Swinley Forest Golf Club - Top 100 Golf Courses of the British Isles
 
Top 100 Golf Courses
 

 
Swinley Forest, England

 
Berkshire - Best In County Golf Courses  Berkshire - Best In County Golf Courses England  England British Isles RankingBritish Isles Ranking World RankingWorld Ranking
Swinley Forest Golf Club
Coronation Road
Ascot
Berkshire
SL5 9LE
England
ArchitectHarry Colt
Head Professional/Director of GolfStuart Hill
Telephone+44 (0)1344 620197
Location2 miles S of Ascot
VisitorsContact in advance
Club Secretary/ ManagerGeorge Ritchie
 

Swinley Forest is an absolutely charming golf course on the famous Surrey/Berkshire sand belt, but it’s a club that is frozen in time, exclusive, unusual and totally eccentric. In fact, you would be hard pressed to describe it as a conventional golf club: there is no captain and despite being in existence for nearly 100 years, no history, except in its members’ heads. Only recently have scorecards been printed, holes allocated par figures, and competitions introduced for Swinley’s distinguished gentlemen members.

Harry Colt designed the layout and the course opened for play in 1909, reputedly Colt’s favourite and finest design. One of the many delights of Swinley is the ambience and the fact that it’s unpretentious. It has none of the glamour of its near neighbours Sunningdale and Wentworth, but what Swinley Forest does have is bags of style.

If you are lucky enough to play here, you will undoubtedly have the course to yourself.  It’s possible that Major So-and-so and his dog will be out there on the 15th and Lord Such-and-such will be having a beer in the clubhouse. Perhaps Peter Alliss will be there too. You will certainly find out who is around and about because the steward will tell you when he accepts your green fee. Anyway it’s likely that you will be able to count other golfers playing the course on one hand.  

We will make no bones about it, Swinley is a beautiful course. The short, one-shot holes are simply outstanding. The site/position of the greens sets Swinley apart from many other courses. Although the yardage is only a little over 6,000 yards, the par of 68 makes it a real challenge.

If you are lucky enough to play Swinley in late spring, look out for the rhododendrons (actually you can’t miss them), they are simply breathtaking. There are summer swathes of purple heather and lovely springy fairways that wind their way through mature pines... this really is a special place. Drop a letter in the post to the secretary by way of introduction, or maybe telephone him. Who knows, he might let you play this amazing private members’ course.

 
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Average Reviewers Score:     
A time warp. You get lulled into a false sense of security because it's short but trust me, it plays longer than the card. Unfortunately, the greens had just been sanded but the course was otherwise in great shape. Terrific par 3s, and many wonderful par 4s. Charming, totally charming. Play it if you can get on!
02 July 2014 Reply
Swinley Forest did not disappoint. Despite having to play the entire round in a fairly heavy rain the jaw dropping beauty of the course kept ones spirits up. The rhododendrems were in bloom and were stunning against the grey sky. The collection of par threes are amazing at Swinley with my favourites being the 4th and 17th. As the rain never let up during round the greens became water logged so l am not able to pass comment but they look to be in good condition. Hope to have the opportunity to return again and play in sunny conditions.
28 May 2014 Reply
Having played very recently, I can confirm that the greens are absolutely fine now. Swinley is a real privilege to play, and as well as being a tough test with many outstanding holes, it is extraordinarily pretty. The settings and framings of greens are an object lesson for modern course architects. If you get a chance, go.
30 October 2013 Reply
Just returned to Swinley for the second time this week and have to say what a pleasure it was to play. Its by no means long but every hole presents a challenge even for the big hitters where risking a big drive or 3wood can lead to running up a big score even on a short par 4. Every hole is memorable, the uphill 7th needs a carefully planned drive and then a tricky approach to an unsighted green and 15 through to 17 are great holes to test a good score coming in. The greens were rumored to have been in a very poor state 2/3 months ago and I'm really pleased to say that they are now in fine condition for the time of year.
13 September 2013 Reply
Having recently returned from our annual golf holiday, with this year Surrey being our venue of choice, my friend, my two Sons and I were tremendously privileged to be able to play golf at Swinley Forest Golf Club on our final day. Upon arrival at Swinley Forest we were made to feel extremely welcome, especially by George Ritchie (Secretary), Tony (Starter) and Stuart (Professional). Having played 18 holes during the morning, we ate lunch on the patio overlooking the 18th and the hospitality that we received from Alex (Bar Manager) was nothing short of exemplary. Having read recent reviews about the Club, I don’t mind admitting that I was somewhat apprehensive and a little concerned about the perceived condition of the course. I couldn’t have been more surprised! Based upon its setting, hole diversity and course condition, the whole experience was completely breathtaking. We were able to play off the white tees and it was certainly no flick! Swinley Forest has every type of hole you could wish for, coupled with heather that will punish you if you try to blow the course away. It’s no secret that Swinley’s greens had been rather problematic earlier in the year. Although the greens were a little slow, they were otherwise in immaculate condition, as was the rest of this distinguished and delightfully impressive course which oozes class. Every hole has its own theatre, with pine trees as its audience. This was certainly a day in a lifetime experience for us all, which we certainly hope to be fortunate enough to encounter again.
24 July 2013 Reply

Response:
gareth jones18 September 2013
Glad to hear they are making some effort to improve the course and treatment of visitors. We had a terrible day out earlier in the year and the feedback from other friends that have played recently was not positive.
What a wonderful experience to play at Swinley Forrest. As you drive into the grounds, its like stepping back in time. This is definitely understated elegance. The clubhouse together with the staff are second to none, helpful and friendly. You won't see many on the course, apparently only about 30 members a day play! The golf course is not long, just over 6000 yards, but do not take it likely, the gorse can be really penal. There is not a bad hole at Swinley, it is one of the prettiest courses I have played. The greens are undulating but fair, some thought they were a little slow, but every course is different, that's what makes golf so interesting. If I had one very small criticism, the sand in the bunkers need replacing. I hope to return soon.
19 July 2013 Reply
Played Swinley recently. I need say no more about the food, hospitality etc....BUT. The course is looking very tired and somewhat neglected. The greens are in poor condition and very bumpy and patchy. Bunkers were universally stoney and uneven in both depth and texture. Fairways need a good diveting party. I am sorry to be so critical of a much loved old friend but its current high ranking is thoroughly undeserved. Too many old courses in Surrey are living off past glories and realistic and up to date appraisals are desperately needed.
04 May 2013 Reply

Response:
S Stone26 May 2013
I am saddened to read of the state of the old course, I was fortunate to play many times in my youth as my grandfather lived at Swinley. He was Joe Woodley and kept the greens for about 50 years. He would be turning in his grave if he knew they were below par, I hope the club take note of the comments and restore them to former glory.
TT30 May 2013
The situation with the greens was caused by last year's atrocious summer - and the lateness of spring this year. The new club secretary is renowned for his hands on approach to course perfection - and the club he was last in charge of has arguably the best greens in the country as his legacy. Huge work is being put in to repair and restore the Swinley greens - and with this recent rain and sun they are already progressing rapidly. This is a temporary glitch that is being rectified - and Swinley more than deservesdeserves to maintain its Top 100 status.
Played Swinley earlier this week in glorious weather, and as ever the setting was magnificent. However, the new club regime seems to have taken notice of the past couple of reviews and decided to do something about the greens. I’ve also played Swinley once a year for the past six or seven years at the end of April, and in agreement with other reviewers they’ve never been in fantastic condition. However on Tuesday they were absolutely appalling. The greens had been properly hollow tined, scarified and dethatched - to the extent that there was more bare soil visible than grass. We started about 0845 at the 10th and the 9th green had just been sanded raked watered and rolled, by the time we finished at lunchtime they were on the day’s second sanding session. Putting was an absolute lottery. But the new secretary of a month’s standing saw us at lunchtime and while hugely apologetic said, the work was needed to rectify 10 years of lack of work. So hopefully by the time we go back this time next year, the greens will be back to their reputedly silky best.
27 April 2013 Reply
Just an update on the greens. I've played there once a year for the past six and I love the course - a joy to play. However, having visited in early March and hoping that the greens would have improved by now, I'm sorry to report that they are still shockingly bad. I played earlier this week and they are without doubt the worst I've ever played on, in this country or abroad. They appear to have been neglected for too long and now drastic, emergency sanding and spiking has left them patchy, slow and wholly unreliable. We lost count of the number of putts that were heading for the middle of the hole until diverted by two or three inches (no exaggeration) well past the side. This is a wonderful course - but if you're thinking of making a visit, hold off until later in the year. It's difficult to rate as it is: normally I'd give it four and a half or so, but as things stand it's around a two...so I'll average it at three.
24 April 2013 Reply
The introduction to Swinley above is well deserved, but on a recent visit I was very disappointed by the greens. They have clearly missed out on the odd aeration or two, and the sand used was not the best quality. It was not the sanding though that was of concern; it was the boggy nature of the surface, which just shouldn't happen on a heathland course. If they are not careful, thatch will set in, and then the green fee in early March of £120 will be very hard to justify. At this time of the year, everything is not looking its best either, so its a slightly underwhelming experience. However, on a late spring or summer's day with the sun shining and the greens firm, I would agree that it is a unique and wonderful experience.
08 March 2013 Reply
I play this course every year in the spring. I think from the 4th to the 17th it is an absolute amazing course. Do I think it is perfect ..... no. Is some of it's reputation made by exclusivity, yes. But for lovers of old fashioned heathland golf it it is wonderful. However at the price they charge ..... now I know it well. Then I think West Sussex and the W's are not that far off on quality. The comment on the road noise ... well in this part of the world you can't escape it. But it certainly isn't intrusive like it can be at times on the Berkshire and Walton.
11 April 2012 Reply
What a gem of a course, carved out of the beautiful old forest. Parkland at its best, and having only watched the masters, was the closest I have felt to being at Augusta. The Rhododendrons were not in bloom, it being early September, but the heather was out in all its glory. The trees are enormous and tower over you around the course. Condition of the course was excellent (just short of outstanding/championship links etc), and whilst strangely they were playing preferred lies on 01 September, there was absolutely no need. Greens were true and a reasonable pace (as above, good but not championship). My main criticism would be the tee boxes which showed signs of significant use, a complete surprise on a course which is renowned for being quiet! I think that a number of the tee boxes are in the shade so the problem may be in getting the grass to re-establish. There are no weak holes on the course, all are good, and many are truly beautiful and a great test of golf. It is well reported that the course isn’t long, but the length of some of the par 4s is testing, and the course is certainly tight enough with good bunkering to ensure that poor shots are punished. Hospitality and the clubhouse were first class. Sitting on the terrace after playing was a real pleasure. Swinley is so understated and subtle. Hugely enjoyable day’s golf and well worth my 5 hour journey back to Yorkshire! If you get the invite to play here, you simply must accept.
02 September 2011 Reply
I played this course on what must have been one of the first days of the year with warm temperatures and sunshine, March 15. I live in Sweden and was over in England for just a short stay and got so lucky. Swinley Forest may play a little short on the card but I found it to have enough teeth to keep me busy with recovery shots and lenghty putts for par. It is so much fun, and I can only imagine how beautiful it must be with all the heather and rhododendron in full blossom. I really hope I get the chance to play here again.
21 March 2011 Reply
Played in March 2011. Weather overcast. Received very warm welcome to what is probably the quietest club I have ever been to. Read all the hype about it etc. Fantastic part of the world, very secluded setting . Now the not so great part. I understand that the membership is made up of, how shall I put this politely, more experienced golfers. Apparently that is the reason why the greens have been left the way they are. Patchy, too long, inconsistent. The trouble is that there are some fantastic undulating greens out there but you can't get the ball rolling. It's like a dam busters raid on every putt. If they cut the greens shorter (trust me this is not just winter length) the ball would roll truer and the members would hole more putts. Maybe I'm being a bit picky, and I did have a great day out with wonderful company, but my life long rule of thumb is that if the greens are good then the rest of the course generally follows. There were some great par 3's and the 15th into the wind is a stern test.
18 March 2011 Reply
Faultless and cannot understand the 'few' negative reviews (I think they must have played a different Swinley Forest). The 17th is arguably the best Par 3 in Golf. If (and this is very unlikely) one day the course was opened to the TV circus for a European Tour event, this would swiftly climb much higher than the 18th place it is currently given. The layout is far superior to any of it's neighbours and perhaps the Par of 68 is it's only downfall. Apologies to the owners of the rather large property left of 18 who now also own a Titleist ProV1 number 3...
22 January 2011 Reply

Response:
JAS23 January 2011
Hmmm, you clearly enjoyed your day which is fair enough. So did I in Sept '09, I think the biggest plus for me was the feeling that our 4ball were the only people on the course. Apart from a 2 ball that went off just before us I think we were. 6 ball rating though?, it wasn't quite for me although I would give it 5. Have you played Sunningdale Old or New?
I had dreamed of having the pleasure of playing this much lauded course for over 30 years. The clubhouse and catering were as expected: very traditional. The course: wonderful classic Colt design but sadly looking a bit tired: slow greens inconsistent greens, heather in need of regeneration but still a good test. I would love to return but there are many better Colt courses which I have not yet visited.
25 October 2010 Reply

Response:
Brian12 November 2010
How do you know they are better if you haven't yet visited them?
Martin15 January 2011
3 balls??? You could drop a bomb on this course and it would still be better than 3 balls. May i suggest playing again and see if your opinion changes. This course is surreal
This is without doubt the prettiest course in England. It is picture perfect and there isn't a blade of grass out of place, the tee's and fairways are like carpets and the greens are visually perfect, but a little slow to putt on. Its a tough course off the comp tees, you will do well to match your handicap so don't be fooled by the par 68, a lot of the par 4's are +400 yards. The clubhouse is beautiful as was the food and you will receive a warm welcome from the staff and you probably won't see many if any members!! Swinley is like a mini Sunningdale, play here if you get a chance its just a fantastic course.
12 October 2010 Reply
This is a very special golf course, absolutely beautiful in June when the rhododendrons are in full bloom with a purple fringe to most fairways. The view from the clubhouse over the 1st & 18th has to be one of the nicest in the UK. It compares very favourably with Wentworth East and West (before alterations) with plenty of pines and gorse. The greens are very good and general quality of course is exceptional although there aren't armies of ground staff raking bunkers as soon as it rains (unlike Wentworth), but it makes up for this with its exclusivity and tradition. If there was one minor complaint then the course and greens don't drain quite as well as you'd expect with some surface water gathering in wet conditions - but it has preferred lies all year long so not a major issue. Hard to fault the course or facilities and for pure visual appeal it has to be one of the best courses in the UK or Ireland. The only course i've played that compares is The European in Ireland - which being a links course is very different, but equally visually stunning.
09 June 2010 Reply
Ok ,Ok, I had heard so much about the Forest since i moved into the area some 10 years ago,Descriptions like " World class" "Awsome" "the best course in England" amongst others. It is a very nice course! but & it is a big but. did i expect to hear a very very busy,fast road for the best part of 15 holes err no! did i expect average greens ? err no! fluffy ,& infact quite lumpy greens ?err no! did i expect perfect peace & tranquility ,did i expect PERFECT greens , visually beautifull fairways, stunning views ? YES!! my opinion & it is only my opinion it was very dissapointing . I drove through the gates ,glanced to my left saw the 1st & thought wow i have arrived at a very special place! After getting the 1st out of the way it unexpectedly became very ...mm..dare i say average ? maybe not average .but Defiantly not up to the Hype that surrounds this very "pretty" course. I think it is human nature that we all very much want things we sometimes cant obtain. This course please people dont loose sleep over if you dont get to play. With respect .
28 April 2010 Reply

Response:
Jay25 October 2010
The statement that this course has a very fast busy road adjacent to the best part of 15 holes is at best hyperbole, and at worst grossly misleading. At the very far end of the course, near the 9th tee, if you listen really hard, you can faintly hear distant traffic. If there is one area in which Swinley scores 100 out of 100 it is in tranquility and a feeling of being "away from it all" - it really does have a magical air to it and don't let this review put you off experiencing the uniqueness of it for yourself.
John11 November 2010
I think this is one of the best laid out courses i have ever played on, i do think your opinions are very harsh and people should ignore your post it is absolute nonsense.
Jay12 November 2010
PS - Who calls it "the Forest"???!!
ben09 December 2010
Harry Colt described it as "his least bad course" and he did know a thing or two about golf course design!!!!
Phil25 January 2011
Sorry mate but you obviously are talking about another golf course! I have had the privelege of playing Swinley Forest a number of times over the last 2-3 years and it has NEVER disappointed. It is by far the best golf course I have played with also the nicest atmosphere. It has the feel of exclusivity but without the snobbery that you get with a lot of other golf courses.
Chris Clarke18 February 2011
If I may add a different perspective as a local lad, I went round this course 50 years ago countless times as a young caddy, and its charm, peace and beauty have remained an enduring memory. My main client entertained VIPs stranded by airlines, and probably favoured me as too young to know or care who his guests were - heaven knows in what company I spent those glorious hours. It looks from your photos completly unchanged. Fondest memories.
Stuson07 April 2011
And the multi storey car park on the 17th, you don't mention that. And the KFC in the clubhouse? And my caddie had a quad bike. I love this course!
I played Swinley last week for the first time and I thought that it was the best inland course I have ever played. Our Society (The Aircraft Golfing Society) play every year at many of the Surrey / Berks sand belt courses including Sunningdale and I would rate Swinley as the best of them all. Every hole is a great test and as pretty as a picture. The special way that the club is run just adds to the sense of occasion and I urge you to take any chance you may get to play this delightful course. Swinley is just wonderful.
07 April 2010 Reply
This course is unbelievable. A truly fantastic selection of golf holes and although appears short in length playes everybit its full yardage. It is very very old school which i think adds to its charm. Very warm welcoming clubhouse and Stuart and Ben in the Pro Shop were great and have a very sharp eye on fixing a golf swing. I defy anybody not to relish this challenge. The par 3's are sublime and i dont remember one week hole. If your a member here then you are a lucky lucky golfer!! Yes the greens are not lightning....but who cares. They are challenging and roll true. This is more than just golf...its an experience.
03 April 2010 Reply
Fantasic lay out with great par 4s. The pop bunker in the middle of the 18th hole bad design and whats going on with the grass paths? Most of them are soaking wet and have turned to mud. The greens are very slow compared to the Berkshire condition not great .
24 February 2010 Reply

Response:
mark Chaplin09 April 2010
After the harshest winter for a number of years it is not surprising the conditioning may not have been up to the usual high standards at Swinley Forest. As for grass paths they are natural unlike the stone paths they replace. What would you prefer concrete cart paths?
“Never heard of it”, they said! Shame, that's more the pity for you, I think to myself. I guess that's the norm, being in the shadow of Wentworth and Sunningdale, amongst the many pedigree courses of the area. But I feel Swinley Forest smiles sweetly to herself knowing who's the true beauty. It’s often easy to forget you actually came here to play golf as you look around at the scenery in awe. Although I refer to the feminine beauty, many with an overload of testosterone will frown at the relative low yardage. But be warned! Many of the uphill 400-yard + par fours are only reachable in regulation by the lower handicapper. Furthermore there are ample bunkers, hollows, heather and elevated greens with rippling undulation fitting of any Harry Colt masterpiece. Swinley is the ultimate golf day, combining style, quality and tradition topped off with a good dose of quintessential English eccentricity. The only downer is getting yourself on. But, with persistence, and a little luck, it can happen. When it does, do not turn the invite down, or you will live to regret the biggest mistake of your golfing life, to experience golfing nirvana, as it should be!
11 February 2010 Reply
Swinley is as eccentric as your other reviewers suggest and all the better for it. There is now a history of the course and club called 'Swinley's Special' that may be of interest to those that are lucky enough to get a round there. Of course, it isn't promoted very well and you should ask at the bar for a copy. I've been fortunate enough to play there four times now. When I first was called to the plate I was a twice a year hacker and found it just impossible. You go off line and you end up in the heather - and it's thick and very difficult, even in the depths of winter. Now that I've risen up the ranks to a regular weekend golfer with a handicap in the mid 20s I've realised just what an excellent course this is. The par 3s are the real gems. They all give you a chance - but deviate from the line and you'll be lucky to get a 5. Some of the par 4s are short and driveable but yet again line and length are paramount. The greens, almost without exception, are tiny. They are slow but they are also very true and, by and large, devilishly tricky. The course has always been in immaculate condition and it's never been crowded. This year there was a society on there before us but other years we've played and been one of only two or three groups on the entire course. Heaven! The club restaurant is a delight. The oddball membership clearly yearn for school dinners - and that's what you get. The 'famous' fish starter has to be sampled to be believed. Eccentric, beautiful and a throwback in time, Swinley is a gem. Play it if you get the chance.
04 December 2009 Reply
THe 10th best course in England??? I think not. I very pleasant course, and some very fine holes, but also lots of rather silly fiddly things that are just annoying and strategically poor in design terms. Condition is not much to speak of, although i am not too fussed about this, but apart from 4 or 5 decent holes, this course is not much above average. People i suspect get a little carried away with the poshness of the place.
14 September 2009 Reply

Response:
RICHARD LILESMARTT15 September 2009
Well i can not believe this review, as myself and mr m.walker played the course on the same day and was in fantastic condition and the design is second to none. Myself and mr walker are playing all the top 100 golf courses in the british isles and have played 50 so far and we both agreed this fell into our top 3 so far. Poshness of the place, errrm the people at the club were fantastic from the pro to the waitress. The food was wonderful and the golf was fantastic, all i can think is that this person had a bad golfing day shot a 200 and has taken it out on a review. Fantastic club fantastic people well done SWINLEY FOREST.
Cedric17 September 2009
Can you elaborate on "the silly fiddy things"? Only 4-5 decent holes is reallt too harsh, and not really true I believe...
Nick06 January 2010
Interesting to find out what hdcp you are and just what knowledge you have of this wonderful, Traditional game of ours. Quote"Poshness" unquote, is an other word for "How it should be". Please return to your Municipal and enjoy your golf there.
David Jones27 January 2010
Oh Nick....... do u give Lessons in being a patronizing old fool or is that something else new money shouldn't be able to buy?
Tiger28 January 2010
I think this is a clear cut case of "Horses for Courses." I personally love Swinley as there is none of the pomp of other neighbouring courses (and their committees)- and with no tee times, you can go off when you are ready. I played Swinley on Sunday, and there was one other 2 ball on the whole course. The welcome in the Proshop and the Clubhouse could not have been friendlier, and the course - despite being under snow and melt for nearly 4 weeks played beautifully.My dogs had the walk of their life, and I had a lovely round - including an Eagle on the second. I would go there as often as I could - but I don't expect everybody else to share my enthusiasm. If they did, there might be 3 groups out on a Sunday morning, and that would be a disaster !
Phil09 October 2011
Sorry mate - you're a moron! Probably a two-bob "millionaire" who thinks he's made it because he's a member at some wannabe club. The good people at Swinley Forest have been nothing but friendly to me wheneve I have been fortunate enough to play there. Whatever you do mate, don't confuse good manners with "poshness"
Is there a prettier golf course in that part of the world? The course is absolutely magnificient, and the par 3s are all world class...6th and 7th would gain a lot if they were separated by trees. 8th to 14th was for me the best part.The length and par 68 may suggest an easy course but it is not so true.The 15th par 4, 450 yds from the back tees is one of the toughest hole you'll find, as the green is set way uphill. If you miss your draw on the tee shot like I did, getting down in 2 is out of the question! Sure, there are some short par 4, a couple of them quite easily driveable, but in total it proved to be more of a challenge than I expected, and more of a challenge than the Red course at the Berkshire played a couple of days before. The greens, as mentioned by another review could have been faster (if only they could have been as good as Sunningdale's!!). The clubhouse musn't be missed, it's stuck in time, a little like Muirfield with its wooden chair and tables. I'd love to return some time in august/september to have the heather and rhododendrons in full bloom. Really magnificient!! Cédric
15 May 2009 Reply

Response:
Mark Pearce27 January 2010
Slightly silly to compare it in "challenge" to the Red course at the Berkshire. The Red has 6 par 5s, most of which are reachable for good players and should be relatively easy pars for competent golfers. If it was a par 66 it would be more "challenging". It is a wonderful course, though, and in my book a little better than the also excellent Swinley Forest.
Cedric29 January 2010
Sorry for being "silly", but if you read what I wrote (and also my review of the Red course for that matter), this is exactly my point. The Berkshire Red is a very nice course, just too easy. I belive any 2 courses in the world can be compared in terms of challenge, beauty, or anything else you like!!
This was my second visit to the club and follows my review dated 13th April 2006. Knowing what to expect at Swinley only slightly lessoned the expectation – I would always jump at the chance to accept a game here; it is undoubtedly a wonderful place that seems frozen in time for the last 50 years. The last time I played, the conditions were heavy rain, cold and hollowtined greens. This time it was shorts, sun and normal greens.

My first observation this time is that the greens, although nice and true, are actually quite slow compared to many other clubs – a fact confirmed by the pro. Another point is that they have changed the course slightly, with the par from the back now being 68, the same as the front, after shortening the 15th and making it a par 4 from all tees – albeit, a tough one at 450 yards uphill from the blue markers. The course is now 6019 yards from the back – a par 68, SSS 70. Even from the yellow at 5384, it is SSS 68. Both of these seem quite high for such a short course, although, don’t be fooled, it is not a walkover, with only one par 5, five tricky short holes, and three very tough par 4s (9, 12 and 15). The 6th and 7th also play their full 400-plus yards, although they are, in my opinion, the weakest holes on the course. However, there are good opportunities to pick up points at the short par 4s (3 and 11 – both being driveable) and the other medium-length par 4s, and the par 5 is quite easy and well reachable in two.

Another point to reiterate is that it does not feel a stuffy or stuck-up place: everyone is polite – I say everyone, you never really see many people – the pro, the steward and the ladies serving lunch upstairs; there is a very relaxed dress code and I saw a few members with t-shirts out, one lady in jeans, other members playing golf while walking their dogs etc. Also, they don’t mind which tees you play from – a very refreshing change from many other clubs. One of our group made the observation that lunch never changes: vegetable soup or fried fish for starter followed by a carvery and pudding (treacle tart, spotted dick etc).

After having played all of the surrey/ berks heathland courses bar Sunningdale and Woking, how does Swinley compare? It scores very well on charm and prettiness, high on expectation and anticipation, strongly on organisation and welcome, and top (maybe with New Zealand) on how quiet/ away from it all it is – you may well be the only people golfing at the time – and this certainly adds to the overall charm! The lovely springy turf is wonderful to play off and the course is well maintained. But, overall, and with the benefit of four rounds, does it deserve to be ranked so highly? I think, on balance, its true place in the rankings should be a little lower; its high position in many ranking tables undoubtedly has something to do with its elitist reputation, ambience, the difficulty in getting a game, and its undoubted beauty and charm. Purely as a golf course - design, challenge and test of golf - it is probably punching slightly above its weight, but not by a lot.

I think, overall, for instance, the Berkshire across the road offers most of the charm and more variety, and Hankley offers all of this plus more, for less. Swinley is a must play course and a wonderful place to play golf. I was also led to believe that they may accept a few visitors (£135/day not including lunch, £25) at times if there are spare spaces amongst the societies that are booked throughout the week– this is dearer than the £120 society rate which includes breakfast, lunch and sandwiches. I am looking forward to my next visit already. Paul, Wokingham
11 September 2007 Reply
Swinley is one of those places that takes your breath away the view from the beautiful old club house is stunning. A little valley sweeping away to the 1st Green and 18th tee in the distance. All with a back drop of towering pine trees with rhodendrons and heather framing the fairways. It is with out doubt an exclusive club, but not pretentious for instance the dress code is entirely sensible and jackets and ties are only required in the dining room.

They may have none of the normal golf club trappings of captains and club champions, but this place is about golf. It also seems the members have realised that since they play the course so little, they can subsidise the maintenance of the club and course by using societies (and it is maintained to a very very high standard). I looked at the club schedule and every working week day through April and May had a golf society. Whilst you will never get on on your own, your society can apply to be invited for the day! ............. However you look at the list of societies and they are pretty well connected .......... HRH, Livery Companies, Old Regiments, old gentlemens clubs etc etc. So don't expect to apply as the Dog & Duck society and get on, but still the place is not as old fashioned as its reputation.

If you can get on you will play a beautiful course and be treated to some wonderful hospitality, beautiful changing rooms, huge lunchs etc etc. Everyone is right in saying it is short, but in terms of set up and looks there is no weakness and I have yet to see something inland that can beat it visually. The back nine is probably the best half but it is hard to really choose. In terms of golf what keeps you from over powering a five and half to six thousand yard course are two things ........ the rough (which is thick heather) and the greens which are undulating and very small and hard. If they did lengthen some of the holes then it would become immensely difficult ......... but they won't do this as this place is set up for the members to have a nice gentle weekend round not for competitive golf.
07 April 2007 Reply
I played the course on 4th September 2006. We played a two ball in just over three hours. Never saw anyone in front or behind us. It was absolute bliss. The course was a fantastic layout off the back tees. Par 3's were memorable. Nearly up there with Sunningdale Old for me in the rankings. Having played 30 courses in the Top 100, I would put this course in my Top 10.
04 September 2006 Reply
Was lucky enough to be invited to play 36 at Swinley in early June. It is simply a wonderful place to play golf. The course might be short, but it more than makes up for it in charm. The par 3's are the highlight, all requiring a good iron shot. The old-school clubhouse and setup adds the to the enjoyment. If you can get an invitation you have to play it!
05 June 2006 Reply
This is one of those revered, must play courses that I was dying to play simply because of its reputation and exclusivity. When the admittedly expensive option of a corporate day here for £150 came up on 11th April, I jumped at the chance, not knowing when the next opportunity would arrive.

Having played many of the best Surrey/ Berks/ Hampshire heathland courses over the past year, I can certainly say that this is one of, if not the, best - although I haven't played Sunningdale or Hankley yet and am not playing the Berkshire until June. The only disappointment was that the conditions were pretty lousy - very cold in the morning and wet in the afternoon - and with the ballast of a huge lunch, this may explain the substandard golf!

I have listened to a lot of opinions on Swinley from those who have played before - most are very positive, some say nice course similar to xx nearby, some rave about it. I am definitely in the latter group. We played off the blacks, which measure 6,070 yards, although a couple of tees were slightly forward and so it was probably about 6,000 yards and a par 69 - par 68 off the other tees. Despite the seemingly short nature of the course, apart from the 2 par 5's and 2 of the par 4's, the rest of the par 4's were all very solid, and the par 3’s were mostly long and tricky, especially in cold, wet, windy conditions. This was witnessed by the winning 33 point score in the morning 3/4 allowance stableford in mostly dry conditions.

The front nine seemed to play very long as it was mostly into the wind, and the longer of the 2 nines - 1, 6 and 7 would have taken 2 very good hits to reach. Favourite holes? Difficult one. For me, the par 3's were all very good, but 8 is the easiest (as long as you don’t miss right), and maybe 13 my favourite - 4 and 10 required woods from most people! The par 5 fifth was my favourite hole - a gently half-moon dogleg from a lovely raised tee with the only small lake on the course two thirds of the way down on the right. Favourite par 4's were 9 and 12. The ninth tee is the only place on the course visible from the outside - you can see it, probably only if golfers are on it, from the dual carriageaway A322 at the Ascot roundabout A332 turnoff across the more open ground where a lot of trees have been cut back - the Berkshire golf course is only a couple a good shots away from the ninth green, beyond the woods and the other side of the 332.

The most difficult hole on the course is the 12th - about 460 yards par 4 in a slight S shape - the green is surrounded along its right and back with huge rhododendron bushes. What makes the place so special? The tranquillity, the fact that you have woods on the inside of the course and around much of the outside, especially on the back 9, the size and extent of the rhododendron bushes, the placing of the greens - possibly 6 and 7 are the weakest in this respect, the very springy sandy soil, and the terrain, which is more undulating than you would expect - several raised tees like the 5th and 9th.

The clubhouse is very relaxed, more so than I expected, and the staff, especially in the upstairs restaurant, were very friendly, as were the pro staff. The changing rooms had just been done up and were very nice. Also, how many other golf courses are accessed via there own bridge over a railway (Ascot-Bagshot line). If the course felt this special in poor April conditions when the greens had just been tined and covered in sand and none of the purple colour from the heather and rhododendron was out, it must be heavenly to play in late spring/ summer with more colour and sun.

Swinley is a treat that should not be missed if you are given the opportunity - as pleasant a day's golf as it gets. Not as challenging or as complete a course as Woodhall Spa and not particularly long - although, as mentioned, it certainly plays longer that you would think - but the prettiest and most natural heathland course in the land. Probably!
13 April 2006 Reply
Fantastic – this is a great golf course with a capital G. The usual quality of Surrey/Berks heath land is evident all around Swinley Forest and I loved my round here. All of the par 3’s are a picture and not easy in the slightest. Three really strong par 4's on the front 9 (6th, 7th and 9th) – All at 400+ yards from the tricky back blue tees. The whole course is very pleasing on the eye and with golf holes that look and play this good, this is right up there with other courses in the area with bigger reputations. Tricky to read greens also go someway to protect the course par. To play, you do need an invite - go out of your way to get one - it’s worth it……
15 March 2005 Reply
Excellent course. The 18th hole has a silly little bunker placed right in the middle of the fairway, so if you do a decent drive it still goes in the sand. Otherwise, it is top notch. There is meant to be a scrumptious lunch too - but sadly as a non-member I had to eat my corned-beef sandwiches in the changing rooms....!
21 October 2004 Reply
It simply smells of old money - just like stepping back in time. Course is pretty but just a little rough and ready around the edges. Amazing little course if you can get on.
01 April 2004 Reply



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