Founded in 1928, The Berkshire Golf Club is home to two Herbert Fowler designed courses, both of which are widely regarded as amongst the best in the British Isles. The Berkshire is a traditional Members’ Club which warmly welcomes visiting golfers all year round to enjoy the beauty of its pine and heather lined courses, and to face the subtle challenges of Fowler’s superb traditional design.
The Club is host to The Berkshire Trophy, one of the UK’s major amateur competitions. Past winners include Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ross Fisher. The Berkshire has also hosted the English Amateur Championship and the British Senior Amateur Championship, and in 2009 it was the venue for final qualifying for the Senior British Open Championship.
The Berkshire is one of a group of famous courses laid out amid the extensive trees and heather to the South and West of Windsor Castle. The Berkshire is the youngest of the big three clubs in this superb golfing country, having been founded in 1928, 17 years after Sunningdale and 4 years after Wentworth.
The two courses, Red and Blue, were both laid out in 1928 by the Herbert Fowler, who also designed Walton Heath, and Cruden Bay. Among the great course architects of the era, he is often overlooked, but he had a special talent for designing courses of great natural beauty which blend into their landscape and surroundings. The Berkshire courses are considered by some to be the finest examples of his follow-the–land style. A tribute to his skill is that very few, and only minor alterations have been made to his original design. He had the perfect natural materials, with heather, trees, slopes and streams, and his talent has meant that Nature and man have combined to fashion two courses which are both highly picturesque and offer an exacting, but fair challenge to golfers of all levels.
The Blue Course
The Blue Course, unusually, starts with a par 3, but it is a magnificent start, and one which instantly confronts the golfer with the skill of Fowler’s design. The green sits on a hump, more than 200 yards away over a sea of heather. There is trouble short and right of the green, to catch the weakly hit slice. There is also trouble to the back left of the green to punish the hooked shot which is likely to go long. This is a regular theme on both courses, and always the trouble and hazards are subtly created from the natural shape and contours of the land which Fowler had to work with.
After the challenges of the 1st have been dealt with, the front 9 offers some birdie opportunities, with two par 5s and three short par 4s. It is advisable to take advantage of these, as the back 9 offers just one hazardous par 5, and finishes with a run of five challenging par 4s which can severely damage a potentially good card. The most difficult of these, the long, dog-leg 16th, competes with the 1st hole to be considered the finest on the Blue Course. To avoid a very long second shot, the drive must be well struck around, or over, the bunker which is cut into the corner of the dog leg. Even once on the green, the dangers are not over, as it slopes severely from back to front and left to right.
The Blue Course may not rank as highly as the Red in the top 100 lists, however members will often say that it is the tougher of the two courses to score on, and the difficulty in putting good figures on the card is a testament to the success of Fowler’s work.
The Red Course
The Red Course lies on higher ground than the Blue and runs through slightly more undulating terrain, with more dramatic elevation changes between tees and greens. It offers a unique assortment of holes, in that it has six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. The six short holes have been described as the best collection in the country, and must rank as amongst the most intimidating anywhere.
In compensation for the challenges of the short holes, the majority of the par 5s are not long, and offer opportunities for birdie, or even eagle – that is as long as the golfer does not stray off-line into the waiting heather and pine trees. The 17th is the longest and most challenging of the par 5s. Two long shots are required to get close to the green, and a pair of ditches threaten the second shot. The green is guarded by two deep bunkers, and its slope at the front and tier in the middle can make for a tricky chip shot whether the hole is on the top or bottom level.
The par 4 6th is considered to be one of the best holes on the Red Course, and it is selected for the book “The 500 World's Greatest Golf Holes”. At 360 yards, it is not a long par 4, but the shape of the pronounced dog-leg means that precision is required from the tee. The cleverly contoured and guarded green is a great example of Fowler’s skill for design.
The special quality and character of the Red Course were recognised in its selection at No.85 in the list of The Top 100 Courses In The World, in the June 2010 issue of Golf World Magazine.