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Swinley Forest Golf Club
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Swinley Forest Golf Club

Ascot, London, England

In 1909, Edward George Villiers, the 17th Earl of Derby, founded one of the more unique London golf clubs – Swinley Forest. Although never obtaining a “Royal” designation, Swinley Forest Golf Club is laid out across Great Windsor Park land rented from King George VII for a nominal fee.

Built on the golf-friendly Surrey sand belt that has produced so many courses that are the pride of England golf, Swinley is a worthy addition.

The course is not long, as a par 68/69, and measures 6,431 yards. While the scorecard yardage seems short, Swinley Forest plays deceptively long with undulating greens, many having a false front and cunning run-offs that demand an imaginative short game to get close to the pin.

There are only two par 5s as scoring opportunities, it also features eleven par 4s and five par 3s routed through the pines with heather, azaleas, and rhododendrons providing splashes of brilliant color and providing hazards to low scores.

Course Details

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World Top 50 Golf Course
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6,431 yards
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Designed by Harry Colt
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Founded in 1909
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Ideal Location for South England Golf Tour
Swinley Forest England

The History of Swinley Forest

Villiers was said to have been tired of slow play and other policies at Sunningdale Golf Club, leading to the creation of Swinley Forest. However, he was quite a fan of the pro at the time, Harry Colt.

Along with being a superb professional, Colt was developing a reputation as “the” golf course designer of the day and Villiers was keen that only he could do justice to the new course. Often considered one of his best designs, Colt modestly described his lowkey brilliance as, “…my least bad course.”

It was never built for championship play but rather purely for the enjoyment of the aristocracy. As evidence, it was only in the 1990s that Swinley even had scorecards and scheduled formal member competitions.

Just as scores were not recorded, being the playground of the UK’s Blue Book, most history of the Club and stories of classic matches exist only in member’s heads – much of which sadly will never be known.

What may be the best description and reason to not leave this special place off for your England golf tour is that Swinley Forest has, “The inescapable impression that the place fell asleep many years ago and slumbered on for decades, the Rip Van Winkle of golf clubs.”

It may not have the length of a modern course, but it has more style than all the other clubs combined. While a mystery and off-limits to visiting golfers for much of its existence, Swinley Forest now allows limited visitor play on weekdays and is well worth adding to your itinerary.


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