Golf Architect JF Abercromby (John Fredrick or Aber) was a stockbrokers clerk as well as an accomplished player based in London. Due to his association with wealthy financier’s, Aber was given the opportunity to lay out a course to rival Sunningdale, Walton Heath and Woking. Aber’s first design became Worplesdon, but by no means was it done solo. Willie Park Jr., Open Champion and architect of Sunningdale Old, along with Jack White, Open Champion and Sunningdale’s professional, were both on hand to guide Aber.
Good Work Earns More Work
The result was so successful it won him more work at Coombe Hill in 1909 and at Addington in 1914. In 1916, he worked along with Herbert Fowler at West Kent which ultimately lead to his joining the design firm of Fowler, Abercromby, Simpson and Croome in 1920.
His continued work centred around the heathlands of London. Liphook was completed jointly in 1922 with Arthur Croome. In 1924, working alongside Herbert Fowler, Knole Park was added to his legacy. His first genuinely solo design in 1925 was Mote Mount in London which is now known as Mill Hill. By 1927, Abercromby and Herbert Fowler reunited to design Manor Golf Club on behalf of Mr W.H Smith of stationary fame, now known as Bovey Castle.
Golf’s Greatest Loss?
Held out by some to be Abercromby’s crowning achievement, Addington New has been lost to post WW2 social housing although some scattered remnants of the course remain. Mill Hill (Mote Mount) in London also has some Abercromby left. The bones remain along with the potential for a stunning course in the heart of North London. Cowdray is another course attributed to Abercromby and Fowler, but some dispute this in a few circles.
“Although not as well known as the other Golden Age architects, he was every bit as good” says Mr Donald Steel in an email to Evalu18 regarding his restorative work done at Bovey Castle in Dartmoor. He was not prolific, but the work he did and the company he kept leaves no doubt of his rightful place among the most respected Golden Age architects.
Tutored by Willie Park Jr and a contemporary of Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson, JF Abercromby is an underrated architect. He was not prolific. Much of his work goes unnoticed by the uninitiated, and they are poorer for it.
A Closer Look
We wish to thank friend of Evalu18 and collaborator, Keith Cutten, for the material for this short biography of JF Abercromby. For a more detailed account, you can find his book by clicking here.
Quality and quantity of JF Abercromby 's one shot holes. Some designs feature as many as 6.
As his career progressed, the number of bunkers lessened. This astute observation was commented on in the September, 2008 edition of Through the Green by Peter Freeman.
Subtle movement in his green complexes.
In his approach to design, he didn’t sketch holes nor measure distance. Work was done on site, in the dirt, by feel and by eye.
Geoffrey Cornish in his book, The Architects of Golf, writes regarding JF Abercromby: “Contemporary critics felt he made the most natural looking hazards of any architect of the day and some considered him the finest British designer of the era before WW1.”