The array of exceptional heathland courses that punctuate the landscape of the Surrey-Berkshire border includes Sunningdale (Old and New) as well as Wentworth (West and East). Just a few miles further west is The Berkshire, slightly younger than these other two golfing institutions, but also incorporating a pair of sibling courses that vie for your attention. The Red, with its six par 5s, six par 4s and six par 3s, tends to be the one that grabs more attention but there is a strong argument to be made that the Berkshire Blue is the more stringent test of your golfing skills.
Both were designed by Herbert Fowler in 1928, meaning they are among the last of England’s truly elite band of courses yet to celebrate their centenary.
The Blue begins, famously, with a par 3 of such epic difficulty that the sensible approach would be to think of it as a par 4 and relax. However, most golfers cannot force themselves to play short and left of the green. More often than not, their second shot is from the heather to a green protected by a bunker.
Having survived this opening hole, the remainder of the front nine is arguably the most scoreable part of the Blue, offering as many as five decent birdie opportunities for the better player.
From the 14th onwards, it is par 4s all the way, three of them in excess of 400 yards. At 452 yards and traversing bunkers and a stream en route to the green, the 16th is very much the most testing of them.
While some holes have more of a parkland feel than others, the recurring theme is of fairways gently following the lie of the land – a Fowler trademark – and holes being the length that nature intended rather than that imposed by the architect.