A serious contender for the most exclusive course in the UK is Swinley Forest, located in the heart of SurreyBerkshire Heathland, along with the famous Wentworth and Sunningdale golf courses. Not only is it probably one of the hardest courses in the UK to get on, it is also one of the purest examples of classic inland golf in all of Europe. The club is unashamedly exclusive, has always held a liberal attitude towards female members and has been run in the manner of a benevolent dictatorship. The fact that there are no compulsory handicaps, members are able to choose what they play off, this says a lot about the laid back attitude of the members in general. Perhaps controversial in terms of club management Swinley Forest has certainly made a name for itself in its unorthodox approach to the game.

The clubhouse offers not only offers traditional hospitality at its finest but also some stunning views of the 1st and 18th.

The reclusive nature of Swinley is down to the majority of the course located on Crown Commission land. Lord Derby effectively set up the club for his friends and himself.  He was once late for an appointment with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle after being held up by a slow foursome at Sunningdale, Her Majesty then apparently enquired as to why a man of such means could not own his own course, Lord Derby responded by forming the exclusive Swinley Forest. After purchasing the land, he then handed the land to renowned golf course architect Harry Colt. Colt was acting as Secretary at Sunningdale at the time and after completion of Swinley he took the same role there. The area he was given to sculpt was set in dense woodlands, close to 14,000 pine trees were cut down to create the course layout known as his ‘landscape aspect’. The land chosen was perfect for a heathland style golf course, the sandy based fairways are naturally draining and the trees which line the fairways give a real sense of reclusiveness, but also enjoy a feeling of spaciousness given that the trees rarely interfere with play, characteristics that few courses in UK let alone the world can offer.

Heather is a prominent feature of Swinley Forest, it provides a challenging hazard for stray shots.

The greens are certainly made in the true style of Colt which is typical of all his designs, and the fairways give a challenge even for perfectly struck drives due to the ball shooting off bumps and hills in the undulating fairways. A defining hole of Swinley Forest is the par 4 twelfth, one of the greatest two-shot tests in golf, with a drive off the tee needing a draw and the approach from the fairway needing a fade to negotiate through the heather, pines and rolling fairways to reach a heavily contoured green into an elevated bank.

There are thousands of pine trees throughout the course, however seldom come in to consideration if you can keep it on the fairway!

It really is a setting of rare beauty, privacy and tranquillity, there are no major roads to be heard from the course and disturbances while you play are rare. This due in part to Lord Derby owning all the surrounding land, so developments close by were kept to a minimum as he aimed to keep the secluded course undisturbed. These unparalleled characteristics suggest that Swinley Forest would have a very difficult time not to be included in any fine golf course guide. However you will probably have a tough time in the first place trying to get on the course, there is no website and it’s not like you can just phone up and book a tee time! We know that you need to be invited to play, and I strongly suggest that if you are lucky enough to get an invite then you would be crazy not to take up this offer! The course may be seen as short compared to today’s standards, at just 6000 yards, Par 68, but it offers an atmosphere of true fine golf which makes you feel like you are an eternity away from the stresses and strains of life.