THE SUNNINGDALE STORY

 

 

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE OLD AND NEW COURSES OF SUNNINGDALE GOLF CLUB FROM THE BEGINNING

 

 

 

Originally compiled by GUY BENNETT 1962

Secretary of Sunningdale Golf Club 1934-39

 

 

 

 

 

Additional historical material including old photographs, some regrettably in poor condition, topical comments in italics, and recent photography has been added by John Churchill. Sunningdale    May 2012

 

 

 

All rights reserved

Churchill.john@btinternet.com

 


 

 

 

Contents

 

THE SUNNINGDALE STORY.. 1

Foreword. 3

Editors Acknowledgments. 5

Introduction. 6

Early History. 9

Changes to the seventh and eighth holes. 18

The “St Andrews”  double green. 27

The Luftwaffe alterations. 28

The Colt lost holes. 38

The Simpson re-design. 51

The New Course finishing run. 59

The Colt and Morrison alterations. 62

Epilogue. 69

References. 70

Appendix. 72

 


 

Foreword

 

As the present Secretary at Sunningdale Golf Club I feel fortunate to be asked to write a foreword to what is essentially a republishing of a book by one of my predecessors, Major Guy Bennett, Secretary from 1933 to 1939. Originally published privately in 1957 and 62 his booklet was distributed to those of his friends who might have been interested, with no record of it having ever been actually sold.

 

Bennett was well acquainted with the earlier Club Secretary, Harry Colt, who was also Captain during Bennett’s period as Secretary, during which Colt and John Morrison created the final re-arrangement of the New Course. All three were members of that nebulous organisation, the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society, as was another writer on Sunningdale, Bernard Darwin, and indeed is the Editor of this re-publication.

 

Bennett has done the golf world a favour in leaving his work to posterity, and as Sunningdale Golf Club is now known world wide through the medium of television, the issuing of his work on the internet is now the more valuable and interesting for a wider spectrum of readers, as a record of how the two Sunningdale courses, both in the world’s top hundred according to various ratings, have evolved to their present layout.

 

The Editor, John Churchill, has been a member of Sunningdale Golf Club for well over 50 years, covering the period when Guy Bennett was still an active member, and he has pulled together much new material and personal observation which should interest anyone with a general interest in golf architecture and history, or a specific love of the Sunningdale courses.

 

Stephen Toon. 2012


Preface

 

This photograph is of Major Guy Bennett MC, taken in 1938 when he was Secretary of Sunningdale Golf Club, a post in which he was ideally placed to study and write about the early development of Sunningdale’s two golf courses. Guy Bennett was also the Honorary Secretary of the Senior Golfers Society for a number of years. James Moir, Sunningdale member and one time Captain, followed him in both secretarial roles.

 

Major Guy Bennett

Bennett was an Oxford Cricket “blue” 1904-6 and played against both the Australian and South African touring sides. He was a prolific run scorer for Berkshire, making several centuries. Although not a Golf “blue” he was elected a member of the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society following his winning of the Hertfordshire Championship in1928. He regularly played for Harrow in the Halford Hewitt tournament and also in the Presidents Putter, at one time holding a handicap of plus

two.
 

Editors Acknowledgments

 

Thanks are due to Sunningdale Course Director, Murray Long, for mapping the lost holes of the New course and   member Christopher Lane for his painting of Colt’s sixth hole of the New Course. Valuable help in finding old photos of Sunningdale courses was received from Dale Concannon of Old Golf images (ref 9), and Gerry Westall of the Museum of English Rural life in Reading, curator of the Suttons Seeds collection. Members Dru Montagu and Peter Trower kindly made available their family photos of the courses in the 1930s.

 

The contribution of   Russell Talley, of Golf Course Architects Hawtree was also invaluable in locating the owner of a Bernard Darwin 1924 booklet, “Sunningdale Golf Club” and to the owner of that apparently only surviving booklet, the Australian golf architect, Neil Crafter of Adelaide, who has provided a copy to Sunningdale Golf Club.

 

We should also thank Jess Stiles, Secretary of the Tom Simpson Society for copies of 1934 Field magazine, and mention has been made of comments in the “Courses” chapter in “The History of Sunningdale Golf Club” (2000) by John Whitfield, and available from the Club office price £35.

 

Finally the Editor would like to thank Major Graeme Bennett, grandson of Guy Bennett’s, for proof reading and for the encouragement to edit and re-publish his grandfather’s work, which may be repeated if further historical material becomes available.


Introduction

 

The original author of this booklet, Major Guy Bennett, was the Secretary of Sunningdale Golf Club from 1934 until 1939. He had the opportunity for numerous conversations with a Club Founder, Mr. TA Roberts, and the Head Greenkeeper who had actually helped build the Old Course, under the management of Willie Park. Bennett was in situ during the drastic alterations to the New Course in 1934 and 1938. No one could have been better equipped to write the histories of these great courses.

 

 He first wrote this treatise in 1957 and it is recorded in a golfing bibliography as having been printed privately and a copy was found in an internet bookshop in 2010 which is now in the Club archive. A copy had been held in the USGA library, though not held by the R and A at the Golf Museum in St. Andrews. The booklet was updated and retyped in 1962. Certain comments from the booklet are recorded in John Whitfield’s “History of Sunningdale 2010”, available from Sunningdale Golf Club or Amazon.

 

Bennett’s purpose was to supply a record for posterity and making it available in edited form to Sunningdale residents and members, past, present and future, and to others who also love these golf courses, will help to achieve this. It should increase the interest in and knowledge of the development of these courses, and add a golfing archaeology interest to dog walking and hiking by helping to identify lost holes and features that have been long ago grown over by trees, bushes, heather and scrub.

 

 Comments, photographs and diagrams have been added by the Editor, with the approval of the copyright holder, and the work is intended for those who already know Sunningdale and are interested in golf architecture and history. Editor’s comments, occasionally contradicting Bennett as better historical data has become available, are included in italics to ensure that none are mistaken as part of the original Bennett typescript. Some may seem superfluous, but will be less so to some younger members and many visitors to Sunningdale.

 

It appears that in writing his history of the courses Bennett may not have had access to, but might have been aware of the booklet written in 1924 by Bernard Darwin, at the behest of the Club, and entitled “The Sunningdale Golf Club”, which contained much local advertising, including an advertisement from a local shop owned by the first US Open Champion, Horace Rawlings and his wife, which sold golf clubs and hosiery!!

 

Bennett also made no mention of the several pages on the Sunningdale Old Course in Darwin’s epic book, “The Golf Courses of the British Isles”, published in 1910. First editions of this book today change hands at over one thousand pounds.

 

Sunningdale Golf Club is indeed fortunate to have had two such dedicated authors as Darwin and Bennett, one professional, and acclaimed as the outstanding golf author of the twentieth century, and the other a skillful and dedicated amateur, to have recorded the history of the evolution of its golf courses.

 

 Additionally, Robert Browning was commissioned to write a booklet on the Sunningdale courses in the early fifties, and that was periodically updated, mostly supported by new local advertisers, throughout the fifties and sixties, but as the courses became more famous, thanks in part to the effects of television, the practice has been discontinued. Copies of the Browning booklets are often available for sale on the internet (ref 11).

 

The lack of any historical information in these Browning booklets possibly prompted Guy Bennett to write the 1957 first edition of the present work, which was contemporary with the 1957 edition of the Browning booklet.

 

Further useful sources of information on the Sunningdale courses can be found in various subsections of the web site www.golfclubatlas.com (see ref 10), and in the Sunningdale web site (see ref 12).