England’s Royal county of Berkshire, has some of the most revered Heathland golf courses in the world.
East Berkshire stands on the North Downs near the western end of the Forest of Windsor. The course was originally designed by Peter Paxton in 1904, who was adept at using the water courses that flow on the land to guard the greens. Heather too was used as a feature to provide cross hazards on some of the longer holes, reducing the need for bunkers and maintaining a natural look to the course. These natural barriers and cleverly designed doglegs mean the course plays a lot longer than the 6,400 yardage suggests. Coupled with fast undulating greens, this makes for a real challenge of not only a players striking ability but also their discipline and course strategy, as the competitors of the annual East Berks Stag will testify. From its origins as a heathland course, East Berkshire has matured into a tree-lined course of great beauty. Shaped fairways leading into well-defined semi rough helps to identify the driving areas and carefully placed greenside hazards ensure that wayward shots go unrewarded.
The Berkshire really is a golfer’s paradise with its two golf courses (Red and Blue) laid out on springy turf among mature timber and swathes of heather. The Red is the more senior golf course of this highly classy pair though both were the handiwork of Herbert Fowler who created them in 1928. Unusually, the Red boasts six pars 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s with the short par 4 6th featuring in the 500 World’s Greatest Golf Holes book although the short holes are equally special.
Swinley Forest. A secret world of heathery heathland heaven showcases Harry Colt’s attention to detail. The onus is on excellent iron play. A wonderful day out; a very pretty course including a superb collection of par 3s. Beautiful and tranquil, pristine and fun.
Swinley is barely over 6,000 yards off the back tees which is a reflection of the remarkable absence of par-5s. This would be a handicap too great for many, but Swinley is a Colt masterclass with a string of 430-yard par-4s to strengthen its backbone. Pretty in mesmeric detail with all the usual heathland vegetation plus a veritable grandstand of purple rhododendrons.