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Storied London: There’s Golf Here, Too

ASCOT, ENGLAND | It used to be that when I considered golf in the British Isles, I never thought of London. To be sure, the English capital has long been a favorite destination of mine, for its plays and parks and also the churches, galleries and museums. When it came to teeing it up, however, I only saw London as a place to pass through on my way to golfing points farther north. Like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Shannon and Dublin, too. But as I stood on the second-floor veranda of the white-walled clubhouse at Royal Cinque Ports and gazed across the windswept links where Julius Caesar’s Roman legions once marched, I realized I was now of a very different mind. I had just spent a week exploring the historic heath-land courses just west of London. Then, I played several rounds at this marvelous course on the English Channel, only 90 minutes by train from the city, and also nearby Royal St. George’s. The courses were excellent, the clubs as convivial as any as I have known, and I could not help but ask myself: How did I miss this area for so long? A day later, my journey ended with a round on the Old Course at Sunningdale with John Baldwin, a part-time London resident and well-résuméd golfer who has won the British, Irish and Welsh Senior Amateurs. And I asked him the same question I had posed to myself the previous afternoon to myself. “Don’t feel bad,” he says. “London is a place that often is easily overlooked, and that’s a shame, because it is one of the great golf regions in the world.” At the start of my trek, I would have found that last pronouncement difficult to credit, as the British might say. But hearing it at the conclusion, it made perfect sense. John was exactly right. The track we had just played at Sunningdale, the rugged Old Course designed by Willie Park Jr., was an architectural triumph routed through rolling hills and swaths of heather.


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