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.