Swinley Forest Golf Club

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  • Architect:
  • Holes of Merit:
    1-18
  • NCG Rank:
    42/100 in GB&I
  • Golf.com Rank:
    55/100 in the World

Overview

There are no handicaps nor medals at Swinley Forest Golf Club. It is simply golf amongst friends.

Tom Simpson wrote that Swinley Forest was the first forest course ever made and regarded it as Harry Colt's finest piece of work. That is quite a compliment as he worked on Colt's New Course at Sunningdale and would have known St George's Hill as well.

Harry Colt's famous description of Swinley Forest as "the least bad course that he had made" was penned in a letter to Tom Simpson.

Tom Doak recommends golf architecture students pay special attention to the routing.

Architectural Hallmarks

  • Push up greens with the cut or borrow ditches creating swales in the vicinity of the green sites.
  • Drainage ditches offering strategic value as well as utilitarian value. Seen on Holes 1, 2, 3, 5, 15 and 18.
  • Minimalist greenside bunkering. For example, on holes 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 14 and 16.
  • Minimalist fairway bunkering. For example, on holes 2 and 3 there are no bunkers at all.
  • Hole 8 and has no bunkers at all!
  • Changes in elevation are deceptive and visually deceiving. There are virtually no flat holes.
  • Vantage points. From the 2nd Tee, 7th Green, 10th Green, 14th Green & 16th Tee you can see up to 1/3 of the course.

Golf Course Review

Swinley Forest Golf Club is one of the most exclusive yet unpretentious golf clubs in the world. Royalty and aristocracy are regulars at one of the most prestigious clubs in the world just outside the west of London - to such an extent that it has been called the heathland Augusta National. It is an 'anachronism living in its Edwardian past.'

Swinley Forest GC Course Overview

At just over 6,400 yards, Swinley Forest is more about pure, golf enjoyment rather than testing the best. There are only two par 5 on the scorecard and they both measure just over 500 yards. Five par 3's range from 173 yards to 227 yards and the balance of the two-shot holes. Harry Colt created wide corridors during its construction, and these have been maintained. Holes 1-3 ease you into the course. Holes 8-14 are the best of the bunch and Holes 15-17 are the toughest of the lot.

As Tom Doak suggests, the course has resisted the temptation to "keep up with the Jones'." What Colt laid out is essentially what is left, with the exception of a few tweaks to help with drainage, shaping around some greens and the rugged presentation of the bunkers.

Swinley Forest Golf Club History

In 1909, Harry Colt and his neighbour, Alexander Davey, investigated the Crown Estates property not far from Surrey & Berkshire near Windlesham which would become Swinley Forest Golf Club. Legend has it that Colt routed the course with the forest standing in situ. In fact, it was Bernard Darwin who wrote Colt must 'have a sixth sense' in order to 'map out his course... when in many places he can only see a few yards in front of him.' Colt was also rumoured to have placed the five par 3's first on natural plateaux. The only one shot hole which doesn't immediately fit this description is the 13th.

SFGC Membership

Originally, it was Sir Hubert Longman who would provide the finance, political sway and influential circle of friends that would ensure Swinley Forest Golf Club would be a rousing success. Since inception, the club has had an inextricable link to the aristocracy, wealthy landowners and politicians. The club boasts that it is an 'idiosyncratic club run solely to suit its very small and exclusive membership.' It is an 'extension of the country house party, the City boardroom and the regimental mess.' The club has much the same membership that founded it just made up of the later generations. In fact, some of the founding members boast an unbroken line of membership to the present day. The club is built on the ideals of a 'quiet atmosphere, with agreeable colleagues and an old-fashioned lunch.' Members do not have a handicap nor is there any real competitive golf played on the course.

Swinley Forest Golf Club Reviews

Golf Club Atlas' review of the course can be found by clicking here

Read Jaeger Kovich analysis of the 15th hole on The Fried Egg


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Visitor Information

Everything you need to know before you go!