West Sussex Golf Club has been placed in the top hundred golf courses in the British Isles (1). It is a prime example of strategic golf course design set in scenery of heather, gorse, pine and silver birch near Pulborough, West Sussex. It can probably be regarded as one of the finest inland courses in England and also the culminating achievement of the golf consultancy known as Ferigna Ltd.
Stafford Vere Hotchkin was the man who set up the consultancy. He had served overseas with the Leicestershire Yeomanry in the First World War. In 1920, soon after his return to England, he purchased his home course, Woodhall Spa, in Lincolnshire. Between 1922 and 1926 he remodelled it with the assistance of Cecil Key Hutchison, already a renowned golf architect. The original course at Woodhall Spa had consisted of just nine holes designed by Harry Vardon, which was later extended to eighteen by Harry Shapland Colt. It was this layout that Hotchkin remodelled, retaining only one of Colt's greens.
Due particularly to his amendments at Woodhall Spa, Hotchkin is considered to be a first rate golf architect in his own right, especially by Bernard Darwin, who describes the course as "distinctly engaging" and as "sandy, heathery and pleasant"(2).
It is soon after completing work at Woodhall Spa that Hotchkin set up Ferigna Ltd. The firm dealt with all aspects of the golf course business including design, construction, maintenance, equipment, turf dressings and seed. Together with a friend, Arthur Taylor, who owned a local foundry, Hotchkin devised some revolutionary iron based turf dressings and fertilisers, hence the company name.
In his book, The Principles of Golf Architecture, published in the early 1920's, he gives advice on all aspects of golf course design in detail, golf course construction, drainage on golf courses, machinery required for their upkeep and maintenance procedures.
In the winter of 1927/1928, Hotchkin travelled to South Africa on his own to become involved in the remodelling of Durban C C, and others, including Humewood C C at Port Elizabeth, Transvaal, Mowbray, Cape Province, East London, Maccauvlei C C and Royal Port Alfred. He became well respected for these works. In fact, Abe Mitchell, the famous South African golf professional, regarded the 13th at Humewood and the 4th at East London as two of the best golf holes he had seen in any part of the world. Both were long and well bunkered par fours, demanding accurately placed tee shots (3). The apparent style on these courses was strategic, and although a majority were on linksland, Woodhall Spa exerted a major influence.
Hotchkin returned from South Africa in early 1928 and soon after, Cecil Key Hutchison and Sir Guy Colin Campbell joined Ferigna Ltd. This happened to be about the time that another great partnership was set up between H S Colt, C H Alison and J S F Morrison. Hutchison had played golf competitively until serving in World War 1. As a result of which, his game suffered and he then turned to golf course design. He worked as assistant to James Braid during the construction of Gleneagles before going on to assist Hotchkin at Woodhall Spa.
Campbell, a family friend of Hotchkin, had previously worked as a special correspondent and later the sub editor of the London Times under Bernard Darwin. Although he was a very competent golfer and well versed in all aspects of the game of golf, his only previous design experience was in assisting Hutchison with a putting course at Hurlingham polo ground and with the reconstruction of Wimereux Links near Boulogne, France.
Ferigna Ltd undertook the design and construction of several courses in the south of England including Ashridge, Warsash, Shoreham, Leeds Castle, and West Sussex. Neither Warsash nor Shoreham any longer exist, although Ashridge is regarded to be one of the top ten courses in the South East of England (4). It is a hilly well bunkered course set in parkland and woodland. Leeds Castle is a nine hole course set in parkland and warren whose reputation could rate as highly as Royal Worlington in Suffolk.
The golf course at West Sussex was the brainchild of Commander George Hillyard, a keen golfer. He lived in Bramfold, a house overlooking the attractive heathland at Pulborough, and he could see the potential in the land as a golf course. Although he was the founder of the club he was not responsible for its development.
Captain R S Oglethorpe and Messrs L C Ducane and George Horner took on the task of developing the course. The land was bought by Lt Col and Mrs Ravenscroft and the Hon Philip Henderson from farmer T W Elliot and then leased to the club. Hotchkin, Hutchison and Campbell were appointed to design the course in 1929 and the construction works were completed in September 1930. The course eventually opened for play on 25th April 1931 and the official opening was carried out by Joyce Wethered, the famous lady golfer.
Henry Longhurst had referred to the land as an oasis of perfect golfing country in surroundings which were unsuitable by comparison. He considered the land lent itself well to the development of a golf course, in terms of providing the ideal scenery, vegetation, topography and being otherwise unfarmable due to the acidic nature of the soil and the numerous rocky outcrops (5). He had a great deal of admiration for the designers and wrote affectionately of the course which they created.
Tom Simpson, who later made alterations to Ashridge, believed West Sussex should rank as at least the equal of any inland course in this or any other country. At the time of writing, he felt the course was so good that it would prove detrimental should the owners attempt to make it even better. He expressed his concern that more harm could be done after the original conception of a course has been carried out successfully, by so called finishing touches in the form of unnecessary and incongruous amendments (6).
The most likely influence on the design of West Sussex is Woodhall Spa. Their major similarity is the fact that they are both set in heathland, although in the case of the latter it is relatively flat, as opposed to the rolling and undulating character of the landscape at Pulborough. Regarding features on the courses themselves, both are designed in a loop of eighteen holes as opposed to two loops of nine which return to the clubhouse. At Woodhall Spa this was due to the piece of land being long and narrow and bisected by the railway line, whereas at West Sussex there was probably enough land to have built a further eighteen holes, although some of the marshier portions would have made this impractical.
Woodhall Spa is a long and demanding course playing just over 6800 yards with a par of 73. The emphasis here is upon the golfers ability to play a long and well placed drive off the tee, as the hazards consist of long carries over heather from the tee and strategically placed bunkers at the apex of a dogleg or in close proximity to a green. Should you miss the fairway, it is the thick and punishing rough of heather and gorse which make accuracy even more important.
Although West Sussex is much shorter in length, (6131 yards, par 67), and consists of five par threes and thirteen par fours, it plays equally in terms of its demands on, and its challenge to, all class of golfer. From the tee, every long hole requires a well placed drive in order to set up the best approach to the green. The short holes are by no means straightforward either, ranging from the 132 yd 15th which
plays across a pond, to the 220 yd 6th, a formidable par three which also plays across a pond.
This hole caused disagreement between Campbell and Hotchkin. Hutchison agreed with Hotchkin over the decision to change the original short par four into the awesome par three it is today. This meant there were two par threes in succession, which can be regarded as being a disadvantage in many cases, but here it does not upset the balance of the first nine holes at all, because to the majority of golfers, it plays more as a par four. The water features that come into play on both these holes are in naturally occurring bog and marsh, although the pond on the 6th hole was enlarged moderately. The longer 6th hole provides an alternative route around the pond, as opposed to the golfer playing a direct shot to the small green. The 15th hole demands a shot of greater accuracy to hit the green, the only route being directly over the pond, and although it is a larger green, it is surrounded by dense undergrowth.
It is features such as these, where hazards are used to force play over or around, that can be regarded as being synonymous with the design principles of Hotchkin, Campbell and Hutchison. In fact, Hotchkin says the best results are obtained by making a course conform to the natural surroundings that already exist, so that it will not look artificial and fail to blend with the landscape (7).
The layout of the course and, in particular, the location of these two holes, suggests the designers surveyed the entire site and then carefully assessed its many attributes and few unfavourable elements. This seems to have enabled them to incorporate the most attractive features into the course and, subsequently, to route a challenging layout, using the natural landscape to its full potential.
Not only are these principles evident at the 6th and the 15th holes, but it can be seen to be repeated throughout the course in many different ways. For instance, on the 2nd, the 7th and the 16th, there were considerable carries to the fairway over deep pits, making the tee shot all the more daunting and intimidating. Prior to the 2nd World War, the back tee on the 2nd was placed on the south side of the Pulborough/Storrington road. This meant the golfer had to play his shot over the sand pit which, incidentally, was used to supply the courses bunkers. This made the hole play as a very long and probably the most difficult par four on the course, but it caused problems in terms of safety as the road became busier during the war. Although the teeing position has been moved forward to the north side of the road, adjacent to the sand pit, it still requires a great deal of skill with a well placed drive, as the approach shot to the small green has to be played over a deep and wide gully, which gives it the illusion of being shorter than it actually is.
The 7th is an awesome par four hole of 442 yards, with a carry of about 180 yards over heather and scrub, set in which, is a cavernous bunker. What makes it yet more difficult, is the fact that it is a blind drive. Sadly, the original severity of this tee shot was somewhat lessened in 1933, due to the then Captain of the club, L C Ducane. He had a grassy valley constructed to the left of the bunker for the benefit of elderly members and himself, who could not reach the fairway, later to be known as Ducane's Hollow.
The 16th hole is not necessarily a long hole at 365 yards, but again, the well placed tee shot has a major influence on the way in which you approach the green. Although there are no bunkers on this hole, the deep pit in the carry between the back tee and the fairway used to be one, and the green was once guarded by three. As it is, with a dense ground covering of heather, it functions well as a particularly tough hazard to play out of. The green has been placed on the far side of a gully, similar to the 2nd in some respects, except the setting for it is much more imaginative. On either side of the entrance to the green are two attractively curved mounds, guarding the approach from the low running shot. It does not require a lot of imagination to understand why the hole is affectionately known as 'Sheba'!
In addition to the difficult approaches to the greens, it is important to stress the influence that the bunkering has on the course at West Sussex, making an accurate tee shot vital. At West Sussex, where, like Woodhall Spa, the sand is naturally occurring, the bunkering plays a major part in the balance of its architectural make up. At both courses the positioning of bunkers is well thought out, and it is this that prevents the golfer from ever becoming complacent about the shot in hand. He has to play each hole as a strategic progression of shots. Each shot influences the way in which the next is played, and each, ultimately, is influenced by the bunkering. The bunkering design is the single most important factor affecting play of the course, with particular regard to its relationship to landing areas from tees, in the vicinity of dog legs, for example. It is the bunkering which is in control, and in some respects, the golfer has to conform to these circumstances by adapting his game accordingly. However, this does not prevent the good golfer from scoring well. The course is never simple, but it will always reward skillful golf.
There are certain holes in particular, which are remarkable for displaying this principle, for instance, the 5th, the 10th and the 13th. All three play differently, but each are influenced similarly by the bunkering design. The 5th hole is a tricky par three of 146 yards to a green well guarded on the left by three large bunkers and one large approach bunker about 30 yards short of the green. The green looks closer than it actually is because of the 'dead ground' created by a small swale between the approach bunker and the front of the green. This makes judging the length of the hole difficult, and it is made even more so by an undulating green which slopes quite steeply towards play. The bunkers which affect play on the 10th hole are about 200 yards from the tee, clustered around the left hand edge of the fairway as it dog legs to the left. To be confronted by these on the tee is a daunting prospect, and as the hole is 405 yards long, a good tee shot is vital. These bunkers are lying in wait for the slightly over hooked shot or the one which attempts to cut the corner just that little bit too much.
Not only are they very functional but they are attractively grouped together as a foursome, with gorse and heather flourishing on the surrounds. They seem to eat into the fairway from the rough and tend to direct the shot out to the right. The disadvantage of taking this line is that the landing area is sloping towards the green thus leaving the golfer with a hanging lie. The optimum line to find an ideal position from which to approach the green is across the right hand corner of the bunkers. The 13th hole is one of the most distinctive of any on the course, and as a par four of 363 yards it can play considerably longer due to a number of factors. It plays uphill, is generally into the prevailing wind, and the green is well guarded with deep bunkers. To make the hole more difficult is a bunker at 210 yards from the tee on the left side of the fairway. In order to shorten the carry over the bunkers and open up the green, it is best to approach from the left half of the fairway. The green is positioned obliquely in relation to the angle of play, leading away to the right, and the side bunkers effectively surround almost all of the front 180 degrees of the green.
Bunkers play a major part in the strategy of the design of other holes too. An interesting feature which is repeated three times is that of a chain of bunkers, for example on the 3rd hole. Here, the bunkers are located about 180 yards from the tee and reach across the full width of the fairway, so it is important to play a good drive. At the 14th, the chain comes into play again, but this time with the approach shot, about 100 yards short of the green. The green is set in a hollow with the fairway sloping down towards it, therefore the natural approach shot would be a straight forward low runner, particularly because the hole is a long par four of 434 yards, however, the location of these bunkers makes this impossible.
The bunkering on the 17th and 18th holes is equally impressive, although it tends to be not quite as extreme. At the 17th, there are three bunkers on the right side of the fairway at 200 yards from the tee, which direct the golfer left, towards the ideal line into the green. It is a formidable par four of 441 yards, and a good approach shot has to fly a single bunker set in the left half of the fairway about 120 yards from the green. It then has to fly the left side of a chain of three bunkers which eat into the right side of the fairway 50 yards short of the green. The 18th is a shorter hole at 403 yards, yet it can play as difficult as the 17th, particularly from the tee, as it is well bunkered (a total of eight), and invariably plays into the wind. There are two bunkers at 200 yards from the tee, one on each side of the fairway, two more 50 yards further, on the right half of the fairway, and another four guard the green, one on the right side and three to the left. On both holes, the focus therefore switches from one side of the fairway to the other, keeping the golfers' concentration all the way to the final shot of the round.
There is another form of strategic design at West Sussex and this occurs on greens where the flagstick itself is the only target to aim at, due to the siting of the green. This is evident at four holes, the first of which is the 4th, a par four of 351 yards which dog legs to the left. The green is situated about 15ft higher than the approach and out of sight from the golfer, making it difficult to judge the distance for the approach shot. Set in the approach is a deep bunker and immediately over the back and to the side of the green is thick rough, therefore it is imperative that the golfer hits the green.
The 8th hole is a par three of 183 yards and the impression is similar because the green is again at a higher level than the tee. It is a long green which is set at an oblique angle to play leading off to the left, and is well guarded by large bunkers, one on either side of the green. From the tee the green looks small, but over half of it is out of sight of the golfer. In fact, when the hole has been cut in this portion, it gives the impression that the flagstick is actually off the back of the green.
The green on the 11th hole is situated on the far side of a dip that traverses the full width of the fairway, giving the impression it is at a higher level. Although it is a long par four of 448 yards, it can play shorter because the approach to the green is relatively downhill. The last 25 yards of this, though, rises by about 8ft, so a little more strength is required in order to climb to the green At the par three 12th hole it is difficult to keep a shot on the green, because it is a small target which is fairly flat and the tee shot of 210 yards would invariably be played with a long iron or lofted wood. The green seems to be situated on the left side of a 'hogs back', whereas to the right is the right hand greenside bunker, then thick rough, marsh and 'Out of Bounds'. The golfer is tempted to hook his shot left of the green resulting from over compensation for the hazards to the right.
There remains only two holes at West Sussex to remark upon, the 1st and the 9th, and in comparison to the other sixteen remarkable holes they have altogether different qualities. They could be regarded as being quite uninspiring yet their straightforwardness does fulfil an important function. In the case of the 1st hole, although it is the longest par four at 456 yards, it is a relatively gentle introduction to the course. It has a flat, wide and accommodating fairway with no bunkers, therefore reducing the likelihood of any congestion at an early stage. With regard to the 9th hole, it is a par four of 350 yards with a moderately flat and wide fairway, again with no bunkers. It suggests that it provides the golfer with a brief respite before beginning the back nine.
It is difficult to ascertain how a golf course such as West Sussex was created, especially when three strong minded individuals were working together on the design. It was in fact at West Sussex that Ferigna Ltd ceased to exist as a partnership, due to disagreements over certain aspects of design. It would also tend to suggest that there could well have been a clash of personalities.
Also, it is only possible to speculate about which of the three members of the partnership was the most influencial in the design of the courses. However, it is not as important who had the most influence on the designs as who was responsible for the formulation of the design and then the transferring of the working drawings into actual golf course features.
Both Hotchkin and Hutchison had already made a name for themselves in the design and construction of golf courses prior to setting up in partnership with Campbell, and in particular, they had worked successfully together at Woodhall Spa. Only a limited amount has been written about Hutchison, although the work he was involved in at courses other than those he worked on with Ferigna Ltd was all well respected. These included Tadmarton Heath, Pitlochry, Ganton, Royal West Norfolk (1928), Gleneagles (early 1920's with James Braid), Princes', Sandwich (1907 with P M Lucas and C Hutchings), and his most famous, Turnberry (1938 Arran and Ailsa courses).
Hotchkin worked on numerous other golf courses as consultant in design, construction and maintenance matters. These included Grimsby, Newmarket, Purley Downs, R A F Cranwell, Stoke Rochford, Sutton~on Sea, Newmarket Links, and remodelling works to Royal Worlington and Newmarket, which is regarded by many to be the finest nine-hole course in the world (7).
Prior to working together as a team, both Hotchkin and Hutchison had gained a wealth of experience in the design and construction of golf courses and it is this fact that tends to suggest that they were the driving force behind the partnership.
Campbell, himself a prolific writer, commented widely on all aspects of golf course architecture, yet as a consultant he was regarded to be a gifted amateur, with a great deal of flair and charm, and an eye for design. After working in Ferigna Ltd, he became very involved in consultancy work on his own and in conjunction with other architects. Other works included Trevose, Rye (1935), Seacroft, Royal Dublin, North Berwick, Royal Cinque Ports at Deal (1938 with J S F Morrison and H Allison), East Lothian, Killarney (1939 Mahoneys' Point course), Felixstowe (1945 with Henry Cotton), The Haagsche (1947), Prince's (1951 with J S F Morrison and Norman von Nida), and Tides Inn in USA where he died in 1960.
Between the late 1940's and the late 1950's Campbell wrote articles in the magazine, Golf Monthly. Some of them were merely anecdotes unrelated to golf, although a majority referred to work he had been and was at that time involved in. From these enlightening and sometimes amusing dispatches it is possible to begin to understand just how he regarded his occupation. For example, in one article he recites Kipling's poem entitled
In 1922, Campbell had written a book called Golf for Beginners, in which he discussed the history of golf and how to play the game, with a small section on golf course architecture. Campbell had similar ideas to Hotchkin, with regard in particular to any interesting existing features within the site being incorporated into the golf course design. He recommended that all natural hazards should be utilised such as pits, quarries, ponds and streams.
The rough on the course should be kept to a minimum and the fairways be mown wide enough to accommodate featuring down the centre with a choice of routes to either side. The greens should be well guarded with bunkers which are not located in unfair positions. The green surface itself should be contoured to create interest, to allow pin positioning almost anywhere on the surface. They should never be built to look artificial on high plateaux, and any bunkering should follow the contours of the slopes. The bunkers should be a significant distance from the green to prevent any problems from pebbles and sand being hit onto the green. Also, in another of his articles in Golf Monthly, he discusses the possible elimination of bunkers because he regards some as being basically 'expensive sandpits' (9). He enthuses about the grass bunkers at Piltdown in East Sussex, and holes without any bunkers at all, such as the 'Burn' and 'Home' holes at St. Andrews,'The Dowie' at Hoylake and other holes at Mildenhall and at Prince's. Campbell, however, did not feel that there was no place for bunkers on a golf course, but he felt that over time they had been over used, and consequently, that they should be kept to a minimum. Campbell may well have influenced further though on the matter of reduction in the numbers of bunkers, as there were three articles backing up his argument in Golf Monthly following his original, one was an editorial (10), one was by Tom Simpson (11) and the other by John S F Morrison (12).
Considering this point, it is interesting to take West Sussex as an example where bunkering plays a major part in the strategy of the design of the course. Whether Campbell had much influence here it is difficult to say, but it is patently obvious that the bunkering design is not in keeping with his later general design ideas. This particular aspect of the design of the course bears many parallels with that at Woodhall Spa.
The bunkering at West Sussex makes the course such an excellent test of golf for any standard of player. In conjunction with other aspects, such as the orientation of tees to fairways, the orientation of greens to doglegs, the undulating nature of the topography of the site and orientation of holes to the prevailing wind, this principle is further emphasised.
Hotchkin, with his widespread knowledge in the technical side of golf course construction and his experience in the design of links courses in South Africa, was the most likely man of the partnership to have had the most influence in the design of West Sussex. In his book, The Principles of Golf Architecture, he described the modern golf course architect as someone who possesses a large and varied knowledge of golf course construction which embraces an understanding of greenkeeping, landscape gardening, the management and knowledge of labour conditions, all about clubhouses, the laying of water and an insight into 'how to save expenditure and reduce waste'. Above all, the best element is good practical knowledge combined with common sense.
Hotchkin was a great admirer of links courses and he looked upon their construction as being merely a matter of making the best use of what was already provided. However, as in the case of some links courses, he disliked the layout to reach a point furthest from the clubhouse, and then to return. This was because he felt the golfer would not be sufficiently tested by the change in the direction of the wind. He believed the course should be designed in such a way as to allow the wind to influence the golfer in as many different ways as possible.
Regarding the layout of a golf course he felt the landscape determined the type of course which could be built. If any sand dunes, sandy hollows, gravel pits, ponds or gorse exist on site, then they should be incorporated into the design of the course. On hilly land, the course should be made shorter, whereas on flat land, additional length could be planned for. This principle certainly holds true in the cases of West Sussex and Woodhall Spa.
He identified that a larger proportion of golfers preferred a shorter course of reasonable length which could be negotiated with comfort and enjoyment. Although he felt that it was quite impossible to design a course which would satisfy the requirements of the pure rabbit, the golf architect should endeavour to provide enjoyment for all types of golfer. He explains this to some extent with the following guidelines: the carry from tees should be fair and not over difficult so as to keep congestion on the course to a minimum; the par fours should be designed to allow the longer handicapper a relatively easy five (achieved by providing forward tees to prevent any spoiling of the carry from the back tees); the par threes should be played from the same tees by all standards of golfer, yet the club selected to play the shot will differ accordingly. Hotchkin regarded the proper balance of the holes on the course as a major aspect to consider, and he suggests there should be four par threes, two of which should be at even holes, the other two at odd, and that the remainder should consist of eleven or twelve par fours and two or three par fives. The first hole should be of medium length but not too simple, allowing the golfer to get away from the clubhouse without too many problems, it should never be a par three, and neither should the last. As the first short hole on the course always causes congestion, it should be at the 3rd, 4th or 5th in order to allow the golfer to 'spread out', and to compose himself before arriving at it.
Hotchkin suggests that at the dog legs of the fairways of par four and five holes should be set at an angle from the tee, and the greater the angle, the greater the variety of shots and interest in playing the hole. Consequently, the golfer who places his drive in the most advantageous position should get the fullest benefit for his second shot. The entrances to the greens of par three and par five holes should be narrow, whereas, to par four holes the entrance should become wider as the approach shot increases in length. Bunkering on a course is totally dependant on the characteristics of the particular site and on each hole. For example, in parkland the bunkers should be kept to a minimum and be feature bunkers only. Alternatively, some holes would require heavy bunkering and others none at all. In addition, grass bunkers, he felt, could be used with good effect. He recommends that if a bunker is to be constructed, then it should be bold without any obviously artificial surrounds.
Hotchkin believed that the setting of the green was of paramount importance and that it must blend with its surroundings in order to obtain the proper atmosphere. The way to avoid this was by not cutting into the side of a hill and creating over steep banks at the back of greens. The best results could therefore be achieved by appreciating what existed and working with it or enhancing it. He states, "it is hoped that the construction of hideous and unnecessary mounds, built up tees and freak greens, usually entailing considerable cost, are a thing of the past." He recommended that greens should be based on a size of between 800 and 1000 square yards to prevent any concentrated wear and to allow a greater amount and variation of pin positions.
Although other architects practicing at the same time as Hotchkin, Hutchison and Campbell were producing courses similar in style to West Sussex only very few actually achieved such a perfect solution to the demand for a course which could satisfy the requirements of all standards of golfer. Accepted, the courses of architects such as Colt, Low, Simpson, Mackenzie, Ross, Morrison, and Alison, to name but a few, were also excellent examples of strategic golf course design, but these men were much more prolific they produced literally hundreds of courses between them. On the other hand, as the partnership of Ferigna Ltd, Hotchkin, Hutchison and Campbell only produced very few. The few which they did produce are of equal merit and they are highly respected and deservedly so.
The strategic style of golf course design had a major influence on modern golf course design, not necessarily in the USA, as the Americans have a distinctive style which is their own, but in the British Isles Courses of the high quality and distinctive character of West Sussex are not to be found duplicated extensively throughout the world. In this respect, it can only be assumed that the Scottish born golf architect, Desmond Muirhead had actually visited West Sussex whilst on a tour of the great courses of the British Isles in the 1960's, before going on to design golf holes in the USA, in the themes of Marilyn Monroe or of shapely mermaids. It may well be the case that Muirhead did in fact find inspiration in the moundwork on the 16th hole, 'Sheba'.
The work that the major British architects were involved in between 1895 and the 1930's was a response to each others own ideas. There was a definite move towards the creation of golf courses that were less artificial, that worked with the natural features and enhanced them. It was a trend that developed with the coming of mechanisation. It was possible to create featuring without the use of horsepower, and consequently these features became increasingly more bold. The result was a feature which blended into its immediate surroundings in addition to it being easier for the greenkeeper to maintain a factor that was to become ever more important as the demand for high quality facilities increased.
This was one of the reasons why many of these architects recommended a reduction in the extent of bunkering on the courses. Not only did the courses need to be pleasing to the eye but they had to be economical to maintain. The game of golf was going through an important change due to the introduction of the small heavy ball and clubs with steel shafts. There was an increasing demand for length and subsequently the golf courses had to cater for this, moreover the golf architects had to satisfy it. Features that had originally come into play, ie, feature bunkers, were becoming redundant because of the increased distance that could be achieved and therefore it became uneconomical and impractical to retain them.
Sir Guy Campbell documented the evolution of golf course design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the British Isles (13). He felt that the revolution that occurred in the design of golf courses between 1895 and the 1930's was a much needed shock to the system. He explained that the professional 'Golf Architect' came about because of the need to create less artificial features and to re emphasize the strategic style widely found previously in links courses. There was a need to re introduce the tactical positioning of bunkers and vegetation as opposed to them existing as purely penal hazards. There was an increasing use made of heathland which would otherwise be unsuitable for farming, yet ideal as golf course land due to its similarities to linksland
This trend brought about the development of courses such as West Sussex, Woodhall Spa, Ganton, Alwoodley, Lindrick, Wentworth, Sunningdale, and other fine examples. It was an appreciation and a love of what had evolved within the linksland on the coastlines of the British Isles that related the philosophies of architects such as Hotchkin, Hutchison and Campbell. They all aspired to the creation of golf courses that were sympathetic to the natural aesthetic qualities of the locale in which they were built, consequently their philosophy can best be summed up in Sir Guy Campbell's well chosen words: "Nature was their architect, and beast and man her contractors" (14).
Thanks to P B 'Laddie' Lucas and Geoff Ramm for their kindness in answering my queries about Sir Guy Campbell; to Neil Hotchkin for generously giving up his time to discuss his father's career with me; to David White for introducing me to the golf course at West Sussex and for allowing me to use his marvellous library; also to Ursula White for her delicious lunches; and last but not least to Maja Mihajlovic for her critical advice. I deeply appreciate the help and encouragement they have given me in writing this.
A shorter version of this article originally appeared in Golf Course Architecture October 2009. Click here for further information.
To read more about Jonathan’s work please click here.