The Takeaway: As charming of a course as you can find and one I’d love to play everyday. A near perfect blend of heather, elevation changes, variety, and fun. Only Sunningdale's Old course rivals its greatness in the Greater London area. Grade A+
Designer: Harry S. Colt 1909
Phone Number: +44 1344 620197
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Swinley Forest Golf Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Bosen’s Ride, Coronation Rd, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 9LE – UNITED KINGDOM
Photos: See additional photos of Swinley Forest Golf Club
What to Expect: Famously described by Harry Colt as his "least bad course", Swinley Forest is a choice inland track and goes head-to-head with Sunningdale's Old course as the best heathland course on earth. The former par 68 layout extended the 15th hole to create the lone par five on the back nine and develop into a par 69 layout that is more challenging than it looks on paper. But more so than challenging, Swinley is fun. The sporty routing features a brilliant variety of hole shapes and lengths, plenty of elevation changes, and a setting that feels removed from it all. The purple heather that graces the terrain adds beauty, character, and intrigue to engage with. As the name implies, trees line the fairways, not in a claustrophobic way, but is a manner that offers a brilliant combination of seclusion while still feeling part of other areas of the course. As is common with most courses in the UK, players will be required to walk but can rent a trolley to help tote their clubs around. Charming, magical, and seductive are all terms that accurately describe the aura of Swinley Forest and is the kind of course you could enjoy every day and live with a smile on your face.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 9th Hole – 464 Yard Par 4 – The 9th at Swinley Forest is reminiscent of the 10th at Sunningdale's Old course where players ascend up a hill on the previous two holes before being presented with a sweeping hole that descends to the fairway before ascending to the green. Players are asked to carry the center bunker 230 yards away or play out to the right of it which will extend the distance into the green. Purple heather lines each side of the fairway the entire way to the green where players will encounter a raised putting surface with sloping edges that will require deft touch to navigate. It is an inspiring hole to play that embodies everything that Swinley Forest delivers.
Best Par 3: 4th Hole – 198 Yards – One of the most famous holes in the British Isles, the 4th at Swinley is as treacherous and it is beautiful. Set on a shelf tucked into the hillside, the Redan shaped green encourages players to keep their tee ball up the right side of the hole in order to utilize the slope to feed it back towards the center. The left short and left is a virtual death trap and should be avoided at all costs. While it is obvious to the golfer that the hole plays uphill, it almost assuredly plays more uphill than players suspect at first sight. Taking two extra clubs here won't hurt you.
Best Par 4: 18th Hole – 403 Yards – The finisher at Swinley Forest is a worthy offering on such a high level course. The slight dogleg left asks players to carry the creek that diagonals across the fairway from left to right while also avoiding the fairway bunker 250 yards out on the left side. The exacting approach shot plays to a raised green protected by a trio of bunkers with Swinley Forest's impressive Tudor style clubhouse towering in the background. Bowlers will see the 1-2 strike pocket at the front left of the green that encourages a fade into the putting surface to maximize the amount of time away from the bunkers. There are a lot of uphill approach shots at Swinley Forest, and the 18th delivers yet another one, so make sure to take enough club to succeed.
Best Par 5: 5th Hole – 505 Yards – The way that holes seem to sweep through the trees with gradual inclines and declines throughout the routing makes the course both visually and strategically impressive, and the 5th hole at Swinley is a fine example of that. Reachable in two, the tee shot needs to carry, or thread, the three fairway bunkers 250 yards away to set up an attacking second shot. Water hazards aren't near as common in the UK as they are in the US, but water comes into play in two folds on the approach shot with a pond fronting the creek that cuts across the fairway 120 yards from the center of the green. A trio of bunkers form a crescent around the front of the green which further encourages players to take enough club while approaching this putting green. The runup between the center bunkers is the perfect line to take when going for it in two, and success can quickly yield a birdie.
Birdie Time: 3rd Hole – 324 Yard Par 4 – Swinley isn't long, but it is far from a pushover. That being said, the 3rd presents an excellent chance to card a birdie early in the round. This driveable par four features zero bunkers between the tee and green which just begs players to grip it and rip it. Players that can play a baby draw will benefit from mimicking the shape of the fairway and give themselves some extra roll when their ball meets the turf. With short yardage and virtually no trouble to be concerned with, this hole is begging to be birdied.
Bogey Beware: 7th Hole – 431 Yard Par 4 – Long, straight, and uphill; a trio of factors that make the 7th a big challenge. A hedge of heather crosses the fairway 280 yards from the back tee so if that is in range for you, you'll need to decide whether to lay back short of it or try to muscle it over. A fairway-wide cross bunker sits 50 yards short of the green and features a high face that blocks part of the player's view of the green from certain locations. Once again, the approach shot plays uphill which combines with the visual illusion of the cross bunker to make players think they are closer to the flag then they really are. Trust your swing and your yardage to avoid a bogey here.