Herbert Fowler and The Bradford Golf Club

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8th hole (346 yards, par 4)

8

Fowler 204 yards. This is the one of two major change from Fowler’s original plan for the course. He clearly envisaged four par three holes and this was going to be one. According to the plan, the tee was to be quite some distance on from the 7th green. However, it seems that things were revised and a par 4 was put in its place, to the same green, but from a tee back and to the right of the 7th green. By making this alteration the hole comes to be essentially the same as the old 17th and played to the same green as that. The hole runs in the same direction as the previous hole and is uphill all the way. There is a stone wall marking the out of bounds for the first hundred yards or so. This is quite close in but provides no danger. The originally planned 8th tee would have been just a little further on than the end of the wall and some way to the left. After the end of the wall there is a line of trees further out on the right close up to a post and wire fence, also marking the out of bounds. This is also no particular threat. On the left there are trees, some quite close in and the orientation of the teeing ground seems to push the player to the left and drives on this hole frequently find the left rough as a result. There is a bunker 265 yards out from the tee just to the right of the centre of the fairway. Although the drive is uphill the prevailing wind is behind, so attention has to be paid to this bunker. The green is guarded by a bunker on the left and one on the right. The latter is closer in and makes it advisable to favor the left side of the fairway on the tee shot so as to get the best approach to the green. There is a lot of room on the right side of the fairway off the tee, but for the reason just stated this is not the best line. The approach to the green must not be too long, as this slightly elevated green is very close to the trees at the back. There is a significant rise at the front of the green, which slopes slightly up to the back for the rest of its course. This green used to be a real McKenzie green, in the sense of being two tiered, but it was altered in the 1960s. This hole might be improved by pushing the player further to the right off the tee, bringing into play off the tee as a possible hazard the very attractive clump of fir trees on that side. This could be done by removing the bunker to the front right of the green and creating new bunkers close into the green on the front left and left side. The hole would have more definition if these changes were made.

9th hole (491, par 5)

9

Fowler 432 yards. This hole is a longer version of the old 3rd hole. Even in its 1922 form it was shorter than it is now. After the Fowler revision a triangular piece of land adjacent to the course was given by its owner in order to enable a new back tee to be constructed. The gift was probably made in the 1960s. Certainly the change had been made by 1973. The hole goes in a westerly direction and is therefore against the prevailing wind. It has a tee that is placed attractively between a stone wall and a group of trees. The green is visible in the distance perched on a ridge that forms part of Greenhouse Hill. There are trees all the way down the left side of the hole. There is similar line of trees on the right until about halfway (with out of bounds on the practice ground just to the right of these trees). After this point there are just a few trees, and the later part of the hole has none on the right. The out of bounds referred to is something created very recently and is not particularly close in. The trees give the impression of the tee shot being narrower than it is. This first part of the hole is basically flat, though sloping very gently in the player’s favor. The second shot crosses a dip in the ground and needs to negotiate two potential hazards. The first is the line of three bunkers that have now replaced the large bunker (rather ugly when seen in the photos of that time and not in fact put in by Fowler) that used to cut across the fairway (the plan above still shows one). The second potential hazard is Willow Lane which crosses the fairway at about 425 yards. Shortly after Willow Lane the ground rises up to the plateau green. There used to be bunkers set into the rise at the front left and front right of the green, but the one on the right was removed. The recovery from the remaining bunker is difficult, since it is well below the level of the green, so visibility is not good, and the ball has to be got into the air very quickly. The green is always a difficult target from any distance, especially when the flag is at the front. There is very little margin for error then. Also, it is hog-backed in shape and balls easily run through the green in consequence. The ground beyond the left side of the green falls sharply away and to the right of the green there is a little dip in the ground. The 12th green is also fairly close in on the right. This hole is relatively straight away with a tee shot that lacks interest. The green is difficult to hold in two shots because of its orientation, and even a pitch from in front and below is demanding. This hole cannot be looked at in isolation because of the problem of the 10th hole crossing across it. This is most unfortunate and is referred to further in relation to that hole. However, what might be said here is that if the ninth green were moved left significantly to a point coinciding at the moment with the ladies 6th tee, one would give more character to the 9th hole. What is more important, the crossing over could be avoided by then putting the 10th tee somewhere on the present 9th green. This is not an original suggestion, as it was put forward by a firm of golf architects who were asked to advise on the future of the course. More is stated on this point in relation to the 10th hole. Finally, on a lighter note, the present writer could envisage something that Fowler’s business partner, Tom Simpson, a more imaginative character in many ways. This would be to put a small bunker in on the 9th at just under drive length (taking into account the prevailing wind) right in the center of the fairway (the sort of model used famously on the 4th at Woking. The hole has a fairly wide fairway, which might then be widened a little further. The player would have the choice of trying to fly the bunker, go right or left of it, or play short, thus lengthening the second shot. It would at the very least make the player think before pulling the driver out of the back automatically. No bad thing perhaps.

10th hole (396 yards, par 4)

10

Fowler 343 yards. This is the other major change from Fowler’s provisional plan. He envisaged the tee being to the east of the previous green, and saw this hole as a short par 4 to the present green, which is a few yards on from the old 18th green. However, at some point the tee was moved back and right across the previous fairway so as to create a longer and more demanding par 4 hole, something which was definitely in place by 1935. This involves the factor referred to earlier, namely the crossing of another hole, the 9th. The present tee shot is threatened by gorse and very rough country to the left and left centre. There is a line of trees on the right, plus the out of bounds on another part of the practice ground to the right of that. As stated earlier this out of bounds is a very new creation and now stretches the whole length of the hole, whereas previously there was only out of bounds from a point on the right just short of and next to the green, where a hedge marks the boundary of the course with some residential housing. The out of bounds next to the practice ground is not close in, but the out of bounds near the green is and constitutes a significant threat on the second shot. The tee shot is slightly uphill onto a flattish area. The best line is just to the right of the gorse bush, in other words left centre. This leaves a difficult uphill second over a sharp ridge to a very long green. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the orientation of the shot makes aiming difficult. The green is also guarded by a bunker on the right front (not there originally) and one in a similar position on the left. Dependent up on where the flag is situated, this shot can be either semi-blind or totally blind. This hole is a demanding par 4, but somewhat lacking in subtlety. It is a real pull up to the green (said to be the reason for reversing the original two loops of holes in the 1922 version, when this hole was the 18th). Also, a good tee shot is not exactly rewarded since the flag then becomes not visible and a difficult blind second results. If the drive is relatively weak, the player gets a good view of the flag perched on its plateau, though the second is a long shot and that much more difficult as a result. As is stated earlier, this hole could be improved greatly by moving the 9th green to the left and using a part of the present 9th green as the 10th tee. This would create a much more interesting tee shot and one more in line with Fowler’s original intention. It would involve as a result a par 4 hole of about 430 yards.

11th hole (307 yards, par 4)

11

Fowler 270 yards. The tee is an elevated one and built on the ridge to the right of the clubhouse. There are beautiful views across the valley to Baildon. The hole runs in a south westerly direction. The tee shot is down a slope which then flattens out. Two bunkers, one on the right and one further on down the left, threaten the tee shot. The latter bunker was reduced in size relatively recently and relocated five yards to the right. In addition there are trees quite close in on the right, plus Willow Lane (which is not out of bounds). On the left is a patch of heavy rough, plus a few trees. In favourable conditions a well hit drive may reach the green. If not the second is a short pitch across mainly level ground to a flat green. There are bunkers to front left and front right of the green, another further on at the right, and a drop at the back. This hole is a real birdie opportunity. It was originally the opening hole in the 1922 layout and conforms to an easy introduction to the course. As the 11th it is perhaps too easy and might benefit from some tightening. The two fairway bunkers are closer together then they were initially, but the gap between them might be narrowed further in order to introduce a more strategic element.

12th hole (142 yards, par 3)

12

As seen from the left, the twelfth green is perched on Greenhouse Hill.

As seen from the left, the twelfth green is perched on Greenhouse Hill.

Fowler’s note of the measurement has become undecipherable on the map through age. This hole goes in the same direction as the previous one. A relatively recent new back tee has been put in. Normally the wind blows up the valley from the right, adding to the difficulty. By looking at the flag on the 9th green, which is situated just behind this green one can see how strong the wind is. The green is on part of Greenhouse Hill, but the hole is still somewhat downhill. The green lies diagonally across the line of play with two bunkers to the right, one to the left and a fourth one close to the green in front. The latter is well below the hole, making visibility difficulty and the need to get the ball up quickly. Between tee and green is a dip in the ground. The ground around the green falls away severely on all sides apart from front right. The sheltered tee makes club selection difficult, but the hole usually plays shorter than expected. This is a rather pretty short hole, the green of which is not an easy target despite the fact that it is usually only a short iron shot. However, it does is perhaps needs more definition in one respect, its relation to the 18th tee, which is very open to it on the right.

13th hole (367 yards, par 4)

13

Fowler 372 yards. The goes westward and so is against the prevailing wind. It is basically flat though the early part is slightly in the player’s favour. The tee is slightly elevated. There are trees all the length of the hole on both left and right. There is a ditch going across the hole in front of the tee, but it is only 130 yards away, so is no problem. The tee shot must avoid a bunker further on at the left and one still further on the right. The second shot is to a long green, which slopes down slightly to the left. The green is guarded by four bunkers, two run diagonally right to left at the approach to the green. Another is tight into the front left of the green and as a consequence makes an approach from the right somewhat easier. This is because there is a shorter carry and more landing ground for the approach from this side. There is a bunker also to the right of the green at its side. There is relatively little trouble at the back of the green. The tee shot tends to make the player favor the left side, since the bunker on that side is less of a threat. However, this is not the correct strategy, which is to flirt with the right hand bunker, since, as stated earlier, the best line in is from the right. So, what looks initially a penal hole does have an element of strategy.

14th hole (167 yards, par 3)

14

Fowler 144 yards. This hole is essentially the 11th hole on the old course, but differently bunkered. It runs northwards. It also runs significantly uphill and so plays longer than its length. The green is set into the face of Birkin Hill and is most attractively framed by the slopes behind it topped by a single tree. The tee is sheltered but the green is exposed to the prevailing wind from the left. The nearer portion of the elevated green is on a narrow spur and is guarded by a large almost hidden bunker to the front, one at the front left (also hidden) built into the bank sides, and two more at the right, similarly constructed, though higher up and visible from the tee. The front left bunker is especially difficult to recover from. It is very low down and the ground just beyond it is in any case the shape of a mound. The green from this direction is quite narrow. The further end of the green is cut back in the hillside and there is a potentially very difficult pin position back right on a small spur. There is thick rough on the mound to the rear of the green. Anything to the right or long to the left will fall away down the hill, often into the bunker. The green is slightly stepped and slopes down to the front. This hole has always been considered to be one of the best on the course. It is a delightful short hole and a successful tee shot, especially with a strong wind from the right is a great source of satisfaction. There is the possibility of lengthening the hole a little, by about twenty yards or so. It would then be an even more demanding shot to a green that is quite narrow. However, such a move would increase the variety of the length of the par 3 holes

15th hole (416 yards**)

15

Fowler 402 yards. This hole runs in an eastward direction and so is favoured by the prevailing wind. A new back tee has recently been built right at the very top of the hill. From this pulpit tee on Birkin Hill, the highest point on the course, the tee shot plunges downhill into a valley which then flattens out. There are lines of trees on both sides. Thos on the left are closer in to the fairway. There is also a large bunker down the right side of the fairway, which threatens the drive. The ground in the trees on the left slopes to the right and sometimes projects an erring drive back out of the trees and into a slightly better position in the left rough. The second shot is over a ditch to a tricky green which slopes down to the right and back towards the player. The green is guarded by a bunker forty yards short and on the left of the fairway, blocking the approach from that side. A bunker that was slightly further on and further left (still marked on the above plan) has been removed, as it served no real purpose. However, there is a bunker at the front left of the green and a more threatening one front right which eats into the green and can cause problems for an approach from that side. However, the ground just before the green does tend to run the ball in from the left.. There is a clump of pines, planted in the early to mid 1950s just behind the green and the rough in there is very thick. This hole has a tee shot that is exhilarating to play and may engineer considerable run. Because of the bunker threatening the tee shot and the right greenside bunker’s obstructing effect, the best line is slightly to the left, though the run in from the left tends to counteract this to some extent..

16th hole (420 yards, par 4)

16

Fowler 402 yards. This hole runs west and into the prevailing wind. The tee is elevated and once again the tee shot is threatened by trees on both sides. The fairway, which is quite narrow, lies along a kind of natural shelf and the ground falls away to the left. The ground dips immediately down from the tee, but then rises again to the shelf. If the drive is too short it will lose its momentum when striking the hill and that leaves a very difficult second shot and brings into play two bunkers, one left and then one right, from fifty to eighty yards from the green. If the drive is well hit so as to carry onto the top part of the shelf or even over it onto the then descending ground, it will run out very well, though this can result in a second shot off awkward terrain with the player’s left foot much lower in the stance than the right one. The second shot is a difficult one uphill past the two approach bunkers mentioned earlier, to a large double tiered green, which slopes mainly down to the left, and also has a ridge across the entrance. The front left of the green is guarded by a grassy mound (this used to be a bunker) and there are two bunkers protecting the right of the green. The ground to the left rear of the green drops away quite severely. This is a demanding hole. It has an impressive look about it both from the tee and for the second shot. The view towards Birkin Hill and the isolated trees behind the green are most attractive. The second shot tends to look longer than it is in reality.

17th hole (487 yards, par 5)

17

Fowler 468 yards. This is a sharp dog leg to the right, running basically in an eastward direction, so favoured by the prevailing wind. At the corner of the dogleg and also along most of the right side of the hole are many trees. In favourable conditions it is possible to carry the trees right at the corner of the dog leg, but it can be a risky tactic. There are also trees all down the left, but they are not close in. At one time before the trees were there, the corner of the dog leg was guarded by rough and bunkers, but the latter are no more. The safer line from the tee is the single pine tree on the far side of the dog leg. The second shot is through a valley onto ground that rises significantly up to the elevated green. There is little run to be gained up the hill. The green is guarded by one bunker front left and another front right. These are both formidable. The green slopes very slightly down to the right. This is a challenging golf hole and the tee shot is perhaps the most demanding on the course. If the corner is cut the ball lands on ground favouring the player and considerable run can be gained. This brings the green in range, but the second shot will have to carry virtually to the green to gain significant advantage. The view to the green is somewhat featureless with nothing much at the back to give focus. Also the orientation of the second shot with trees close in and relatively open ground to the left before the trees impinge makes for difficult aiming of the shot. The wooded country to the left after the dog leg is the home to many rabbits (not the golfing kind) who like to take the air on a summer’s evening and watch the trials of the golfers going by!

18th hole (322 yards, par 4)

18

Fowler 348 yards. The hole runs north and is slightly uphill from the start, the slope increasing as the hole gets nearer. The tee shot is pretty narrow. Up the right is a line of trees and outside of that is Willow Lane (not out of bounds). On the left there is significant rough and further left some trees and heavy rough. Willow Lane (by this time a sunken road) bends left not far from the green and runs diagonally across the fairway. A very long drive can reach the road, which is considered as part of the fairway, so that if the player’s ball is on the road, he can play it as it lies or take a penalty drop. There is a particularly large tree on the right at a point just before Willow Lane starts to turn left. This is the main strategic feature on this hole, because anything right off the tee is blocked out from the green by the tree. In view of this the hole plays as a kind of dog leg, and requires a tee shot to the middle or left of the fairway. The green is set into the rising ground which is quite steeply banked in front. The green is guarded by three deep bunkers, one to the left front and two to the right front and side. The green slopes down to the front, so it is best to try to stay below the pin. It is a two tier green with a swale at the back. The tee shot makes this hole and is the key to success on it. The second, though only a short iron, is difficult to judge since the bottom of the flag cannot be seen from down the fairway. The hole makes a good finishing hole as birdie possibilities are always there, given, as stated, earlier a long and straight tee shot. If desired the hole could be lengthened by some fifteen or twenty yards.

Conclusion

The Bradford Golf Club is a fine course with a long and proud history. It is beautifully presented and has much to offer, both from its historic associations with days gone by, and the impressive and challenging characteristics that it continues to provide today.

THE END

*   John Beaumont is a lawyer by training and was formerly Head of the School of Law at Leeds Metropolitan University, England. He is now working as a legal consultant and freelance writer. In relation to the subject of golf architecture he has written articles on Hoylake and on Ganton for an American journal. He can be contacted directly at email john.beaumont7@virgin.net.