- Neil White
Fun? Golf is meant to be fun?
I have long believed that most golfers are masochists – they enjoy the torture of shanks, hooks and missed putts.
Perversely, they revel in telling all and sundry how awful they are at the game they profess to love.
And they are especially exercised by having to fill out a medal card when all is not going to plan – which is at least 90 per cent of the time.
Well, at Swinley Forest, when they say they play for fun, they mean it.
This may be listed in the top 60 courses in the world but the genteel members don’t play medals, have not long been marking cards, play winter rules all year round and don’t talk to them about the new world handicap system.
Yep, they opted out of that.
This is golf as it was meant to be played by the well-heeled although I didn’t find Swinley Forest in any way stuffy.
From the moment we arrived for our society day, friendliness abounded, from the assistant in the pro’s shop to the lass who served the bacon roll and coffee and the starter who warned: “Don’t hit long”.
Actually, I only learned that gem of advice from the group who played after us when I was tucking into lunch in the marquee which has been erected in front of the handsome clubhouse.
I only wish I had bionic hearing because it may have made me think a little harder before ignoring my Garmin watch every time I arrived at a par-three tee box.
Yes, dare I say, I WAS playing a medal and believing I knew better than my electronic guide in the rain cost me dearly.
Accuracy is key to success at Swinley Forest - a relatively short par 69 with pretty much all holes potentially hittable in regulation for a mid-handicapper… if they are playing better than me.
Swinley Forest eases the golfer in. I was errant off the first tee but still managed a par thanks to a tidy putt.
Seeing the ball sink after one strike was a rarity - because the greens are deceiving and have many more borrows than appear at first glance.
The second offers an example – it invites the player into a relatively unguarded green but the ball is likely to wander down the treacherous slope at the back of it if the approach is not pinpoint.
Heather can also play a significant part – it wasn’t in purple bloom in May but even in its youth it is best avoided and several tee shots demand carry.
This is the case on the third – a short par four which is framed by trees and lures the ambitious who might have dreams of reaching in one. I can speak from experience that such a cavalier attitude can result in a six.
Remember, it is meant to be fun, Neil…
Chances are if Swinley’s par threes are conquered, a good score will be recorded. There are five – none are long but all have significant peril if club selection and consequent tee shots are awry.
My favourite holes were longer. For example, the fifth - a relatively short par five which demands an opening fade through two bunkers. The brave will then hit an approach over a pond on the right and attempt to thread it between traps. The sensible will lay up and try to flick their approach close – and then, in my case, miss an eight-footer for a birdie.
I was also a fan of the 12th – a long par four whose green is protected by an undulating fairway and then slopes quite alarmingly from left to right.
And the 18th is pretty as a picture, rising up to a clubhouse which looks down from the horizon. Don’t make the mistake of dreaming of lunch before guiding past heather and bunkers!
But who cares if you go in either? My playing partner and I experienced the joys of both and still ended up with fives, headed off to the marquee and downed refreshment with an excellent dinner and dessert.
It really is fun on and off the course at Swinley Forest.