Founded by wealthy local businessman and Member of Parliament, Sir Cosmo Bonsor, the Old Course – like its sister, the New – was designed by first-time architect Herbert Fowler, who weaved an intoxicating 18-hole layout among the plentiful heather, gorse and bracken.
The Old Course was opened in May 1904 with an exhibition match between Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid, the five-time Open Champion who was to spend 46 ½ years at Walton Heath as Club Professional.
Just four years after the Old Course was inaugurated, Fowler laid down the New Course, which was opened as a nine-hole lay-out but soon extended to a full 18 and ready for play by 1913.
Down the years, Walton Heath has acted as a siren call for many famous individuals, most notably Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), who in 1935 became the only reigning monarch to take office as a golf club Captain.
Among those who became Members are four Prime Ministers, namely Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Arthur Balfour and Sir Winston Churchill.
Tournament golf – amateur and professional – has been integral to Walton Heath’s illustrious history, dating back to 1905 when James Braid won the News of the World Match Play Championship.
The Club’s Honours Board has continued to expand over the subsequent decades, culminating in the 1981 Ryder Cup match between Europe and the United States. Walton Heath also hosted five European Opens between 1978 and 1991, the Senior Open in 2011 and, in 2018, the British Masters for the first time.
Additionally, since 2005, the Club has staged the Walton Heath Trophy for elite amateurs and the only European Qualifier for the U.S. Open Championship. In the first year of the latter event, one of the Qualifiers, New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, went on to win the U.S. Open from Tiger Woods at Pinehurst No.2 just two weeks after booking his ticket at Walton Heath.
The par-72 Old Course stretches to 7331 yards (6703 metres) from the purple tees and 6364 yards (5819 metres) from the green (or Club) tees. The New Course is also a par-72 and measures 7199 yards (6582 metres) from the purple tees and 6278 yards (5740 metres) from the green tees.
Two English professional golfers established the course records while still amateurs. Jack Senior shot the Old Course record of 62 during the 2010 Walton Heath Trophy while David Boote, a former Walton Heath Club Champion and now the Club’s Touring Professional, recorded 62 on the New Course during the 2017 U.S. Open Qualifier.
Images credit and copyright Charles Briscoe-Knight