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Please donate to the Golf Foundation...

I had the pleasure of teeing off on what I believe to be the finest inland course in Britain yesterday - Sunningdale Old Course.

Our Annual Golf Writers match against the Golf Foundation once again proved to be an extremely enjoyable day out and highlighted what a very worthy charity the Golf Foundation is. Chief Executive Mike Round and his team really do work tirelessly to introduce new golfers to the game with their 'HSBC Golf Roots' initiative. The Golf Foundation's Tri Golf scheme is just one of the many initiatives that is going from strength-to-strength and is used at schools, inner cities and sports centres across the country.

The Golf Foundation's own Daisy Dyer, who took part in our match yesterday, is living proof of the success of the scheme. Just 10 years ago Daisy had never picked up a club or had the opportunity or access to golf. Through Tri Golf and the continued support of the Golf Foundation Daisy took part in lessons and she is now a scratch golfer and a fantastic ambassador for the charity.

There are many ways you can donate to the Golf Foundation, whether it's £1 or £100, every penny you can spare will go to introducing more young people to this great game that teaches them important values and skills for life, as well as giving them the opportunity to learn a new sport in the outdoors, something so many youngsters are sadly lacking these days. So please do visit www.golf-foundation.org and pledge your donation...

And now to the golf course...

Sunshine & sausage sandwiches - the perfect combination!

Sunningdale Golf Club is one of the most famous clubs in the UK and justifiably so as there are two wonderful heathland courses on the Surrey/Berkshire border here, both Harry Colt classics. The Old established in 1900 is always enjoyable. The New is longer and tougher but nevertheless still a fantastic test of golf. Both have staged numerous prestigious tournaments over the years from the British Seniors and British Ladies Open to a vast number of amateur events including the popular Sunningdale Foursomes that once again I'll have the pleasure of playing in next week. It was just fortunate that this fixture fell in the diary at the perfect time to allow me to get a sneaky practice round in on The Old Course yesterday!

Pleasure really is the perfect word to describe a game of golf here if you are lucky to be able to afford the privilege. Right from the moment you arrive at the club you are treated to a warm and friendly welcome. If you have a morning tee off make the most of the delicious breakfast the chef serves up, although if you prefer to work up an appetite I would definitely recommend a bite to eat in the halfway hut where a delicious sausage sandwich is a must. Such is the popularity of the snacks served up here that a few years ago the gentleman that was running the business was spotted 'turning left' as he boarded a transatlantic flight by one of the Sunningdale members who was heading right to Economy. The member duly reported back to the club that their halfway hut entrepreneur must be doing rather well out of his 'sausage sandwich' business. Needless to say the club now run the operation themselves!

Back to the golf and the one thing that always impresses me when I visit Sunningdale is the immaculate condition of the course, and most importantly the greens. Even at the start of March and after some fairly awful weather in the last week the greens were incredibly true and smooth - a delight to putt on.

The Old Course has undergone some extensive winter improvements including the reshaping and reconditioning of many bunkers, which are now top-notch, and other areas of the course have been cleared to smarten it up even more.

Sunningdale has many famous members, among them the likes of Senior Tour player Sam Torrance, son Daniel and wife Alison, who is a handy scratch golfer herself and makes an appearance in many of the pictures among the Sunningdale Ladies winning squads over the years. It's easy to see why the Torrance's choose this as their home - there's something very special about a game of golf here that leaves you wanting to play the course time and time again. Every one of the holes is unique and memorable.

The gentle par 5 opening hole lulls you into a false sense of security and can easily get your round off to a quick start, what follows is a much sterner test. Dogleg holes, sweeping fairways, tall trees, heather in abundance, tight greens that have tricky borrows, a few blind tee shots and much more awaits. My favourite holes are the fifth with its wonderful elevated tee shot that encourages you to hit out and the 10th with one of the most spectacular views on the course. Tall trees flank the rolling fairway either side and if you focus on smashing a drive down the middle of the perfectly mown fairway cleverly cut with one giant stripe in either direction to provide a centre dividing line you'll be perfectly on target for the halfway hut in the distance!

By the time you spot the clock on the famous Sunningdale clubhouse at the back of the 18 th green, you'll be wondering where the time has gone. But do make sure you stay for a spot of lunch - the carvery is to die for and save room for desert - homemade treacle pudding and custard - yum!

Carly's tips for the course:

1st: The opening par 5 requires a long straight tee shot, hit that and you'll have an opportunity to go for the green, be warned the fairway bunkers are bigger and closer than they look!

2nd: A draw off the tee is a must here if you want to catch the fast lane and carry the cross road that intersects the fairway. You're still left with a downhill shot to a tricky green that slopes from front to back - beware the tricky trap on the front left, you won't spot it from a distance.

3rd: On paper this par 4 may seem fairly innocuous and at a little over 270 yards from the whites, it is driveable for many, but stray just a little off-line and you will be cruelly punished in the dense heather left or a well-placed fairway bunker right.

4th: My tip for this uphill par 3 is to take one club more than you think as the incline is steeper than you think and there are no prizes for coming up short as you'll have to deal with a tough twisting putt or devilish bunker shot.

5th: One of the finest views in golf awaits you from the elevated back tee at the fifth, which invites you to hit out over the heather onto the fairway. The second shot is far more daunting played over a seemingly never ending water hazard, although there's more dead ground beyond the hazard before the green than you think so be brave.

6th: It's easy to over-hit your drive at the sixth - a lay up of around 250 yards is enough to leave you as close to the heather as possible but still facing a tough approach to another sloping green.

7th: The first of several blind tee shots, the ideal line is either at the marker post with a slight draw or make sure you start your ball to the left of it if you hit a fade. Although the fairway does tumble down to the left it is still the better line to come in from. Even it you hit a great drive you'll still have around 200-yards into the green, which has a tricky double tier to contend with too.

8th: A quirky little par 3 that looks just as narrow as it plays. Bunkers either side are well placed to catch a ball that falls anywhere other than on the green.

9th: Another opportunity for the longer hitters to have a go for the green, although to be honest with you the fairway bunkers narrow in so much at the landing area that unless you are an enormous hitter and can carry them easily you are better of playing short and leaving yourself a full shot into the green. There's a tricky double slope up to the back so make sure you take enough club if the pin is on the top tier.

10th:The elevated tee encourages you to open your shoulders and hit out, the fairway does fall away to the left but it's not a bad side to be on to play your second shot up to the right. Make sure you focus on your lay up yardage to play short of the fairway bunker if you can't carry it as it's a nasty deep one where a sand wedge will be your only way out.

11th: Another blind tee shot and a really tricky hole. Any shot played too far to the right of the marker post is dead as the hole doglegs sharply around to the right. The small green makes a tiny target and be warned not to overshoot the surface as the ball will roll off the back and leave you a tricky up and down.

12th: This tee shot favours a draw to catch the fast lane down the centre, again leaving a long but often reachable second shot to the distant elevated green, which slopes from front to back.

13th: A fantastic downhill par 3 where the drop is often counteracted by a strong wind into your face so focus on getting your clubbing right.

14th: A relatively easy par 5 that is reachable in two for the big hitters, but fairway bunkers abound. The green here is quite flat so putts are makeable.

15th: A monster of a par three, you have to carry trouble over 190 yards to clear the heather, bunkers and get to the green. Higher handicappers would be better off bailing out to the left and leaving a chip up onto the green.

16th: A sensational par 4 and easily a scorecard wrecker late in the round. You'll need two good shots to get up to the green, again, the uphill second shot plays longer than it looks so take that extra club.

17th: A sweeping par four where the fairway slopes down to the left. The green is guarded left by heather and right by bunkers and yet slopes from back to front, left-to-right leaving some devilish putts - don't go beyond the pin!

18th: Last but by no means least the par 5 18th . A slight fade will leave you in the perfect position on the centre right of the fairway to attack the pin and take the greenside bunker on the left out of play. If you don't get a good drive away be careful to lay up short of the cross bunkers in the fairway if you can't carry them as they are tough to recover from.

 








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