You might have heard of Harry Colt. He was a fairly useful architect – Sunningdale’s New, the West and East courses at Wentworth and redesigns of Muirfield and Hoylake among his most famous creations.
So when he tells you, rather self-depreciatively, that Swinley Forest was his ‘least bad course’, you know it’s somewhere pretty special.
And so it is. Perched on the Surrey-Berkshire border, on land around Windsor Great Park, Swinley Forest is simply stunning.
Colt had mapped out the course in his mind before felling a single tree on the property back in the early 20th century. What he created was a glorious heathland that’s defined by some wonderful par 3s and short 4s.
But, gorgeous as it is, Colt’s remarkable design skills in such a tight space – Swinley Forest is only 5,838 yards off the white tees – are not the only reason for which the course is renowned.
It’s because playing a round here is like taking a step back in time. Scorecards are a relatively recent innovation at Swinley Forest.
Winter rules are in effect all year round. There are no handicaps, and no medal competitions.
This is not golf played for competition, it’s the sport played for pure enjoyment alone.
“A law unto itself”, as the club’s own course guide puts it, “Swinley is an anachronism living in its Edwardian past”.
Despite its exclusivity – you have to look pretty hard to find the sign pointing the way towards the entrance – the club is unpretentious and the staff very warm and welcoming.
And if you ever get the chance to drive through the gates and marvel at Colt’s marvellous opening hole to your left, make sure to don a jacket and tie afterwards and sample the quite amazing lunch in the clubhouse.
“Pure nursery fare” is how Swinley put it.
We’re told the world is about making progress. But some things should never change and Swinley Forest is one of those.