Finally our luck run out after days lucking out with dodgy weather forecasts. Torrential rain and golf at Walton Heath on the old course, well its not so bad then. Located near Gatwick Airport and the M25, the entrance is fairly unassuming. We were warmly welcomed on our arrival and directed to the guest changing room which at a guess hasn’t changed too much over the years. The Ryder Cup was hosted here in 1981 as I’m sure you’re aware and its humbling knowing that the likes of Nicklaus and Watson were sat in the same spots 30 odd years earlier. As one would expect, there were numerous photos chronicling the event and whilst we were never going to tackle the course like a Bernhard Langer, well we were going to give it a bloody good go.
Walton Heath was designed by Herbert Fowler and what we know as the old course opened in 1904. Another 9 holes were laid out in 1907 and a further 9 in 1913 in what now constitutes the new course. First club professional was the great James Braid and he remained in the role for 45 years winning the Open 5 times and the Matchplay championship 4 times. The club boasts some extremely notable old members including Winston Churchill and Lloyd George. Edward, Prince of Wales was the club captain in 1935, there can’t be too many clubs out there who boast royalty in their playing ranks!
Whilst both the new and old courses serve as qualifying venues for the US Open, the biggest recent event occurred in 1981 when the old course oversaw the battle between USA and Europe. The US sent over one of their strongest ever teams including the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. They won the match 18 1/2 to 9 1/2. Thankfully it hasn’t been repeated recently. There is a great video here if you would like to see highlights from the event.
The course starts with a straight longish par 3 in an area divorced from the rest of the course. It was a little underwhelming, especially as I whacked my tee-shot into the main course! Dad birdied the first and I blobbed so we were underway. The course comes alive at the second and had a vastly different feel to other heathland courses we played. The course is open with both new and old course layouts criss-crossing each other numerous times. Wind is a factor here and I can see why the course is often compared to a classic links. After my debacle at the first, I played fairly well and recorded my best score of the tour. Dad fell away after a glorious start but still chalked up a good points tally. The greens were certainly a highlight and the best of the courses we played. Very challenging with subtle borrows which meant optimum concentration needed. I had two eagle putts on the round and three putted one and four putted the other, mind that probably says more about my putting that anything else! Once again accuracy was paramount from the tee with heather providing a stern defence, there is a reason why its in the club logo. A stray shot into the heather basically equals a dropped shot. And it was in the heather where I drove my tee-shot on the last for my other blob, Dad had a par – the bugger.
Even though we were both drenched, we thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. Hope to return one day when the sun is shining with little Alexander.