Golf Architect Herbert Fowler was born in North London in 1856. A gifted natural athlete, Herbert Fowler excelled at most sports but particularly cricket. At the tender age of 22, he was made a partner of a banking firm.

Herbert Fowler & His Introduction to Golf

During a business trip to Devon in 1879, Fowler first experienced golf at Westward Ho! Almost a decade later, after a successful cricket career, he would turn his attention to golf. After a visit to St Andrew's, he became a member at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and later the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Muirfield.

Herbert Fowler's Financial Reversal - Golf's Gain?

Held by many to be an inept businessman, Fowler was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1890s. In 1899, Sir Cosmo Bonsor presented the idea of building a golf course in Surrey which would become known as Walton Heath Old. Following this rousing success, more remodeling and design projects followed.

Herbert Fowler & Tom Simpson

Despite it being reported in the press that Fowler was entering retirement in 1911, he had been consulted with on the New course at St Andrews which was eventually built by Harry Colt. He had also begun working with Tom Simpson at some point by 1913.

A Closer Look at Herbert Fowler

We wish to thank friend of Evalu18 and collaborator, Keith Cutten, for the material for this short biography. For a more detailed account, you can find his book, The Evolution of Golf Course Design

Architectural Hallmarks

Herbert Fowler was known for establishing natural-looking green sites and working backwards to the tee.

Bernard Darwin described Herbert Fowler as “perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects..."

Topography used to test with his courses following the contours of the land.

Bunkers were deep and hazards were concentrated around the greens as opposed to the fairway to test the tee shot.

Understated, simple and sparing with the use of hazards. Seldom were bunkers used in front of greens, rarely did he place them at the back of the green nor for aesthetic purposes. Strategic minimalism is no doubt part of what brought Simpson and Fowler together.

Herbert Fowler & His Ideal Golf Course

In 1913, he wrote the ideal golf course would contain the following:

  1. The course must be by the seaside amongst dunes with fine turf.
  2. The clubhouse should allow two starting points.
  3. There should be no crossing and routing intuitive.
  4. There should be at least 4 one-shot holes of varying length.
  5. No two holes should play consecutively in the same direction.

Fowler admits his ideal course is at odds with the Old Course on 4 of the 5 points listed.