot Race Course and Swinley Forest GC.  The Berkshire occupies land within the estate which was mainly cleared during WWI for wood to reinforce trenches. When treeless, it was plainly obvious this land was ideal terrain for golf.  It isn’t unheard of for a course to be built on Crown land, but for the government to pay the bill for the clubhouse and construction...of two courses...is truly a wonder. 

The Blue Course is on lower land than the Red and thus has some flattish holes, especially 3-8.  However, we mustn't get ahead of ourselves as the testing opener must be negotiated; 211 yards of which 185ish is a carry over heather. That is not all, if one lands short of the green, there is every chance the terrain will nudge the ball to low ground which ends in tree purgatory.  I suspect many a ball is lost right and an equal number wind up left/short of the green.  Much like Pulborough’s 6th, there is fairway available for those who accept their limitations.  Mind you, unlike Pulborough, the fairway play is not overly inviting. 


We now play down to Berkshire's flatest section in the guise a short par 4.  A very grey day combined with summer heat damage gives the appearance of a wet course.  Despite appearances, the course was fairly keen.




The first of three par 5s, the third is fairly unremarkable except for the severe  runaway green. Play is from left of the photo.


The Blue's short holes are very good...and attractive.  The 4th is extremely deceptive because the visual clues indicate the green is likely wide...this is patently not the case.  Shots hit left of the left side bunker nose will spill well away from the green leaving a severe uphill recovery.




I found the 5th green a bit too similar to the 2nd so let us move forward.  By this time into the round, the lack of fairway bunker protection is very noticeble.  The three-shot sixth feels a bit like hitting into an open field.  Much like Cavendish's crafty 14th, the hole slowly reveals itself.  There is a snaking ditch covering the left..its a shame this area isn't part of the fairway because it would be an excellent ruse.  Even so, the ditch adds value.


For those having a two-shot go, the green looks weakly defended, but as with the ditch, more is revealed the further up the fairway we progress.  Below is a look at the low ground protecting the left side of the long, narrow green.


A very odd hole which seems a bit hemmed in, the 7th isn't a hole which holds much interest for me except for the wildlife grazing in the very unheathlike meadow.


A long, fairly straight bunkerless par 4, the 8th is another hole which didn't turn my head.  The course really comes into its own starting on the short par four 9th.  Playing steeply uphill, it may be wise to lay back a bit for a fuller approach and to avoid trouble lurking on the left.  Summer heat damage is again apparent.  Talking to several golfers who have been getting around, it is apparent that many clubs are struggling and that seeding is a necessity.   


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 26, 2022, 02:43:53 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

PPallotta

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2018, 11:03:42 AM »
Thanks, as always, Sean.
After years of reading your profiles, I can't help but put Fowler and Colt side by side.
Now, I don't know which of their courses best epitomizes their respective styles, nor do I know how many and/or kinds of changes the years have wrought on any of their courses -- but that said, I like Fowler better. I think he was the 'better' architect, at least for my tastes and from afar.
P

Sean_A

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2018, 05:12:39 PM »
Pietro

That is interesting.  "Knowing" you from afar, I wouldn't have taken you for a guy who would appreciate Fowler more than Colt.  I can certainly understand why anybody's preference would be for Fowler because I think he was more daring and less scripted than Colt was.  Fowler was happy to play around with styles while Colt pretty much stuck to a style once he found what he liked.  Necessarily, I think Fowler courses are more hit and miss than Colt's, so I guess if consistency and influence are important than Colt was probably the better archie.  However, there is something about Fowler courses which ring true for me, but I couldn't say I prefer one over the other...both are essential archies in the big scheme of things.   

Ciao
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 06:55:08 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

PPallotta

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2018, 06:43:59 PM »
Sean, of course you'd know better than I do; but it just seems that Fowler 'found more' than Colt did, and maybe 'left well enough alone' more often than Colt, and both approaches/techniques are very much too my liking. (Indeed, you've unknowingly done much over the years to help me see beyond my negative pre-judgements with regard to some of Colt's earth-shaping.)  Setting aside Walton Health, your photo of the 9th at Berkshire Blue is a great example: it seems to me so much more 'Fowler-ish' than 'Colt-ish' -- he just drapes the hole over the land as he finds it; and the 4th as well, just so elegant in its simplicity. Colt, on the other hand, could and often did get busier/more involved, or so it seems to me. 
But I would welcome your comments, for or against this view
Peter
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 07:08:46 PM by Peter Pallotta »

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2018, 07:16:05 PM »
Fowler is one of my favorite architects. It is hard to define a style. Each course is different from the others.
Walton Heath and the Berkshire are on similar land but are very different from each other. I played a course of his in Wales called Bulls Bay. It is unlike anything I have ever played. I played along side Mark Rowlinson who lovingly called the course, "Mad."
That said, I did like the Red course better. I think it had a stronger start and the terrain was more interesting.
Sean, has there been conditioning problems in England this summer? The course looks a bit stressed. I don't now what kind of weather you've had.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 09:51:16 PM by Tommy Williamsen »
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2018, 02:29:58 AM »
When was a Fowler a Fowler and when was it primarily a Simpson?... I understand that is not clear at The Berkshire.


And do you think Fowler’s varying styles were always 100% deliberate or sometimes just a variable of his associate / partner, the construction crew or perhaps the time in his career?


I haven’t seen that many of his courses and can’t remember a great deal about his career so genuine questions...


Only walked a few holes of The Blue. Enjoyed The Red very much.

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2018, 03:25:03 AM »
When was a Fowler a Fowler and when was it primarily a Simpson?... I understand that is not clear at The Berkshire.

And do you think Fowler’s varying styles were always 100% deliberate or sometimes just a variable of his associate / partner, the construction crew or perhaps the time in his career?

I haven’t seen that many of his courses and can’t remember a great deal about his career so genuine questions...

Only walked a few holes of The Blue. Enjoyed The Red very much.


No, on the contrary, it is extremely clear at the Berkshire. Peter Foord, the club's previous secretary, who unfortunately had to retire due to ill health, did a comprehensive review of all the documents concerning the construction of the courses, which, because it was a Crown Lands project, are extensive. There was not a single mention of Simpson ever being on site.


Now, we can look at some of the bunkers that were built at Berkshire and say that they look very different from anything else that Fowler ever built, and that is interesting. But we cannot conclude from that, in the face of very solid evidence to the contrary, that Simpson must have built them. I offer two thoughts: firstly that Fowler, as Sean has always said, seemed to be, of all the key Golden Age architects, least tied to a signature style, and that perhaps by this time (which was after all very late in Fowler's career) that Simpson had influenced his older partner. Further than that I do not think we can go.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Thomas Dai

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2018, 04:59:00 AM »
Interesting comments about Herbert Fowler as from what I’ve seen and has been mentioned above, and others will have seen more, he doesn’t seem to have had a particular style. Perhaps “no-style” is his style?
Do we know if he had one or more regular construction supervisors/contractors or just used someone local to the project and whether he was more hands-on/on-site in comparison to his contempories?
Shame that WW2 tank training trashed his original Saunton work. I would have liked to have seen that.
Atb

Niall C

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2018, 05:23:10 AM »
The question I have, particularly when you are talking about bunker styles on a classic golden age course, is how do you know that the bunker style there now is what was their originally ? And secondly, how hands on was the architect in producing the bunkers in the first place. In other words if he just provided written instruction, then that leaves the construction down to the interpretation of the construction crew/greenkeeper.

Niall

Adam Lawrence

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2018, 05:27:11 AM »
Interesting comments about Herbert Fowler as from what I’ve seen and has been mentioned above, and others will have seen more, he doesn’t seem to have had a particular style. Perhaps “no-style” is his style?
Do we know if he had one or more regular construction supervisors/contractors or just used someone local to the project and whether he was more hands-on/on-site in comparison to his contempories?
Shame that WW2 tank training trashed his original Saunton work. I would have liked to have seen that.
Atb

Dai

I believe, though I'm not 100 per cent certain, that Berkshire was built by Franks Harris Bros, who as we know were most closely associated with Colt, though in fact they built for most all the key guys.

An interesting little snippet is that the first architect approached re. Berkshire was indeed Colt, but the price he quoted was judged by the Crown Lands people to be too high. So they went to Fowler, who gave them a lower price, which was, in time, comprehensively overrun.


Edited to add: I checked my files, and it was indeed Franks Harris who built the Berkshire.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 06:54:39 AM by Adam Lawrence »
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Adam Lawrence

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2018, 05:36:00 AM »
The question I have, particularly when you are talking about bunker styles on a classic golden age course, is how do you know that the bunker style there now is what was their originally ? And secondly, how hands on was the architect in producing the bunkers in the first place. In other words if he just provided written instruction, then that leaves the construction down to the interpretation of the construction crew/greenkeeper.

Niall


They're not. Most of the bunkers at Berkshire have changed comprehensively over 90 years. But there are a few remaining ones, notably the fronting traps on Blue 13, and most compellingly of all, a totally (now) out of play bunker on the left of Blue 18, now almost lost in a thicket of heather and gorse, that retain their original shape. Remember Berkshire was not founded till 1928, much later than most of the classic heathlands. Those 15-20 years are important; we have pretty good records of what the course looked like in its early years.


Re. your second point, we know from the Crown Lands records that Fowler was very hands on at Berkshire. He had been asked to quote a fixed price for the build, so he and his construction team had a big incentive to keep a lid on costs. That he failed to do so might be taken as further evidence that, great golf architect though he was, he was a rotten businessman.

Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Adam Lawrence

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2018, 07:09:35 AM »

Here's an example of that early Berkshire bunkering:


Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Sean_A

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9 New
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2018, 02:44:45 PM »
Thanks, as always, Sean.
After years of reading your profiles, I can't help but put Fowler and Colt side by side.
Now, I don't know which of their courses best epitomizes their respective styles, nor do I know how many and/or kinds of changes the years have wrought on any of their courses -- but that said, I like Fowler better. I think he was the 'better' architect, at least for my tastes and from afar.
P

Pietro

I can certainly imagine Colt designing the 9th hole, although I imagine there would be rear green knobs to help define the uphill shot. 

Tommy

The UK (and I think Ireland) had a bit of a drought this summer.  Many courses burned out...overly so.  I admit to being a bit surprised that some of these top clubs didn't use more water when things were so dry.  Anyway, now is the time the courses pay for the lack of water...dead areas of fairway.  To be fair, I don't think it is that big of an issue.  If the sparse lies bother folks just move the ball.  I certainly moved my ball away from seeded areas.   

BERKSHIRE BLUE TOUR CONT

The downhill 10th strikes me as a hole out of place because of the awkward pond and the quite modern green shaping/surrounds.  I believe this used to be a par 4 of some sort, but I am unsure of the history. 




We now begin a string of excellent holes from 11 through 16, of which I consider the 11th the best of the lot.  Somewhat similar to the 6th, the drive is a bit non-descript.  Once around the corner, the majesty  of the hole is exposed.  There is a Z shape ditch which threatens second shots.  The golfer has three options, over, short or right.  The right is the wrong option because of a covering bunker and the green slopes away from this angle.






As after the 9th, if play is too slow one can hop on 7 Red after the 11th.  However, a very good hole would be missed.  The 12th plays to an angled fairway, then uphill to the imaginative two tier green benched into the hillside.






Playing just below and along the crest of a ridge, the 13th is a smashing par 3.


Another narrow green!


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 26, 2022, 02:44:56 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Thomas Dai

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-13
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2018, 04:21:56 PM »
Thanks for the Fowler/Harris/Colt insights Adam. Not the only job Harry Colt lost on price...and not the only one where the other architect involved subsequently proceeded to come in over-budget on!
Some fine golf on view, some very fine.
My impression so far is of a mostly reasonably open aspect course with quite bit of distance to the tree lines, although not as open as in the old black and white photo posted. Is this the case?
Atb



Mark Pearce

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-13
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2018, 06:26:32 PM »
Sean,


The 10th was relatively recently changed.  It was a par 3 previously but closer to the road at the back.  I think there was a problem with balls going through the back on to the (very busy) road, so the new green and the mounds at the back are intended to reduce that problem.  It always was the weakest hole on the course.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-9
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2018, 09:47:01 PM »
Interesting comments about Herbert Fowler as from what I’ve seen and has been mentioned above, and others will have seen more, he doesn’t seem to have had a particular style. Perhaps “no-style” is his style?
Do we know if he had one or more regular construction supervisors/contractors or just used someone local to the project and whether he was more hands-on/on-site in comparison to his contempories?
Shame that WW2 tank training trashed his original Saunton work. I would have liked to have seen that.
Atb


Do we know how Saunton was changed?
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Sean_A

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-13 New
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2018, 04:39:40 AM »
Mark

Peter Allen wrote that the 10th used to be a short par 4, but I don't know the specifics. 

Tommy

I have never seen specifics on how the Saunton courses were altered.

BERKSHIRE BLUE TOUR CONT

A full on blind hole, the splendid 14th uses the terrain on hand very gracefully.  It may pay to lay-up with the 200 yard club as the fairway narrows considerably around the 150 yard marker.


The green is squeezed between the higher heathland area and the lower meadow which we saw near the 7th green. Notice the left bunker practically merges with the path.


Another cracking hole, the 15th is a bit odd in that it requires a fade from the daily tees. I would like to see the trees immediately right and forward of the tee and those on the left blocking the view of the left hand bunker removed. While I don't like the idea of bunker views blocked when on the tee, it seems extraordinarily silly to block the view of this magnificent feature.   




The stunning left hand bunker.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 26, 2022, 02:45:41 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Matt Dawson

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-15
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2018, 12:39:43 PM »
I really enjoy The Berkshire – I think it’s a fantastic 36 hole day of golf, bettered only by Sunningdale to my mind. I would have joined there if I lived closer, but it’s just that bit further out of town for ease of access from the metropolis

I think the roll and movement of the terrain is really good across both courses (although not in quite the same league as St George’s Hill, if I may). And visually I think it beats Walton Heath as an enjoyable golf course, although definitely less testing on the scorecard

Thanks for the pictures. Exceedingly dog-friendly as well, so you can’t really go wrong

You’ve had a good spell down in the heathlands…clearly you were otherwise engaged as you breezed straight past me holding the door open for you at SGH when you visited!

Sean_A

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course 1-15 New
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2018, 08:49:31 AM »
Matt

Sorry, 3 days was all I could do!  Your invite is noted and greatly appreciated!

The open aspect of Walton Heath is hard to beat for comparable heathland quality courses. 

BERKSHIRE BLUE TOUR CONT

A good, but visually odd hole, the 16th strikes me as the fairway lines being too straight. 


The approach to the raised green over a ditch is challenging...and a bit cluttered.


I don't find the final two holes completely satisfactory.  I like the concept of each, but I don't think they were executed as well as they might have been.  Firstly, the 17th has a bunker buried behind trees and while the greensite is good, it is a bit lacklustre.  I like the home hole more, but I have to wonder why the practice green wasn't incorporated into the hole.  The excellent greensite could make for a very good par 5.  Plus, it is odd to finish so far from the house that it isn't even in sight when putting.


The green is interesting, but the rear mounds are disconnected from the putting surface. 




Without question Berkshire Blue is a very good course with some excellent holes which include, 1, 9, and 11-16.  For sure, the back nine is the far better effort, however, I do think there is room for improvement throughout the course.  The club can be justly proud as the host for one of the premier amateur events in the UK.  The Berkshire Trophy was instituted immediately after WWII and its honour board is testament to the quality of the event.  In the early years PB Lucas, L Crawley, P Oosterhuis and MF Bonallack claimed the prize. In more recent times  N Faldo, S Lyle, P McEvoy, G Wolstenholme and R Fisher have all laid hands on the trophy.  On a personal level, it brings me great joy to see the name JE Bickerton next to the year 1991...almost as much joy as is a game around the Blue course!  Hopefully I will get the chance to see the Red course in the near future.  2018

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 26, 2022, 02:46:18 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: Bounteous BERKSHIRE GC: Blue Course
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2018, 08:51:12 AM »
Excellent, as usual.


Tommy, it is Bull Bay, not Bull's Bay which I think is in USA.

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