Playing golf in the London area has been a new experience for me. And a revelatory one, too. I had no idea how many good courses existed near the bustling English capital. Nor did I realize how easy it is to combine a day on the heathland with a night on the town. Which is exactly what I did the other day.
It began with 18 holes on the Old Course at the Sunningdale Golf Club, a mere half hour’s drive from London’s city centre (as they write it over here). Designed by Willie Park, the Old is a celebrated track that deftly winds through rolling hills and swathes of gnarly heather. The fairways play firm and fast, and the bunkers force golfers to be precise off the tee and also on their approaches. No two holes are the same, and each is as strong and well-crafted as the other. And there is a charming ethos about a place where many members play their rounds with their Labradors and spaniels in tow.
Later that day, I headed to nearby Swinley Forest, which was laid out by the great H.S. Colt at the turn of the 20th century. I couldn’t help but think for a moment that this was a cupcake course when I saw it was a par-68 measuring a seemingly paltry 6,019 yard from the tips. But as I quickly discovered, Swinley is a tough old track, and you need to be a real shot maker to score here.
With golf done for the day I left for London town, after showering and changing into more citified attire. It was roughly a 30-minute train ride from Sunningdale to Waterloo Station, and then I took a cab to the Pearl Restaurant at the Chancery Court Hotel on High Holborn Road, where I met some mates for dinner.
We supped on oysters and lamb, and sipped Sancerres and Shirazes, until it was time for me to depart. A bracing stroll back to Waterloo Station, with a stop on the bridge across the Thames for some good visuals of Big Ben and the Parliament, took only a half hour. Then it was back onto the train to Sunningdale and eventually my hotel, so I could get ready for my next day of golf. All 36 holes of it.