Herbert Fowler and The Bradford Golf Club, Hawksworth:
The Creation of a Little Known Jewel
The county of Yorkshire in England, the “White Rose” county, is the home of many fine golf courses. Most famous amongst them is perhaps Ganton, host at different times of the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup, and the Curtis Cup, several professional tournaments, and many national amateur competitions. Then there is Moortown, site of the very first Ryder Cup, plus again professional tournaments and leading amateur contests. Thirdly, there is Alwoodley, venue itself for several national amateur championships over the years. There are many other courses noted in the history of the game and dealt with specifically, even if in less detail, in books on the architectural side of golf.
Intriguingly, some well known courses in Yorkshire are not exactly in the places described by their names. Moor Allerton has moved away from its original home; and Headingley was from the first never exactly in that particular part of Leeds, as it is usually thought of.
This phenomenon relating to site and place name applies to another golf course in this area, one that has in a certain way been neglected by writers on golf architecture, golf course design, and the history of golf. This is The Bradford Golf Club, Hawksworth, Yorkshire, which is not in Bradford really, but rather in Leeds. The club is now 121 years old, and founded in the same year as Ganton. But, what The Bradford Golf Club has is a particular history that is almost certainly unique in one respect. This is that those charged with running the club had the temerity to turn down proposals made to it by no lesser figures in golf architecture than Harry Colt and Alistair Mackenzie. Well, more fool them is the likely response to this fact! However, the club did accept proposals for an almost completely new arrangement of the existing course made by none other than Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson. The following article relates the story so far as it is known. I should preface this account by stating my gratitude to the present manager of the club in question, James Washington (what better name for an American audience!). Recent alterations and refurbishment of the club house have involved an examination of the old records and several resulting discoveries have been made, which are relevant to the history of the club.
On 16th April 1891 nine members of the St. Andrews Society met at the Victoria Hotel, Bradford. They agreed to found a new golf club to be known as “The Bradford St. Andrews Golf Club. In due course a seven hole course was laid out on Baildon Moor by Mr. R. Hutchison (sometimes referred to as Hutchinson) on land rented from Colonel Maude (rent was £10 per annum!). In 1892 a further two holes were added and in 1893 the famous Tom Morris of St. Andrews laid out an additional nine holes, thereby forming an eighteen hole course (fee for this one guinea a day plus travelling expenses). In 1894 the name of the club was changed to “The Bradford Golf Club.”
The First Course at Hawksworth
On 10th October 1898, at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the members, a detailed scheme was approved for the foundation of a new course and clubhouse at Hawksworth. The new course was ready for play on 1st May 1899 and the clubhouse was formally opened on 9th November 1900. This new course was laid out on the site of the present course, a southern facing slope, about 600 feet above sea level, the highest part being 650 feet. Thirteen of the holes (the 4th to the 16th inclusive, apart from the approach to and green of the 16th) were placed in what was known as the “Hall Croft,” a 72 acre piece of old park land. The other five holes (the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, apart from its green), 17th and 18th) lay in meadow land to the east of Hall Croft. Here is the general plan of the course, as shown in the course handbook for 1914.
The question has arisen as to who laid out the holes. This is easily answered by reference to the course handbook of the time. The holes were laid out by the Committee with the cooperation of W. C. Gaudin, the professional at that time. The work of making the greens and bunkers, was superintended by an esteemed member of the club, Mr. W. J. Leeming.
By the time of the First World War, the layout of the course remained substantially the same as that laid out in 1899, though many specific alterations had been made. Much drainage work was done. The sites of several greens had either to be extensively drained or entirely changed. The 1st, 2nd, 5th and 15th greens were moved. Despite this the overall length of each hole, according to the documentary records, did not change during this period.
The essential characteristic of the course was that of moor land with gorse and heather, but very few trees. This has to be borne in mind when considering the previous course, since it is in such contrast to the course as it is today.
In the Hall Croft were two particular features or “eminences”, perhaps best referred to as knolls, considered in the Ordnance Survey map to be worthy of names, mentioned here because they continue to be notable features of the existing course. These are Greenhouse Hill and Birkin Hill, both of which are said to be lateral moraines of the ancient glacier that once occupied the Aire Valley. Both of these hills were utilised in the construction of the course. Greenhouse Hill was capped by the 3rd green (the present 9th green). Birkin Hill was the site of the 8th and 11th greens (the present 3rd and 14th greens respectively). Birkin Hill still shows the humps and hollows caused by delving efforts in the past to secure the limestone boulders that existed in these moraines, the only limestone to be found for miles around.
So what was this course like? Well, the first nine holes were for the most part concentrated on the northern part of the land and with the exception of the 7th and 9th ran according to the north-south direction or its opposite. Two of the first nine holes made frontal attacks on hills (not recommended in most architectural texts and condemned in some), the 4th, which ran up towards Hawksworth Lane and had Willow Lane to its right, and, more noticeably, the 6th, which was some way to the west of this. The second nine holes, by contrast, were mainly, though not exclusively, to the south, and, with the exception of the 11th, 12th and 18th ran along the east-west axis or its opposite. Virtually all of the holes had cross bunkers of some kind, as seems to have been the fashion then.
The length of the holes (measured from the middle of the back tees to the middle of the greens) and their bogey figure (the equivalent then of par today) was as follows:
Hole Yds Bogey
1. 250 4
2. 273 4
3 370 4
4 384 5
5 400 5
6 347 5
7 367 5
8 160 3
9 263 4
Out 2814 39
10 310 4
11 150 3
12 257 4
13 500 5
14 433 5
15 340 4
16 400 5
17 366 4
18 380 5
In 3136 39
Total 5950 78
What is clear from the above figures is the fact that with the clubs and balls then in use, distances achieved by players were relatively short. However, it is amusing (for us today, though probably not for the players of that era) that the longest hole on the course then (the 13th) was longer than any of the holes on the present course.
An indication of the nature of the test posed by the course can be gleaned from the course handbooks of that time. A review of each hole is informative. The 1st hole (250 yards) was played downhill from a point fairly close to the ladies tee on the present first hole to a point well short of, and to the right of, the present 11th green. The green itself was situated quite close to Willow Lane on its right and was guarded by bunkers on both sides of the green. The handbook comments that under favourable circumstances the hole was not a difficult three if one’s drive was straight, indicating the downhill nature of the hole. However, a sliced drive might place the ball in Willow Lane and trouble might ensue. On the left of the present 11th hole, at about 150 yards from the men’s tee, the traces of bunkers on the left of this hole can be found.
The 2nd hole (273 yards) went from a tee behind the 1st green and close up against Willow Lane. It was quite close to the site of the present 12th tee. The green, the remains of which in the form of some humps and hollows, can still be seen. This is in the rough to the right of the present 9th fairway at the end of the first continuous line of trees running from the tee. This was seen then as a drive and a pitch hole, the second shot being made more difficult by the fact that there were bunkers placed right across the front of the green and also two trees at either end of the bunkers.
The 3rd hole (370 yards) started just behind the 2nd green and went to the present 9th green. At this time there was a ditch (also referred to as a “water bunker”), which ran across the fairway and seemingly required a long carry to clear it from the back tee. The green was, of course, then, as now, on a plateau (part of Greenhouse Hill) with a steep slope up to the green. The handbook advises a run up second, but intriguingly refers to a complication given to this shot by a wall about thirty yards short of the green. The wall is presumably the boundary wall of the Croft. If so, then it was somewhat further from the green than thirty yards. A low bank at the back of the green prevented some balls from finding the rough beyond. The left bunker on the present 9th green may be a remnant of the early layout.
The 4th hole (384 yards), referred to earlier, ran due north with Willow Lane on its right to a green just short of Hawksworth Lane. The tee was almost certainly on what is now the 12th green of the present course. The second shot was uphill to a blind green and a cross bunker provided a significant challenge. The fairway sloped to the right, so the shot had to be brought in from the left.
The 5th hole (400 yards), which ran to the south-west had a blind tee shot from a back tee backing onto Hawksworth Lane down a steep hill. The green was guarded on all sides. The drive needed to be placed a little to the right of the straight line to give a somewhat easier approach. There was a ditch to the left of the green. This ditch is the one that crosses the present 15th fairway some way short of the green of that hole.
The 6th hole (347 yards) ran parallel to the 5th and climbed up to the high land again to the present 1st green. The tee was to the west of the then 5th green. A straight tee shot or one placed slightly to the left was needed to avoid bunkers. The green, though visible from the tee, was blind for the second shot, but was not guarded by bunkers. It is interesting to note that the guidelines put forward at the time of the 1922 revision included the proposed elimination of the climb to the 6th hole. As stated earlier, climbs of this kind are frowned upon by architects and are never popular with members.
The 7th hole (367 yards), a shorter version of the present 2nd hole, ran westward to the present 2nd green. The tee shot had to carry the wide dip in the ground. The approach to the green was blind. The green itself sloped down to the left and was a difficult one on which to get down in two putts.
The 8th hole (160 yards), as will be seen, is in essence the present 3rd hole and so slightly downhill. Originally this hole was called the “Pond” hole because of that feature. It was also a blind short hole. By 1914 the pond had been drained. Furthermore, in 1912 the hole was considerably altered, a great quantity of earth was cut away from the front enabling the flag to be seen, and several bunkers were constructed, including two cross bunkers before the green. The two bunkers to the left of the present 3rd green can be found on the original layout.
The 9th hole (263 yards) turned to the east. The tee was very close to the back tee of the present 15th hole. The soil from the excavations at the 8th formed a range of bunkers for the tee shot. Bunkers also ran down the right hand side of the hole. However, the course handbook stated that a long drive slightly to the left would under favourable circumstances (this probably refers to the prevailing wind being in the player’s favour) reach the green. The site of this green can still be seen on the left side of the present 17th hole at the bend in the dog-leg.
The 10th hole (310 yards) ran in a south-westerly direction to the present 13th green. There were no bunkers for the tee shot, but the green, one of the largest on the course, was carefully guarded, especially on the right. A drive placed to the left opened out the green. To the right of the green was “Birkin Well” where a spout of clear water flowed into a stone trough. It was related that the water had been analyzed and pronounced excellent for drinking purposes. A cup was kept by the well, which was said to have been much patronised in hot weather. In fact the well is still there, but although it is to the right of the then 10th green (now 13th) it is in fact closer to the old 9th (just to the right of the fairway on the present 15th hole.
The 11th hole (150 yards), basically the present 14th hole, was thought to be the best hole on the course. A straight shot to this uphill hole would secure a three, but a ball that deviated from the straight course is kicked away to the left or right and found trouble. The bunker to the right of the green was the finishing place of many tee shots. There was also a large and rather ugly cross bunker quite close to the tee. As the handbook put it, a topped tee shot met immediate retribution! That bunker has gone, but the front and left bunkers on the present 14th green may be remnants of the early layout.
The 12th hole (257 yards) is in essence the present 4th hole and so slightly downhill. It was thought of as a simple four but a difficult three. This was because of the trouble on both sides of the course to say nothing of the “out of bounds” all the way down the right and relatively close in, which exercised on some players a fatal fascination. The first two fairway bunkers on the present 4th hole are shown on the earlier layout.
The 13th hole (500 yards), the longest hole on the course, began at the present 5th tee, but ran along the southern boundary of the Hall Croft to a green situated just before Willow Lane. For the tee shot there were bunkers on the right. There was a cross bunker for the second shot. A bunker at the right hand corner of the green gave much interest to the third shot. There was a ridge on the left of the green.
The 14th hole (433 yards) went back westward from a back tee just to the east side of Willow Lane, and was thought of as the best two shot hole on the course, though most players were satisfied with a five. There was no bunker for the tee shot. There were cross bunkers well short of the green and only liable to catch a topped second shot. The green was undulating and carefully guarded all around. A long high second shot was required to carry a bunker in front of the green and yet remain on the green. The site of this green was between the left of the present 13th green and the left of the present 5th fairway.
The 15th hole (340 yards) turned the player to the east again. Its tee was very close to that of the present 14th hole, and its green was very slightly to the left of the present 5th hole. With a following wind (the prevailing one, of course) and dry ground the long hitter was advised to take an iron club from the tee, otherwise he might reach a ditch that ran across the course. The green was well guarded on the right, but a tee shot placed to the left opened it out. The green bunkers on the present 5th hole may be original.
The 16th hole (400 yards), continuing east, was from a tee which was a long walk back and to the right of the previous green, was until 1914 very plain and featureless. Imposing bunkers were then constructed and they awaited a sliced shot while the boundary wall of the Croft caught a topped one. There was also a ridge of bunkers on the left.
The 17th hole (366 yards), continuing in the same general direction, is essentially the present 8th hole and was therefore uphill. There was quite a long walk to the tee from the green of the preceding hole. From the tee there was a ditch with a mound to its right and trees to the left. The green was entirely re-made in 1912 so as to be undulating with raised edges round the back and sides. The approach was closely guarded with numerous bunkers. The right green bunker on the present 8th hole may be the original bunker. To the right of the green ran the old pack-horse road from Bingley to Otley.
The 18th hole (380 yards), beginning from the left of the previous green and running in a north-westerly direction, had its green just short of the present 10th green. A turfed wall with a ditch at its base had to be carried by the tee shot. A cross bunker had to be negotiated for the uphill second shot and there were bunkers to the left and right on the top of the hill. The green was not easy to find.
As to the evaluation of the course in general terms at this time, it is referred to in Nisbet’s Golf Year Book (1911) as follows:
“Peat soil; undulating. This is the best of several courses round Bradford. It is laid out on old pasture land. The lies and greens are very good, the latter being much larger then those usually found on inland courses”.
Enter and Exit Colt and Mackenzie
In 1919 Harry Colt was paid a fee of £21 plus expenses of £5 to inspect the course and suggest improvements. His business partner Alistair Mackenzie was also consulted at this time and drew up plans for the bunkering of the course. However, for whatever reason Colt and Mackenzie failed to impress. It appears that the drainage work was carried out, but it is unclear what happened about the other proposals. It is not known whether some of their suggestions were implemented, but certainly the company was not engaged any further. Events took a very different turn.
Fowler was one of the most renowned golf architects of the “Golden Era” immediately prior to World War I when many of the world’s great golf courses were built. By this time Fowler had already become recognized as a great golf architect for his work on many of the best courses in Britain.
Fowler believed strongly that courses should follow the contours of the land, and have a natural feeling, shunning the use of “man-made contrivances,” believing that topography could test the world’s best golfers just as adequately. As he put it, “God builds golf links and the less man meddles the better for all concerned.” In his description of Fowler’s work, the doyen of writers on golf, Bernard Darwin, said “I never knew anyone who could more swiftly take on the possibilities of the ground.”
Fowler felt that only side hazards should be put in during construction and that any cross bunkers should be left until he could see how the ball would run. In any case he believed that bunkers on the sides and especially near greens were the prime requisite, that players sliced and pulled more than they topped and that as a slice was the greater fault more bunkers should be placed on the right. He was noted for using bunkers relatively sparingly. Bunkers, he thought, should be shaped like an old hip bath, not with a steep bank and flat base as at many inland clubs but having a gradual curve from top to bottom so that balls did not lie hard against the face but ran down towards the centre. However they should be deeper than on most courses. Indeed, they became known as “Fowler’s graves”. So long as a green was well guarded and the approach shot difficult the hole would always be considered a good one, far more so than if its main difficulty lay in the tee shot. As for tee sites, themselves, these were usually simple. His greens were often right on the natural grade and often simply extensions of the fairway. Others were carefully placed on small rises to add some additional difficulty. The one thing he never seemed to do was to add mounding or other backings to add definition, he chose instead to embrace what was always there. Overall his style was not full of grand flourishes and would be best described as understated.
Fowler liked to start designing the course by finding natural par 3 locations and then trying to work the holes to and from those locations in order to create the most interesting layout. Bradford is a fine example of this the third and fourteenth holes, use the natural rise in topography. His style would be best described as understated. He kept his tee sites simple; he used his bunkers sparingly, concentrating on key strategic locations. He worked with the rolls and undulations of the natural land he never seemed to add mounds or other features to add definition, instead he used what was already there. He was described in a book by Bernard Darwin as “perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects, and gifted with an inspired eye for the possibility of a golfing country.
Many were the fine golf courses designed by Fowler, both in Britain and the United States, the most notable in Britain being those at Walton Heath. In the United States he is most famous for the redesign of one hole, the 18th at Pebble Beach. He also altered or renovated several very famous courses.
Herbert Fowler worked with other architects from time to time. His most famous partnership came into being when Tom Simpson joined Fowler’s design team in 1910. They were still together in the early 1920s, though Fowler concentrated in Britain, Simpson on the Continent.
The Fowler Revision: General Issues
What happened at Hawksworth was that after the departure of Colt and Mackenzie was that none other than Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson were called in to alter substantially the existing course. It would appear that the major, if not complete role as designer of the new course, was taken by Fowler (at a fee of £20 plus expenses!). The following guidelines were set down:
1. Minimum length 6000 yards.
2. Elimination of the climb to the 6th hole.
3. Two loops.
4. Good length holes including one good mashie shot.
5. Utilisation of existing greens wherever possible.
The scheme was prepared and accepted, and Frank Harris Bros. Ltd. were instructed to carry out the work at a cost of £1977. The new course was ready for play in August 1923, and the old course was abandoned in September of that year. Below is a map of the whole course as it exists at present. This is almost the same as the 1922 version produced by Fowler, though there are some slight difference which are explained later.
Here are the present measurements of the holes:
Hole Yds Par
1. 325 4
2. 417 4
3. 155 3
4. 280 4
5. 461 4
6. 360 4
7. 440 4
8. 346 4
9. 491 5
Out 3275 36
10. 396 4
11. 307 4
12. 142 3
13. 367 4
14. 167 3
15. 416 4
16. 420 4
17. 487 5
18. 322 4
In 3024 35
Total 6299 71
Before looking at the course in detail it will be useful to measure it generally by referring to the guideline laid down above and asking to what extent Herbert Fowler complied with them.
As to length the plan submitted by Fowler listed the proposed length of each hole. The total length came to 6045 yards. It is not known exactly what length the new course was when finally opened for play, but it is probable that the figures were very similar. However, allowance must be made for one quite significant change that was made to the original plan.
As to the climb to the sixth hole, Fowler certainly eliminated that as requested, since he took out that hole altogether. It was clearly unpopular and was probably not a hole of any merit.
As to the request for the course to consist of two loops, that also was complied with. The course now became one involving a loop of eight holes followed by one of ten. However, at a later date the loops were reversed. It is clear that in 1935 the original order was still being used. It is unclear when exactly the change was made, but it is reckoned to have been carried out in the early 1950s. It is clear from the 1953 handbook that by the time this was published the present order had been adopted. In what follows the references to individual holes is to the present layout, except where it is specifically stated to the contrary.
The requirement of good length holes including one good mashie shot is somewhat ambiguous. According to the norms of that time, the holes could be said to be of good length. The reference to on good mashie shot perhaps refers to a prospective par 3 hole. Perhaps the present 14th hole is the one that complies with this, even though that hole existed in the form of the 11th on the old course. A mashie was equivalent to about a five iron today. The shot up the hill to this hole would in those days have been a very good mashie shot indeed.
The requirement to utilise the existing greens wherever possible requires more detailed treatment. First the bare facts. Fowler was able to utilise nine of the greens from the old layout. This worked out as follows:
The 6th green became the present 1st green
The 7th green became the present 2nd green
The 8th green became the present 3rd green
The 12th green became the present 4th green
The 15th green became the present 5th green^
The 17th green became the present 8th green
The 3rd green became the present 9th green
The 18th green became the present 10th green*
The 10th green became the present 13th green
The 11th green became the present 14th green
The 16th green became the present 7th green
(^ At least the present green overlaps the left half of the old green)
(* To be exact, as stated above, the earlier green here was just short of the present one).
A number of things should be stated regarding the utilisation of many of the old greens. Firstly, the need to keep these greens made Fowler’s task in routing the course more difficult, since it put an artificial restraint on the choices that he could make. In hindsight, and remembering that there were hardly any trees on the original layout, much use might have been made of the space between the present 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th holes. In addition, the present layout has the 9th hole crossing the 10th, never a satisfactory arrangement, despite the fact that there is a similar feature on the Old Course at St. Andrews. It must be pointed out, however, that this is not the work of Fowler and was done later.
The reason for the restriction on the making of new greens was presumably based on economics and finance, but it was unfortunate. As a result of these factors the routing of the present course does not flow as naturally as it might have done, and as it did on many of Fowler’s other courses.
This having been said, Fowler’s design does use certain topographical features of the site, notably the two knolls referred to earlier, known as Birkin Hill and Greenhouse Hill. The former supports the present 3rd and 14th greens and the 4th and 15th tees. The latter, which is in the shape of a ridge, forms a platform or backdrop for the present 5th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 17th greens. It also elevates the tees on the 6th, 13th, 16th, and supports the 18th tee. The 1953 course handbook quotes “a well-known golfing authority” as stating that these features with their irregular contours “provide a whole series of fascinating approach shots to greens in delightfully varied situations on the sides and the tops of the ridges, guarded by tricky and incalculable slopes.” These features alone give the course a distinctive character.
It is interesting, from a historical perspective in relation to golf architecture to note the difference in style between the remaining old 1899 greens and the ones created by Fowler in 1922. The Fowler greens have a more attractive roll with more gentle surrounding moundwork, whilst the older greens are less attractively contoured and more abrupt in style.
This leads on to the bunkering, where again there was a difference in style between the old and the new. The older ones have flat surfaces and abrupt faces, whereas the Fowler bunkers, even allowing for wear and tear, leading to repair and development over time tend to be more rounded in surface and fairer in respect of their faces.
Before examining the individual holes of the present course, it is proposed to look at the general routing adopted by Fowler. Again we must bear in mind that as originally presented, Fowler’s course started with the present 11th hole and proceeded as now to the present 18th hole, which was then the 8th. So what we had there was an inner loop of eight holes, based mainly in the northern part of the course. This was followed by another loop beginning with the present 1st hole, which ran along the northern and then western boundaries of the course, finally taking in most of the southern part of the course before finally heading north east to the clubhouse. Both loops involve playing holes in a variety of directions, and give variety in the context of wind direction. These two loops have now been reversed in the sense that they both exist as before but are played in reverse order.
One other general point needs to be made. It was seen that at the time of the old course the general terrain consisted partly of moorland, with all that implies, and partly meadowland. In his plan of the proposed routing of the course Fowler indicates where there were trees. There are hardly any references to them. The only examples given are the following: there were two trees not far from the tee on the future 5th hole on the left hand side of this hole. The same hole shared a few trees on its right with the 6th hole. There were also a few trees between what were to become the 11th and the 18th. In addition, there were some bushes between the 5th and 6th, and some other bushes on the right of the 8th just before the green. That was just about it. The lack of trees remained the case for many years afterwards during the life of the present course. However, in later years a major programme of tree planting took place, which has radically changed the character of the course. Many holes are now lined with trees of several varieties. These have been subject to some alterations themselves, for example so as not to be in perfectly straight lines. In addition, it is felt that some renovation of the course to bring back the older moorland features in places would be valuable and this is a task for the future. But, in essence this is very much today a tree lined course to the extent of trees acting as bunkers in the strategy of the course. There are hundreds of trees. The great extent of the change over the years can be gleaned from an article in a magazine issued for members. In this, written in 2001, an older member writes about what the course used to be like in the early days, basing his statements on his own experiences and those of his parents. Here is what he says:
“We now have trees in abundance but before most of them were planted there were three times as many bunkers as now. There were two trees on the left of the 5th fairway where the greenkeepers’ huts were, and two more trees on the right beyond the path. There were three or four trees on the left of the 9th fairway, a few between the 11th and 18th fairways, and single trees on the 13th and 15th. There was one tree between the 16th and 17th”.
The examination of the individual holes, which follows, refers to the present order of play. The length given in brackets after the number of the hole is the present length as at 2012. Within the description of each hole an account will be given of any changes between its first construction and its present nature.
The Fowler Revision: The Specifics (Then and Now)
1st hole (325 yards, par 4)
This hole, originally marked by Fowler at 318 yards, has remained much the same since its creation. It runs directly west and so is against the prevailing wind. It is played along a ridge parallel with Hawksworth Lane on the right. Out of bounds is the whole way down the right side of the hole, but this is reasonably well away from the straight line. The same is true of the line of mature trees running down the left side of the hole. The green is just visible from the tee. Willow Lane, which is in a dip must be carried from the tee, but it is only 170 yards away. There are two bunkers, one left and one right to catch an errant tee shot. From Willow Lane the fairway runs slightly up until it reaches a brow at which it levels out to the green. A short second follows to the now unsighted green. The green is long, slopes to the left (as does the ground forming the approach to it) and is guarded by two shallow bunkers, one on each side and to the front. There is a line of trees at the back of the green. The hole is essentially a penal one and provides a relatively easy start to the course, something proposed as desirable by many architects, notably Harry Colt, referred to earlier.
2nd hole (417 yards, par 4)
Fowler marks this as 420 yards. Again there has been little change since 1922. This is played in the same direction as the 1st, but on a bigger scale. Again there is out of bounds all the way down the right, but not particularly close in. There are also trees periodically on the left, especially for the drive. The tee is on a ridge and the drive is across a valley. Again there are two bunkers threatening the drive, the one on the left being slightly further away. Anything short off the tee leaves a long blind second shot. From the tee it is essential to keep to the right side of the fairway as everything slopes to the left. The drive, then, is relatively demanding. The upslope levels out shortly after the bunkers and it is a great advantage to the player to reach this level ground for the sake of a good stance for the second shot. Even from the first part of the level ground, however, the green cannot be seen. A low ridge has to be cleared with the second shot in order to get onto the green which is in a dip beyond. Past the end of the level ground there is a slope down to the fairly long green. Both the slope and the green fall away quite sharply to the left. The green is open on the right, although the rough grows well in, and the large bunker on the left of the green catches anything not on target. This is the one hole on the course with a completely blind approach shot (though a number are semi-blind). It is both challenging and entertaining for that reason alone.
3rd hole (155 yards, par 3)
Fowler 150 yards. As stated earlier, this is the old 8th hole. It runs south and requires a tee shot across a dip to a green on the crest of Birkin Hill. The green is most difficult to approach, the entry being through a narrow saddle in a ridge running across the front, though the last few yards to the green are slightly downhill. There are two bunkers on each side of the green and towards the front. At one time there was a cross bunker before the green, but this has gone. Depending on the conditions it can be difficult to judge the length, particularly with the prevailing wind that blows from the right. The pond, referred to earlier, is in front of the tee and slightly to the right, but this should not cause any real problems. If the tee shot is long a steep bank falls very sharply away to the left and rear of the green. One particular difficulty on this hole is that the greenside bunkers are raised up somewhat in the style often adopted at the time it was constructed, and which is referred to earlier. Recovery shots over these bunkers can be very difficult to what is a narrow green, though this is dependent, of course, on the flag position. There is one slight change to the green since the 1922 revision and this is that the green itself has been raised slightly since then. However, as stated earlier, this hole is a real link with the past and is to be valued for that reason alone. One final point. The present back tee means that the shot is played over part of the second green. The back tee would be better in the very corner, in other words further over to the right. That bring the right hand front bunker much more into play and requiring a fade shot when the flag is on the right of the green.
4th hole (280 yards, par 4)
Fowler 264 yards. This is the old 12th hole. It also runs south. The tee is a very elevated one. The slope is in the player’s favor and increases through a couple of terraces as the green is neared. A wall on the right, marking the boundary of the course, runs the full length of the hole and is quite close in. There are trees adjacent to the wall on the course side the whole way. The first two bunkers, again one on the left and one on the right are no threat at all, but there are three hidden bunkers further on to the left, one of which is next to the green. The tee shot should either be aimed over the right bunker or hit further left with fade. With a good drive the green is within reach. In any case the second shot is only a short pitch downwards to the large sloping green, but judgment of distance is difficult due to the variable slopes and terraces and the fact that the green slopes down towards the rear. This hole might be lengthened by putting in a new back tee closer to the boundary of the course, but as it presently stands it is an invitation to player to open his shoulders and drive the green and so have a putt for an eagle, balanced against the real threat posed by the out of bounds to the right. In addition, recovery shots from the two bunkers situated about thirty yards short of the green can be very awkward indeed. So there is an element of strategy and even “risk and reward” involved. However, a new tee, some 70 yards back to the edge of the pond would certainly provide a really significant challenge to the player. One problem that would have to be overcome then is the situation of the ladies tee at the 14th hole, which would be vulnerable to a wild hook. This might be moved slightly and also protected by a clump of trees.
5th hole (461 yards, par 4)
Fowler 450 yards. This hole runs east and so the prevailing wind is behind the player. The hole is a dog leg to the right and tall trees obscure the green if the tee shot is only slightly to the right. The rough encroaches further in on the right and there is also a bunker on that side about fifty yards short of the green at one point and threatening the second shot from that side. The safe line from the tee is to the left side of the fairway. This leaves a longer second, but opens up the green. There are also trees on the left menacing the tee shot. The second shot is slightly uphill to ground that slopes against the player. The green is well guarded by bunkers left and right. Again the approach has a tendency to run the ball down to the right. The green is a very tricky one with a distinct slope down from the left and also from the rear. This hole is a demanding “no-nonsense” par 4 even bearing in mind the prevailing wind and the green is frequently the scene of three putts.
6th hole (360 yards, par 4)
Fowler 365 yards. This hole turns the player back to the west and so into the prevailing wind, but length is not the main criterion. The original length was, as can be seen, very close to the present one. However, at one period the tee was on the shoulder of a ridge and fairly elevated. This made the hole a straight one. This is now the ladies tee. The present back tee is off to the left and is relatively low down. This makes the hole a slight dog leg to the left in shape. The fairway is undulating and quite narrow, but a well hit drive will catch a downslope and shorten the approach shot. The tee shot needs to be middle to left, which opens up the green. This is especially if the flag is on the right of the green, because of the bunker at its right front and the slope of the ground which runs away to the left. However there is a copse of trees that intrudes on the left at drive distance and this must be avoided. There are many more trees down the right, but these are further away. Anything right off the tee brings the green bunker into play and as the green itself slopes right to left makes the second shot that much harder. There is a dip before the green and then a slight upslope and ridge runs across the entry, making the second shot more difficult. This is compounded further by a piece of rough ground at the front left of the green, which was a bunker at one time. There is out of bounds to the left of the green and slightly to its rear, though it is not close in. Before the latter is reached the ground slopes sharply away. This hole has always been well thought of. It has a considerable degree of subtlety and the first thing for the player to do on reaching the tee is to check where the flag is on the green. The hole is made by the bunker guarding the right front of the green, plus the fact that the land approaching the green runs the ball of to the left. A possible change in the future might be to put in a new back tee just over the other side of Willow Lane, which would add about twenty yards to the hole.
7th hole (440 yards, par 4)
Fowler 468 yards. The original measurement is quite curious since the tee is right in the south west corner of the course and cannot be taken back any further. Perhaps the plan was for the green to be a bit further on than its present position, but this is not known. The green is essentially what was the old 16th green. The hole runs east and so is favored by the prevailing wind, but the second half of it is slightly uphill. The hole is a dog leg to the left. Willow Lane, which has to be crossed at some point, is 302 yards out from the tee. Out of bounds is to the right for more than the first half of the hole, but it is not unduly close. On the left are two clumps of tall pine trees. The planting of these trees in the early to mid 1950s changed the whole character of this hole, since they were on the correct line of the tee shot at that time. The planting of these trees resulted then in a good tee shot sometimes finishing in one of the two existing bunkers short of Willow Lane. These two bunkers have since been removed. The fairway before Willow Lane slopes down to the right and runs many drives down into the right rough. The best position after the tee shot is in the middle of the fairway, since to be on the left is to be blocked out from the green on the second shot owing to these trees, but it is not easy to gain this position in view of the slope. The second shot, across Willow Lane to the green, must carry a cross bunker some ** yards from the green. There used to be another bunker immediately to the right of this one (still indicated on the plan above), but this served little purpose, being off the true line, and was filled in. The ground approaching the green also slopes down to the right, so the approach must favour the left side of the green, which also slopes right. The green, which is quite tricky, is guarded by a bunker on the left and two on the right. This is a long and difficult par four, and another “no-nonsense” hole. At present there is a nondescript area between the green and the 8th tee. The planting of gorse or other bushes would give this some focus. If extra length were wanted the hole might be turned into a par five by pushing the tee back to a point behind the 6th green and next to the boundary wall. This could make the hole longer by as much as eighty five yards. If this were done then the second clump of pines would pose a problem. From a reasonably good drive to the middle of the present fairway, they would form a barrier to the green. If however the fairway was pushed to the right and closer to the boundary wall on that side, it would open up the approach to the green. Then the cross bunker would be much more of a hazard and many players would have to lay up short of it with their second shot. The alternative to moving the fairway right would be to remove the pines referred to.
Herbert Fowler and The Bradford Golf Club
8th hole (346 yards, par 4)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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**)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.