5. Sunningdale (New)
LOCATION: SUNNINGDALE, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND
DESIGNER: HARRY COLT (1923)
One of the hot discussion points in the creation of this year’s Top 100 England surrounded the status of Sunningdale New. The question was not so much whether it should move up the rankings (general consensus was that it certainly should) but whether it should actually rank higher than its big brother – the Old. A couple of panellists claimed they preferred the sterner test of golf, the increased premium on solid driving and the stronger emphasis on risk/reward strategy provided by the younger course. Needless to say, the combination of the two represents the finest day’s golf you could wish for within Britain and Ireland. Beyond our borders perhaps only Royal Melbourne or Winged Foot is comparable in terms of 36-hole quality.
Perhaps the biggest point of difference between the two courses, however, is the scale. Whereas the Old at all times feels intimate, the New traverses more expansive and open terrain. Although the trees don’t encroach in quite the same way as on the Old, dense heather often lurks just a few yards away from the short grass. The carries are long and the fairways are narrow. It’s a driver’s golf course and, overall, a tougher and more comprehensive test of golf. Some claim that the start and finish let it down, but the demanding opening hole sets the tone and the par 3, par 5 finish is great for match play.