By Leonard van Nunen and Guillem Mataro
During our 6-day trip playing golf in Surrey, we played courses of each category. The weekend before we started our trip we visited the BMW PGA Open on Wentworth West during the weekend. Wentworth is, like most golf courses in real life, much more undulating than you can see on TV. Also, the setup for the pros was brutal, the landing area for a driver on hole 1 was only 16 meters wide (and a blind shot). When you walk around a top course prepared for the flagship tournament of the DP World Tour you realize how good these guys are. After seeing Billy Horschel win on Sunday we returned to the Mount in Guildford (an excellent location where most golf courses in Surrey are reachable in under 45 min by car) and prepared for our 36 holes on Monday.
For dinner, we went to a place close to where we stayed, The White House. It is situated by the channel in front of the bridge that will bring you to the city centre and close to St. Nicholas Parish Church with large parking just in front. This place offered a proper English style pub cuisine and ice-cold Peroni, perfect after a full day of golf.
The first course on our list was one from the trophy category, St. George's Hill (est. 1913). It has been in the top 100 of the world for ages and was designed by the architect with the most courses in the top 100, Harry S. Colt. We played Red and Blue. If interested, read my detailed review of St. George's Hill, but I rated it with a 9,3 out of 10 overall.
Overall my opinion is that St. George's Hill is probably one of the most beautiful Colt courses that I have played. Heather, flowers, unexpected undulations, nice shaped bunkers and beautiful hazard placement. The Clubhouse is magnificent with the long chimneys that are there because there used to be another floor on the clubhouse. The 2nd floor was destroyed by a fire but there are plans to restore it and add some rooms there for guests. The inside of the clubhouse is really nice and the food and service were excellent.
In the afternoon we went to a completely different golf course, although also designed by Colt. Cuddington Golf Club - perhaps not so well known- is also quite old, founded in 1929 and is laid out in much more open terrain than St. George's Hill. It has one of the longest starting holes in England with two par 5’s and a 400-meter par 4, but it is very nice to play. I rated Cuddington Golf Club with a 8,1 out of 10, but you can also read my full review of Cuddington.
At night we again enjoyed some excellent pub food. The best place to go can be found on the way from Cuddington to Guildford: The Duke of Wellington in East Horsley. Aside from the good food, here you will find the charming atmosphere of a typical British pub. A must go when in the area.
Tuesday morning we went to one of the hidden gems of this golf trip, recommended by an architect I know from Canada. He tipped New Zealand Golf Club, another old (est. 1895) heathland golf course tucked away on the sandy soil of Surrey. It had been raining all night and when we arrived it was still coming down hard. So we decided to wait for a little and have coffee and coffee turned into lunch but we enjoyed the company of our guest Alex - from Elevation Golfing Nation - and we really enjoyed the beautiful old clubhouse. When entering the clubhouse, locker rooms and pro-shop it’s like you are travelling back in time. The pictures, the names of former members on the lockers, and little golf paraphernalia are just wonderful.
After the rain stopped for a half-hour we went out to the first tee. Although the par of the course is 68 it doesn’t mean this golf course is easy. There is only one par 5 and most par 4’s are around 400 yards long. What is nice to know about this course is the reason why it is called New Zealand. The family who owned the course and commissioned the famous amateur golfer, Samuel Mure Fergusson to build it, had a lot of land in the country of New Zealand. When they came back to England in Surrey they started a sheep farm. The land where this farm was, has been turned into a golf course and named New Zealand after the fond memories they had of their former domicile. I rated the club an 8.6 out of 10. If you are interested in reading my experience of this course, just go to my full review of the New Zealand Golf Club.
Surrey is quite known because of its gorgeous golf courses but perhaps less for being the best gastronomic destination. That however does not mean you won’t be able to have a nice meal when you're playing golf in Surrey. You will find almost any type of cuisine there, but at least one day you should try the famous fish & chips. As we were based in Guildford, most of the recommendations are in and around this lovely town. If you like Greek food, Theion is the place to be, a modern restaurant with a Greek touch. If you prefer Italian food, head to Positano in High Street, a pedestrian street right in the heart of Guildford.
On Wednesday morning, we played Worplesdon, one of the 3 W’s - so, Woking GC, Worplesdon and West Hill. These excellent courses are just 10 minutes apart. The designer of Worplesdon, Abercromby, designed a lot of great golf courses, some of them together with H. Colt, some solo. The course at Worplesdon is beautiful and great fun to play. Not so long as the modern courses but definitely no pushover. I rated Worplesdon an 8.7 out of 10, check my detailed review of Worplesdon. The club house is beautifully located and there are some beautiful championship boards inside. Also the club's china (like at New Zealand) with the club logo is a very nice detail.
When playing any of the 3 W’s in Woking, Bellini Italian restaurant is a great place to finish the day. Good Italian cuisine, pasta, pizza, lambchops…
On Thursday we went to probably the most famous golf club in Surrey, Sunningdale GC. It is one of two clubs in the world - together with Cabot Links/Cliffs - which have both courses listed in the top 100 of the world. The Old Course was designed by Willy Park Junior in 1913. The New course was designed by Harry Colt in 1923. Colt actually started as a secretary at Sunningdale and realized there that he enjoyed designing courses more than managing them. To play these two courses on one day with 21 degrees Celsius and a nice sandwich with a gunner (great golfers’ drink in the UK) for lunch is probably one of the best golfing days imaginable. No one who visits Sunningdale Golf Club will forget the giant oak tree standing just adjacent to the 18th and the putting green. It's huge and shines as the logo of the club, so you really can't miss it. The tree has been there since the club was founded 100+ years ago and hopefully will be there for 100s more to come.
A top tip: do not skip the Halfway house at the 10th hole of the Old Course, it's a wonderful place with great snacks and drinks. If we would summarize our experience at Sunningdale: the Old Course is a bit more scenic with more ohs and ahs. The New Course is maybe a bit better for the ‘modern’ golfer. I rated both courses with a 9.5 out of 10, if interested, read my full review of Sunningdale GC.
Both courses are rightfully high in the top 100 and both are an incredible experience to play. When you play both on the same day there is a considerable reduction possible on the green fees, check the prices on the Sunningdale Club Page. But perhaps you should play them on separate days to enjoy them even more. Playing both on the same day is comparable with having lunch and dinner at a 3-star Michelin restaurant. It might be too much for just one day. For me, it was probably the best golfing day in my life so far, up there with playing Pinehurst no 2 and playing Royal Dornoch alone at twilight some years ago…
What do you play the day after the Sunningdale double? It’s a tough one to match, so we decided to go to the neighbours at Sunningdale Heath, formerly known as Sunningdale Ladies Club. This 18 hole par 58 club borders directly on Sunningdale Old. Designed by Colt, it is par 61 for ladies and has some amazing par 3’s. Some of these holes would not be misplaced at the neighbours or at any top 100 courses I have played. The clubhouse is nothing like the mansion with the giant clock next door, but a very modest small clubhouse with a small locker room and two showers. The ‘pro shop’ is really small.
The first tee shot goes over a public road so when you hit your drive, you need to ask your buddy to walk to the road and see if there is any traffic coming. Very nice and typical for this course. I rated this club with an 8.2 out of 10, read my detailed review of Sunningdale Heath. Overall, the holes are challenging and it is definitely not a short par 3/4 course, with some of them being around 200 meters. You need to be very precise and I applaud the golfer that manages to play his or her handicap here. It is just a fun course and ideal if you need to fly home. You can play in the morning before heading back home. Especially to Heathrow, it's only an 18-minute drive.
Summing up, Surrey is one of the best golf regions I visited. The amount of trophy golf courses like Sunningdale, the quality of them and the abundance of hidden gems like New Zealand is just amazing. There are so many golf courses in Surrey, that you could easily stay here for a month and play a great course everyday. Most courses are quite easily bookable, for the higher ranked courses be sure to reserve long in advance. Put this region on your bucket list!
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