Swinley Forest is completely different from any other club that I have visited. “Extremely exclusive” and “very unusual” only begin to scratch the surface of the club. The membership is comprised largely of British aristocracy and high ranking members of the British military. The Duke of Edinburgh (the Queen’s husband) and the Duke of York (the Queen’s son) boast membership at Swinley. There is a real sense of occasion when pulling through the imposing gates onto the property. The beautiful traditional clubhouse is exactly what you would expect at a club whose course is ranked #92 in the world.
One of the features that sets Swinley apart is its collection of par three holes. Colt stalked the property until he found the natural green sites for these short holes. The 4th hole has a deep pit protecting the front left, the 8th green is set on a ledge with a twelve foot drop to the right, the 10th is across a valley to a green with a hog back ridge in its middle, the 13th is downhill to a most attractively bunkered green, and the 17th features a small pulpit green. These holes capsulize the appeal of Swinley Forest: they place exact demands on the highest skilled golfer, yet remain enjoyable to those less skilled (please note: Colt’s love of the Old Course at St. Andrews is well documented and it had a great influence on his design career). Cumulatively, these five holes are the finest collection of one shot holes the authors have seen in the British Isles, surpassing those at Woodhall Spa and even Rye.
Having found the par three holes, Colt then surrounded them with a range of superb par four holes. In particular, the long ones found at the 6th, 9th, 12th and 15th holes give the course its considerable appeal to low markers. Several European PGA Tour members find Swinley Forest best encourages them to keep their games finely honed, as it calls for all the shots.From the tee shot on the 2nd hole through the 17th hole, the golfer faces one enticing shot after another. Unlike other heathland courses where invariably there are two or three indifferent holes that disrupt a sense of momentum, one appealing hole follows another at Swinley, as sure as one day will follow the next. The spacing of the par threes is excellent; there is a short par four on each nine (the 3rd and the 11th ) and the big fours (the 6th, 9th, 12th , and 15th) are – literally – perfectly spread as well. Thus the course balance, variety and pacing are exemplary and serve as glowing testimony to the skills of Colt.