The 6th hole on the New Course at Sunningdale Golf Club is a stunner. While fast play is always appreciated, no one would begrudge you a few extra moments on this tee to take in the grand view across the Surrey heathland.
Sunningdale’s New Course is architect H. S. Colt’s first entry in the Eclectic 18 UK. Inland golf does not get much better than a day at this heathland gem (either course, though I actually prefer the Old). These days in the golf design business, we often talk about compression/expansion—that is, taking golfers from a tight, tree-lined area to a grand, open vista—and the lead-up to the 6th hole at Sunningdale New does this as well as any sequence of holes in the world. The 5th and 6th holes move from forest to open heath, and it’s one of the most memorable moments in golf.
Harry Colt’s career benefited greatly from his relationship with Sunningdale. He was the club secretary from 1901 until 1913. When he stepped down from his position, it was to board a ship to America and head to Pine Valley, where he would advise George Crump on its design. Throughout his career Colt formed partnerships with Alister MacKenzie, Charles Allison, and J. S. F. Morrison. While the work of these partnerships produced some of the best layouts in all corners of the globe, it is because of Colt’s classic designs at Swinley Forest and St. George’s Hill (both of which he designed while club secretary at Sunningdale) that he is the first architect you think of when booking a golf trip to London. Beyond the healthlands, he worked on a number of great links courses, including the New Course at St. Andrews and this year’s Open venue, Royal Portrush.
Colt laid out Sunningdale’s New Course in 1922, but it didn’t look like it does today until 1937. Tom Simpson came in during the 1930s to make some changes, as the stretch from Nos. 6 to 9 required too much hill climbing for the members. In 1937, Colt returned, and it was on the 6th tee that he decided to alter the routing. From there, he chose to take the course left instead of right, playing a few Tom Simpson holes in reverse. This savvy move finalized the routing and confirmed yet again Colt’s reputation as one of the greatest golf course architects of all time.
The 6th hole at Sunningdale New, the first par 5 on our Eclectic 18 UK, is a brilliant example of minimalism. Using the land to generate strategy, this three-shot hole doglegs its way to the top of a ridge. If you hug the inside of the dogleg, braving the heathery expanse on the right, you may have a chance to get there in two. Still, you will need a very accurate approach that threads the needle between various hazards and manages to keep the ball on the green, which sits above grade seemingly at the end of the world. What makes these strategic challenges so interesting is that they are based on angles and precision rather than pure distance.
For a par 5 with no fairway bunkers, this hole makes laying up surprisingly awkward and difficult. The fairway zigzags its way up the ridge at an angle that would make Pete Dye blush. To find a good layup spot, you need to pick a line and hit it accurately and to the right distance, which, especially given the visual intimidation, is no easy task. The last thing you want to do is have a third shot from the heather.
The green itself has a low in the middle and is raised up on the sides. It takes a brave man or woman to flirt with the edges of this green, as the slopes fall away on all sides. Since you are no doubt playing match play on this course, either foursomes or a four-ball, you might do well to wait for your opponent to miss the green before you play safely to the middle.
Eclectic 18 UK is the brainchild of golf course architects Jaeger Kovich and Clyde Johnson. Read more about the series here, and follow Jaeger and Clyde on Instagram.