Walton Heath Old Course

James Braid designed more than 400 courses. As head professional, he refused to touch Herbert Fowler's masterpiece. That in itself should motivate you to visit.

Walton Heath Old Course

Surrey, England

Overview

King George VI, King Edward VIII, A.J. Balfour, Lloyd George, Bonar Law and Winston Churchill have all been members at Walton Heath.

Golfing royalty, James Braid, was Club Pro from 1904 until 1950. It is truly fascinating that James Braid, a course designer with more than 400 courses under his belt, refused to touch Herbert Fowler's masterpiece.

The Great Triumvirate, made up of James Braid, JH Taylor, and Harry Vardon, opened the course.

Originally, the fairways were sown with Dutch Fescue at a width of 50 yards with 10 yards of light rough then heather. Bunkers were placed a year after play in order to show where bunkers were to be placed.

Loch Lomond golf architect, Tom Weiskopf was rumoured to say the closing stretch is as good as any in golf.

Tom Simpson called Walton Heath the first really fine inland golf course to be designed from start to finish by an amateur golfer in the book The Game of Golf.

The 16th hole on the Old Course is one of the greatest in the game. It is said Herbert Fowler was inspired by the tee shot on the 7th at St Andrews and by the 11th at St Andrews on the approach. In any case, the hole was painted by Harry Rountree and sketched by Tom Simpson in his book, The Architectural Side of Golf.

Tom Doak recommends golf architecture students pay special attention to the bunkering.

Walton Heath Old Course Reviews

Sean Arble's tour can be found here


Golf Course Review

The Walton Heath Old Course was opened for play on May 14th, 1904. It was five years previous, in 1899, that the idea of a golf course on Walton Heath had been raised. By 1901, the first plans were finalised and the famed amateur golfer, Herbert Fowler, received his first commission to build the inland golf course in 1902. G.A Franks was employed to build the course and provided the platform for another 150 courses to be built in the UK and Europe. Carter & Sons were the seed merchants who provided the Dutch Fescue seed. The grow in took 16 months with no turf being used. Herbert Fowler was also named the Managing Director and Secretary of the club.  Located on common land, the course now lies just inside the M25 in Tadworth, Surrey.

Derek Markham explains in his book, "A Matter of Course", the first two green sites selected on the 500-acre tract of land were the current 5th green on the Old Course and the current 14th green on the New Course. From these two points, the rest of the course was laid out. The location of these holes allowed a short round of 6 or 12 holes to be played akin to the Old Course at St Andrews.

Early photographs indicate an early Victorian-penal strategy and aesthetic which is a reflection of the era when it was built. In 1903, rumblings from John Low and Stuart Paton had initiated what would become a complete paradigm shift from the penal to the strategic approach of inland golf course architecture. The Old and New Courses at Walton Heath Golf Club are a reflection of being established during this period.

Walton Heath Old Course Changes

Prior to 1913 - Current 10th lengthened.
1935 - Current 14th Hole lengthened.
1936 - Current 17th added.
1937 - Current 5th, 11th, 12th & 13th added.
1937 - Current 10th lengthened.
1938 - New 6th and 7th added.
1973 - Altered 8th and new 9th added. (Pat Badham)

Many of the changes listed were the result of merging two holes into one or otherwise making a new hole from existing components from former holes. Herbert Fowler died in April of 1941, so many of these changes would have been down under his watch and no doubt with his approval.

In 1980 and 1999, Donald Steel was asked to advise. Improvements were suggested but only bunkering on the 15th was approved. John Jessop would later make suggestions on bunkering, some of which was approved and implemented.

Walton Heath Composite Courses

The Old Course was the backbone of the composite course used for the 1981 Ryder Cup. Holes 1 & 18 were dropped and 3 & 4 were combined. Hence, Hole 2 played as the 1st with 3 and 4 playing as the 2nd. The gaps were filled by the 12th, 13th & 18th from the New Course. The routing used for the British Masters is similar but finishes on the 18th of the Old rather than the 18th of the New.

Ranked90/100in the world
Ranked18/100in GB&I
A portrait of Herbert Fowler by Montague Cooper.Montague Cooper

Featured Architect: Herbert Fowler

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...

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The Putter Tailor - Made to Measure Putters and Wedges

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Surrey, KT20 7TP, England

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A portrait of Herbert Fowler by Montague Cooper.Montague Cooper

Featured Architect: Herbert Fowler

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...

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The Putter Tailor - Made to Measure Putters and Wedges

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