However, at Sutton Coldfield, just above Birmingham, you will find a true, fast running course that fits the bill nicely.
Venues such as Little Aston, Beau Desert, Blackwell and The Belfry get touted as the must play courses in the West Midlands. Please add Sutton Coldfield to this list, especially if you enjoy the ground game.
Whilst it may not quite capture the imagination like nearby Beau Desert does there is no denying this is fine heathland golf. Holes such as the 15th, a brilliant par three, belong on any of the country’s finest inland courses. The green settings, along with the actual putting surfaces, at the fifth, sixth and seventh (incidentally consecutive par fives!) are also exceptional.
There are other fine holes too. The third and fourth work well as back-to-back two-shotters, each dog-legging in opposite directions, and the same can be said about the 11th and 12th that play nicely as a twosome. The 14th is also a splendid long hole, again with lovely green contouring, a feature that is prominent throughout at Sutton Coldfield.
What probably holds the course back from greater recognition is a handful of mundane holes, not bad holes but just lacking the sparkle of the aforementioned belters. Holes such as the second, eighth, 10th, 13th and perhaps the last would fall into this bracket, however, multiple plays may change my mind on this.
At Sutton Coldfield there is real sense of openness and being a million miles from anywhere whilst playing here, especially on the stretches of holes 3 to 7 and 12 to 17. This is despite the course being played over common land, where dog-walkers abound and in the summer I understand cattle roam the course. A number of trees have cropped up over the decades but there is still a pure heathland feel about the course that edges the huge Sutton Park and features no fairway bunkers.
The course played superbly on a crisp March morning when the ball was running as if it were the height of summer. There was little rough on my visit and the heather was thinner than it would be during the main playing season but it was noticeable how narrow the fairways were on some holes, especially the strong par fours and fives. At times they really pinched in at the optimal driving distances. I suspect I would play a lot more irons from the tee if I were to return between June and August.
All-in-all, the 2 hour drive to Warwickshire was well worth the trip to play this firm and fast heathland track that often goes under the radar of the travelling golfer.