Olazabal, Montgomerie, Lisbon, Burton take on Walton Heath

Walton Heath Golf Club was host to some of the worlds most renowned golfers this week. Although Olazabal and Montgomerie did not make make the qualifying cut for the US Open on Monday, Burton and Lisbon were both winners on Thursday when they each scored birdies for Door of Hope Childrens Charity.

Walton Heath Golf Club includes two terrific golf courses, both laid out in an expanse of several hundred acres of rolling heathland. Its original design by W Fowler has stood the test of time.

The course is very open yet full of danger from tee to green. Old style revetted bunkers strategically located throughout the fairway were complimented by heather and gorse that you do not want to be in. However in saying that the course does not make you feel restricted off the tee and the greens were all large (the 14th green was 60 paces from front to back). We also enjoyed the speed of the greens which were much more akin to Australian greens.

A trio of par 5s on the back nine are your chance to pull back some strokes lost earlier in the round. The risk reward equation tempts you on every one of these.

The wonderful thing about Walton Heath is that its team of staff are very warm and friendly making the experience fun. Caroline organised us from the office with friendly efficiency and Simon and his pro shop team were jovial and extremely informative about the course and the club’s history.

The clubhouse is made up of four buildings, all of which have been there from the beginning. A section of the caddie masters hut has been dedicated to a museum for the long time dedicated professional and five time Open Champion, James Braid.

Braid was a key part of the fabric of the club for over 6 decades having been the club professional and later the starter until his passing at the age 80. There is a large hedge alongside the putting green which is formed in the shape of James’s hat which he was renowned for wearing.

David’s birdie at the tough fifth hole was later offset by his three shots out of the monster bunker on 16 (which is in protest because he was being filmed). Gary found a lot of gorse through the day but tidied up with a couple of nice birdies and a solid back 9. The course was a joy to play.

We are finding that on many of these Crown Land courses, the public are often meandering freely throughout. In fact Gary blames missing a putt on the 7th hole because of a horse and its rider trotting past just as he was about to putt. Only in England…

Another impressive and fun day at a quality English countryside golf course

Overall birdie tally

David (1 birdie, cumulative 3)
Gary (2 birdies, cumulative 6)

By golfselect

The eagle has landed at Sunningdale

David (middle) with our host John Stansbury and David’s friend Richard Hogarth.

After a birdieless day yesterday and our subsequent “team meeting” we resolved that today would be so much better.

Arriving at Sunningdale a little after 7:30am we took our standard photos at the front gates looking like foreign tourists. This process took a little longer than normal due to the procession of member’s cars trying to get past us. The bemused look on their faces and us trying to hide our faces. If only they understand the audience we needed to entertain (you!)

Sunningdale is a 36 hole masterpiece. The Old and New courses, although different, are a true remnant of the master architect Harry Colt. Now when we talk about “New” we are still referring to a golf course that is 90 years old. As one Australian and one Canadian that to us is OLD!!

We were gifted to be able to play with a wonderful host member John Stansbury – an American who has spent over 14 years transplanted from the USA. And with a membership at Sunningdale he is never likely to return to his homeland.

John took it upon himself to find a suitable 4th for our group. So who did he turn to? None other a guy with the coolest name and a golf game to boot – Stiggy Hodgson, a multiple Walker Cup team veteran in his early twenties. Stiggy and David talked about how he recently played in the NSW Amateur which was held at NSW Golf Club. The world really is a small place when it comes to golf.

The New was in great shape and demands precision driving. Gary was sorely in need of a tune up and his driving was errant at best and found the well respected gorse on 1,2,3,4 etc,etc occasions.

Having John and Stiggy as our local guides was invaluable as driving lines were not always clear and putts continued to be difficult to read. The course is all brawn and accuracy off the tee, and on the approach, is paramount. A par on the New is well earned.

A quick 15 minute lunch break on the outside clubhouse patio and we were ready for the challenge of the Old. While we enjoyed the New we soon found that the Old was going to be even more special.

The golf course is sculpted into the landscape and just looks like it was always there. It has also stood the test of time amidst the issues surrounding technology. When you play this golf course you will understand why it is so high in the world ratings.

A great feature of Sunningdale is the halfway house that services both courses. As we have found on all courses to date the 9th hole does not come back to the clubhouse. In fact the 10th hole on both the Old and New courses conveniently finishes at the halfway house with the staple sausage on bread and cold beer hitting the spot nicely.

And now for the golf. There was the normal grinding throughout our 20km of walking for the day but we were up to it. This is where real men stand up and we ground out those double bogies on a number of occasions. But alas this trend came to a grinding halt on hole 18 of our 36 hole adventure.

An ominous finishing hole the 18th of the New is a mid length par 5 playing back up to a well protected green. For some it was difficult however for others not so. For the record David hit driver, hybrid onto the green to 3 feet and confidently sank the eagle putt for 5 stableford points and some long overdue money for the Door of Hope (we resolved by majority that eagles count for 2 birdies).

Sunningdale is quintessentially English displayed no more than by the scene by the clubhouse of mans best friend looking after the equipment of mans other best friend!

All in all a productive day with 1 birdie, 1 eagle and some good golf played. Our current tally is now 5 birdies (3 birdies and 1 eagle (which counts for 2 birdies) after 5 rounds. Looking promising but ready for some difficult wind affected days ahead.

By golfselect

A tale of two castles – The Berkshire and Wentworth

It is not every day you visit two castles – and play golf on the same day. The Berkshire Golf Club and Wentworth Golf Club are located within 10 minutes from each other however are completely different.

Greeted at The Berkshire by the affable Secretary Ian Waller at 5:30am with motorised cart at the ready Gary scooted around the course and captured some great images of both courses (Red and Blue).

Distinct from Australian golf where kangaroos abound on some courses Gary was greeted with deer prancing up and down the fairways giving understanding to the golf club logo – a memorable design featuring two deer on either side of a flagstick.

Everything about The Berkshire is friendly and first class. From the initial greeting from the caddie master and pro shop staff through to the genuine friendliness of all other staff we felt welcome from the time we arrived.

A unique feature of this course is that it has 6 par 3 holes, 6 par 4 holes and 6 par 5 holes. You would think with so many par 5’s that birdies would abound – read on for an update.

Finding yourself marginally off the fairway results in a first cut of rough that is heather/gorse and, as one member explained, a maximum of an 8 iron back to the fairway. After a few foolhardy attempts to hit long clubs from this rough (because we knew better!!!…without success we might add) we reverted back to the member’s advice.

The Berkshire is a delight to play with a terrific variety of holes that wind their way through the pine trees and move in all different directions. Again the par 3 holes were a feature none more so than the 10th – 175 metres of all carry to a narrow, multi tired green perched higher than the tee. Anything short fell away into an abyss.

We both felt privileged to have our Australian golf clubs in reciprocal arrangements with The Berkshire.

A further 10 minutes down the road and host to last week’s BMW PGA Championship is Wentworth Golf Club.

Wentworth is not just a golf club – its portfolio includes 3 championship golf courses, a large membership base, a plethora of visitors seeking to emulate the feats of their golfing idols as well as a large real estate component where multi million dollar houses are the norm.

The administration and pro shop staff were extremely helpful and our pre game lunch at the grill was served with polished service.

This golf course is tough! Missing the fairway will not see you in heather or gorse but in recently added large, deep fairway bunkers or thick poa rough. Dont even think about hitting the green from these “hazards”.

Hitting long and straight is paramount to a good score as many par 4’s are well over 400 metres (in fact the 15th is a whopping 440 metres).

The course was in great shape and of course there is no bigger thrill than playing the par 5 18th over water framed by an amphitheatre of marquees and grandstands from the tournament that finished only 48 hours earlier with a repeat victory by Luke Donald.

Waving to the 100,000 (over 4 days) crowd in our mind (minus 99,997) helped to alleviate the pain of what was a very tough day at our golfing office (why you would play golf for a living is beyond us….)

The end result for the day – 36 holes, 12 genuine birdie chances (less than 10 feet) on poa greens and NO birdies (can you believe it?).

A team meeting at the nearby pub ended the day with promises by all team members that they would pull up their socks for the 36 holes at Sunningdale tomorrow.

By golfselect