You may have seen the recent press coverage of a dispute involving membership of Sunningdale Golf Club. The celebrated Berkshire golfing institution has been dragged into the courts after one of its members, an Australian gent by the name of John Cawood, took proceedings to seek damages from the club, as well as reinstate him as a member, after he was thrown out because although he paid a subscription fee appropriate for an overseas member he was allegedly playing as regularly as if he was a full member – but without having to pay the fee appropriate for that. After three days in court the case was adjourned and a ruling will be made at a later date. I am obviously not going to pre-judge anything except to say that the photographs here might provide some indication as to why someone might want to play at Sunningdale as frequently as possible.
There are two courses at Sunningdale, the Old and the New. The latter might be the tougher but the former is the more famous and the three pictures here are all of that course. The club was founded in 1900 with the Old Course designed by Willie Park. The New was the work of Harry Colt, who was for a time the club secretary. That layout was opened in 1923.
Most of the land over which the 36 holes are laid out is owned by St John’s College, Cambridge, the current lease expiring in 2035. Financial research – not undertaken by myself, I should make clear – suggests than the total assets held by St John’s amount to just over £780 million. I understand the golf club is confident the lease will be extended in due course. As Peter Alliss observed a couple of years ago: “I can’t see Sunningdale being covered in thousands of affordable houses.” (That being said, a woman called Sophie Wilson, the Labour candidate and likely winner in the forthcoming General Election for the Rother Valley constituency in South Yorkshire, the other week ‘liked’ a comment on Twitter which called for golf courses to be “seized for public housing”. So perhaps we have been put on notice?)
A round of golf at Sunningdale is one of the finer pleasures of the game. However, if you can’t manage to arrange that, it is still very well worth seeing in person, in all its glory. The British Senior Open will be staged there from July 23-26 next year. If you haven’t much else on that week, I suggest you try to get there.
You can follow me on Twitter @robrtgreen and also read my other blog at f-factors.com – plus there’s more golf blogging from me in the 19th hole section on the Golf Today website