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Sean_A

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The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE New
« on: July 13, 2015, 07:13:25 PM »
It was often said that no one can be as wise as James Braid looked.


To think of Walton Heath must raise the memory of two men; the great James Braid and one of the best architects to ever practice the profession, Herbert Fowler. In the first eleven years of the 20th century Braid’s divine fury hit the mark as much as not.  Taking up the position as Walton Heath’s professional in 1904, the rise of Walton Heath coincided neatly with Braid’s rush to legendary status. It is difficult to imagine how the course of Braid’s life and the status of Walton Heath would have been altered had Braid accepted the offer as Keeper of the Green at St Andrews shortly after the retirement of Old Tom Morris in 1903. As it was, he won The Open on five occasions, four while serving as the professional for Walton Heath Golf Club . Additionally, between 1903 and 1911, Braid won the News of the World Matchplay four times and a lone French Open. It is not unreasonable to suggest that if not for the Great War, Braid may have won his elusive sixth Open, thus catching Harry Vardon and sharing the honour of most Open victories. 

By War’s end Braid was 50 years old, but there was still good golf ahead during James’ “sundown splendid and serene”.  It is entirely possible that Braid’s most magnificent tournament was marked by a resounding defeat; such are the vagaries of top class golf.  Braid easily qualified for the 1927 News of the World matchplay stages hosted by Walton Heath.  After winning through four trying matches, The Times golf correspondent opened with “Braid is in the final!  I believe there is someone else in it too!” Later, the scrivener stated “Whatever may happen now, Braid has done a great thing.” However, playing in unseasonably cold, rainy weather, the 57 year old Braid could summon no more magic and fell to the heavily favoured Archie Compston.  On another occasion at the Sandwich 1938 Open, Patric Dickinson wrote “He had only a modest gathering.  But he gave us an exhibition of sheerly classical golf I shall never, never forget. He was 68….But the ball seemed to go, somehow straighter than straight…and the putting was utterly steady. Braid holed the links in 74 and the news that he was playing well spread…there seemed to be as many professionals as lay spectators round the home green and they gave him their applause with true respect and sincerity. Perhaps I am romancing, but the grand old man appeared to me to blush, and stumped off the green like a little boy who has just been given his colours.”   

While Braid may never have worked on Walton Heath (something I seriously doubt), he did pen his name to a few courses which are a match for any architect’s resume: Gleneagles Kings & Queens, Pennard, Perranporth, Welshpool, Blairgowie and Hankley Common plus significant work at Carnoustie, St Enodoc, Brora, Wallasey and Sherwood Forest.  How Braid found the time to eclipse the architectural feats of his Great Triumvirate rivals by quite a margin may well remain a mystery.  It is, however, said Braid knew the train schedules uncommonly well up until the last day of his service to Walton Heath. 

The admiration for James Braid was evident among the great and good of society. By the time of his death on 27 November 1950, Braid was an honorary member of Walton Heath, a director and shareholder in the club, the only honorary member of the Parliamentary Golfing Society and most cherished of all, elected as an honorary member of the Royal and Ancient Club. Despite Braid’s ability to easily move between social classes, it was never held against him by the working class.  Not too dissimilar in being a founding member of the British PGA, it was Braid who insisted the local Walton-on-the-Hill villagers organize to petition for the formation of an Artisans Club associated with Walton Heath GC.  Braid trained many artisans as assistant professionals who then went on to become head professionals.  Gus Faulkner was one such recipient of Braid’s generosity of spirit.  Faulkner came under the tutelage of Braid in 1910 and went on to become the pro at Pennard which may help explain why Braid was engaged as its architect.  Of course, Gus' son, Max Faulkner, was the Champion Golfer of the 1951 Open held at Royal Portrush.  As a measure of the Artisans' gratitude, Braid held the position of Honorary Captain of the Walton Heath Artisans Golf Club from its founding in 1906 until his death.



James Braid is buried at St Peter's in Walton on the Hill, less than a half mile from his home on Meadow Walk and under a mile to his place of work.


The modest homes on Meadow Walk as the lane looked in Braid's day.  Braid's house, Earlsferry, named for his place of birth is just out of shot to the right.  In an ironic twist of fate, there is strong evidence to suggest that James Braid was actually born just over the village border in Elie.   


A simple stone memoralizing the wife of James Braid, Alice, more than the man himself.


Herbert Fowler first came to the fore as a county cricketer for Somerset.  An unusually sizable fellow, Fowler’s reputation was as a banger just as it was in golfing circles.  Born in 1856 to a family of substantial means, Fowler eventually took root in Somerset living as an honourable banker come farmer. During this time in Taunton, Fowler was introduced to golf at Westward Ho! and eventually became proficient.  I say proficient, but truth be told, Fowler reached the final 16 of the 1891 Amateur held at St Andrews. Before the Walton Heath commission, Fowler had steadily made a name for himself as a fine golfer and became a member of the R&A and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. 

At the same time Fowler was climbing the golf hierarchy, at some point in the 1890s the family fortune dwindled to the point where Cosmo Bonsor, Fowler’s well off brother-in-law, advised Herbert to declare bankruptcy.   In addition to this advice, it seems obvious that Cosmo was the driving force in eventually hiring Fowler to design the course for the newly formed Walton Heath Golf Club.  It is also clear that Fowler was given time (he moved to a villa across from the club in 1902), money and ample land to do the project proud. In 1903, before completing the project, Fowler’s immediate money worries were relieved. The directors of the club appointed Fowler to the posts of Managing Director (he held this position for nearly 40 years) and Club Secretary.  It is also worth noting that when the Haskell Ball was set-up in the UK Fowler was a Director of the company.

With his connections, it isn’t surprising that work continued to come Fowler’s way, though one doesn’t get the impression that he ever completely conquered his financial difficulties. Fowler eventually designed some of the most revered courses in England and one in New England, yet his first effort remains the most iconic despite perhaps only six holes remaining as originally designed.  In addition to a much altered Walton Heath Old, Herbert designed Westward Ho!, Saunton East, Berkshire Red & Blue, Beau Desert, Delamere Forest, Blackwell, Walton Heath New and appropriately, Eastward Ho! Not a bad resume for cricketer! 

Darwin thought Herbert Fowler “an instinctive despot with a touch of genius”. Though part of the great class of British architects which emerged in the early years of the 20th century, Fowler stood apart from Park Jr, Colt, Mackenzie and later Alison and Simpson.  Bernard Darwin thought Fowler may have been the most audacious, skilled and creative of all the golf architects. His courses have an intensity all their own, none more so than Walton Heath.  Some might say the course is austere, but that would be a disservice to the beauty of Walton Heath.  It is easy to see why the heath was chosen as a site for golf even if it took Fowler a few years to tease the character from the terrain.  Of particular interest are the bunkers (Fowler’s graves).  Once again Mr Dickinson said it best.  “A remarkable feature of Walton Heath is the way its bunkers, particularly those placed strategically in the fairway – rear their ramparts up.  They are curiously, aggressively artificial looking…They are uncompromisingly BUNKERS… These bunkers are positive, direct, and need make no comment upon such as enter them.” 

Walton Heath is nearly as famous for its membership roll as it is for the courses. Royal and parliamentary connections include a multitude of dukes, lords, knights and honourables, a rather large contingent Members of Parliament, leading lawyers, clergy and four Prime Ministers (most famously Winston Churchill). In 1935, King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, became the club’s first Captain and held that post the day he abdicated the throne on 11 December 1936.  All the above, incredible as it is, surely, the golfers of Walton Heath would have considered the retiring, unassuming, Ernest Holderness as the club's most prized member. During his 55 years of membership and while holding down a quite senior civil service post, Holderness won the Amateur in 1922 and 1924 (the year he became a baronet). Sadly, due to work responsibilities, Holderness only played in three Walker Cups, all on home soil.  Befitting the status of Sir Earnest, he was a co-founder of the Surrey County Union which then quickly supported the emergence of the English Golf Union in 1924.  Many of the copious medals won by Holderness are on display in the club house and the main dining room is named in his honour. 



The other end of the social spectrum...how times have changed!


Mentioned previously, near as I can reckon, the current course has only six original Fowler holes remaining; 2-4 & 16-18.  However, many of the revisions were likely by the hand of Fowler as he was on the board when changes on the back 9 occurred; including the new 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14. It is difficult to imagine Fowler allowed someone else to do the designing while he was in the driver seat.  I think Tippet (the Secretary after Fowler had a heart attack) designed the new 5-8 (using Fowler's 6th green for the new 5th).  Of course 8 and 9 were later changed in the early 1970s due to the construction of the M25, but I am not sure who was responsible for the work. Walton Heath was owned for much of its early existence by the Carr family (publishers of News of the World).  Not long after selling the company (and Walton Heath) to Rupert Murdoch in 1969, there was talk of the course being converted into a resort complex.  A group of members saved the day and the course by purchasing the property from Murdoch.  One can't help but wonder if discussions about selling the course left it open to its degridation by the M25.

The 5th & 6th were originally par 3s.  Just before WWII they were combined to create the current 5th, thus requiring a new 6th and 7th (holes still in play).  That also means the old 7th is no longer.  The current 8th tee left of the 7th green was put in play when the M25 was built.  It is about half way down the original Fowler 7th. In the mid 80s a plan to move the entire course to the other side of Dorking Road eventually fell by the wayside. It meant scrapping the 1st, creating a new par 3 after the 10th and converting the short 11th into a par 4.  After a few years the members decided the new holes weren't very good and reinstated the old holes!  It was then that the first was made into a par 3 - the last major change to the course.   

The long one-shot opener feels like an annex to the heath and is entirely unsuited for the noble journey that is Walton Heath.  So we quickly move to second where a good drive will find the bottom of the valley. In Braid's day the valley was strewn with rough.  The steeply uphill approach will often be into a potent headwind. 


This 1937 aerial clearly shows (upper left) the rough covered valley.


The hazards pop-up like a children's book on holes 2-4.  The difference in shaping between the original holes and newer holes is remarkable.  There is certainly a primitive component to these holes which is shared with the New Course.  While theoretically driveable, it is possibly astute to lay-up on #3...high anxiety predicaments punctuate the landscape.   




Taken from the rear of the green.


One of the outstanding aspects of playing golf in England is the close connection with the history of the country.  Golf in England exploded during the Victorian era and much of that history is associated with this period.  Behind the 3rd green and near the 4th tee is an odd post erected likely in 1861 as boundary marker.  However, upon looking into the matter I find that this (and a few more posts between the golf course and Banstead Heath) is a coal duty post erected by the Corporation of the City of London.  There is an approximate circle surrounding Charing Cross from 20 to 30 kilometres (the then area of the Metropolitan Police District) at which the posts are set to mark the boundary for duty owed on coal when entering the district.  Whatever we may think of Victorian sensibilities, they knew how to build things with a bit of flair.  This Grade II listed (!) post is made of cast iron and is wonderfully maintained by the City of London.


The fourth is more of the same but with an additional 150 yards tacked on for our enjoyment.


Looking back toward the tee.


This hazard just shy of the green demonstrates the architect's mastery of form and function.  The golfer in the photo is on the 5th tee. 


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 19, 2021, 02:02:39 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

John Mayhugh

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-4
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2015, 10:28:28 PM »
I remember a sign noting that over his career at Walton Heath, Braid managed to card a 2 on every hole of both courses.  That is amazing.

I agree that the first hole isn't a great start.  It's tough going at the green from that distance as your first shot of the round.  Was there any word on when the course changes to move everything across the road were to be finished? 

Interesting to hear the "primitive" description of some of the holes.  I never really thought about it while playing, but I see your point.  They don't suffer from it.

My first exposure to Fowler, and I liked it way more than I expected.



Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-4 New
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2015, 05:01:07 AM »
Tucky

I don't really know what (or if) the plans are for a lock, stock and barrel move to the heath proper, but I hope it can be pulled off some day.

WALTON HEATH OLD CONT

The original Fowler holes are so packed with earthwork features that it makes me wonder what the old boy would say about today's obsession with "natural" architecture.  Fowler bucked a bit against the trend in 1910 and I would guess that would be his approach now.  The 5th is likely the best hole on the front nine, but try to ignore the graceful curve of the fairway and the green undulations.  Take a look left of the left greenside bunker at the heather and wee knob.  These are exactly the sort of details which make Fowler one of the stand-out architects in history.   


A closer look at the best green on the course.




The 5th (when it was the 6th hole) as a par 3 in 1906.


#s 6 & 7 are 1939 Tippet creations.  Some observers were disappointed at the loss of the old 6th, but the new holes do break-up the unrelenting single file march of the front nine.  As the golfer moves through the 6th hole, the fairways seem to progressively contract, as if trying not to be discovered by the M25.  For that, #6 isn't a bad hole.  The short 7th stops the southerly flow of Walton Heath and heads in a easterly direction as does #1.  I believe the prevailing wind is off the bunkered right side of the green, making the kick in zone inhumanly precise. 




The par 5 eighth is also a Tippet hole which was rebuilt hard on what was to become the M25 and subsequently the green had to be moved. Doglegs are not a prominent feature at Walton Heath so the 9th may come as a surprise.  A completely new hole opened in 1973, the ninth turns left around a small stand of trees at nearly 90 degrees.  The staggered greenside bunkering perfectly accentuates the left to right green. If the hole is up front, coming from the safe right side of the fairway is problematic.


Truth be told, the front nine is merely good, in the main because the 1st and 8th are not memorable holes.  Walton Heath picks up the pace considerably on the holes coming home with 10-12 being a noteworthy stretch.  Somewhat similar to the 5th, the 10th moves easily right and downhill.  Like all the holes at Walton Heath, it pays to get a good drive away for slight errors can chasten one's game. 


The Old Course is littered with margnalized bunkers and earthworks. Wouldn't it be something if the club decided to push out the fairways and draw back these wonderful features?




More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 22, 2020, 07:51:15 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-10
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2015, 05:09:47 AM »
Prior to playing 36 on Sunday, my only previous experience with Walton Heath had been an extensive walk around during a Study Tour in 2007. I loved the look of the place back then and that feeling only grew on me two days ago. Regards the land, it has that very rare mildly undulating, open common feel that almost all other heathlands have foregone (in that respect it felt a little like Copenhagen GC in Denmark). Most modern courses given the same land would be hideously shaped to try and spice up the drama. It is clear that Fowler had quite an individual style. Really it was pre-golden age, a bridge between the old school architects and the artistic crew that followed in the 20’s and 30’s. In other courses I’ve seen, I’d questioned some of the sharp, micro-features and mounds that I was sure were only partially deliberate, a function of the time from when they were built. Here, I started to really love them as different and idiosyncratic. Fowler was a unique architect I think. The New course has surely undergone less change than almost any other pre-golden age / transition era course I know. It is completely lay of the land with greens that follow whatever tilt is there and heather topped bunkers that are trenched and mounded. It is excellent. But it does not have the variety of the Old course which I think in all senses can be described as great. Whilst it has undergone change, the ever so slightly more modern styling in many places blends in seamlessly and creates some of the best holes, the par four 5th and par three 11th among them. By “modern” I really mean golden age for there is nothing here that looks remotely like a course created since WW-II (even if there have been new holes added since that time). The Old uses the better topography, is more challenging in its placement of hazards and in all creates more memorable holes. Throughout the 36, the conditioning was immaculate with the fairways playing unbelievably firm and fast which – despite their general good width – resulted in many balls running through. This I also put down to a complete absence of any containment (which lest we forget is a regular occurrence on links land because of the dunes); to the extent that many fairways seemed to play as the most subtle and gentle of hogs-backs. I’ll let Sean continue on with his detailing and describe the course. For me I found it superb.

Marc Haring

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-10
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2015, 06:44:56 AM »
I see they're looking for a new superintendent as we speak. Don't know what happened to the last one. Should be a good job for someone.

Adam Lawrence

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-10
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2015, 08:10:21 AM »
Alan quit suddenly a few weeks ago.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-10 New
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2015, 04:39:14 AM »
Mo

Yes, I do believe that for good or bad, Fowler was more a part of the Oxbridge Archie Set than the the pro golfer set, but he kicked against all their new fangled ideas so far as shaping goes and golfers 100 years down the line are lucky for it. 

WALTON HEATH OLD CONT

The 11th offers a tantalizing tee shot over, or shaped between the bunkers.  Perhaps the green should be extended further forward to offer a more exacting hole location.  Regardless, for mine this is the best par 3 on the course, despite my recently increased appreciation for the 7th.


A tribute to Hell Bunker?


One of the many charming sketches in Dickinson's Round of Golf Courses.  Its interesting that the sketch suggests there were once a load of trees up the right. 


The 12th is about seducement.  There is the definite possibility of blowing the drive over the corner of the leg, but unless one is very accurate the finicky half wedge can prove to be most difficult. The safer option is to play around a Brooklands-like bank to earn the correct line to a long, narrow green.  The hitch is a wee track crosses the fairway so it may be prudent to take one club less.




This new bunker will certainly catch many players out.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: June 22, 2020, 06:01:11 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-12
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2015, 04:58:14 AM »
I don't usually like sharp doglegs but the 12th really is a little cracker. Finding the right place in the fairway to get near the small green is key here. A little kick plate before the narrow putting surface assists from the right angle but heather all around makes approaching a scary proposition from the wrong position. Hugging the bunker off the tee but staying far enough back seems to be the drive of choice.

Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-12 New
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2015, 06:35:53 AM »
Mo

Yes, the 12th is a cool little hole...I especially like the raised road.  Though I wonder if another bunker on the corner of the leg is necessary to give pause to flat bellies? 

WALTON HEATH OLD CONT

Back to back three-shotters follow, both of which are reachable and along with the 16th make for an excellent set of par 5s.  The 13th is the more problematic of the two due to nearly 90 degree dogleg right.  This bunker protects the turn, the flag can just be made out immediately left of the tree on the right.


For those going at the green in two, bunkers either side of the fairway await, the green gently runs away from play and there is bit of a trench near the left-middle of the green which will funnel balls to the back of the green.


The cheek by jowl nature of the Old and New makes it very convenient to hop between courses.   In fact, a composite is used when the touring pros come to town. 


Fifteen Old Course holes form the composite course.  Composite #s 12, 13 & 18 are from The New Course.  Image courtesy (read nicked) of Michael Felton.


Among many tee shots which aren't lookers, the 14th may be the most visually pleasurable tee shot at Walton Heath.  The fairway is skewed toward the second bunker down the right which is reachable in summer.  The approach is very deceptive and I was caught badly out.  I believed the fairway near the green would run left. Of course, the general slope of the land is to the right and to top matters off there is a scalloped section of fairway which feeds to the right greenside bunker. 




In this look at the green the reader can just make out the the dip guarding the front left of the green.


Dead straight and deceptively uphill, the 15th plays more difficult than the card suggests. 

More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 22, 2020, 07:53:02 PM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE 1-15 New
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2015, 04:11:49 AM »
WALTON HEATH OLD CONT

The 16th strikes me as a hole which is totally different in summer conditions compared to winter.  Its difficult to fully appreciate how good this hole is in the winter months.  There is a bit of a red herring bunker well up on the right which can be reached, but for most the lay of the land will steer balls well left, perhaps into the left rough. This is the rub.  The bunker takes focus away from a large tree which can block out a clean attempt at the green.  Unless one can play a long cut or scoot past the bunker, its probably best to lay-up, hopefully in range of the green and with an angle to attack the frontal rampart head-on.  Any sign of leakage to the right will result in balls gobbled up by the huge bunker short and right of the green.  The subtle relationship between the bunkers, tree and raised green is clear in the second photo. 

Simpson sketch of 16.  Its a shame the large tree down the left and the hollow shy of the tree aren't highlighted as important features of the hole.






Its touches such as this bench on the 17th tee which add flavour to the Walton Heath experience.


Extremely attractive, the 17th is however, fairly straight forward. 


The refinished 18th isn't long, but the fairway and green are tight targets. 




An old photo of the bunker.


For those interested in architecture Walton Heath is one of a handful of courses in England which should be on your bucket list. The reason is not poetic or complex. Quite simply, Walton Heath is the only course I know which approximates how a true heathland course should look and play. Bernard Darwin wrote "He (Braid) will never want a better epitaph than two words, Walton Heath" 1*  2020

Walton Heath New Course
http://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,60107.0.html

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 04:22:21 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Peter Pallotta

Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE New
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2015, 10:50:03 PM »
Thanks, Sean.


If the way Ben Crenshaw strokes a putt says "golf", and the way Ben Hogan hit a 1 iron says it, and if that photo of James Braid's says "golf", then Walton Heath -- strengths and weaknesses both -- says "golf" in the same definite and striking way. You can't fake it, you can't even mimic it successfully, you just say "golf" or you don't. An unusually high number/percentage of the courses you profile say it very clearly.


Hope all is well with you and yours.


Peter
« Last Edit: October 16, 2021, 10:23:30 AM by Peter Pallotta »

Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2015, 04:31:28 AM »
Pietro, well written.  Walton Heath certainly says golf.  I am probably a bit biased though as the two gentlemen I admire most in golf have strong connections to the club. I have given strict instructions to a member that the club is to greatly enhance Braid's old workshop into a proper museum.  Each time I walk past that area I peak into the room hoping to catch of glimpse of an exceptional Braid artifact.....

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 04:50:52 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Sean_A

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2016, 07:21:46 AM »
Does anybody know if the type of heather is different at Walton Heath compared to the heathland courses not capped by clay?

Ciao
« Last Edit: October 18, 2018, 04:50:42 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022:

Tim Gallant

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2016, 09:17:15 AM »
Great write-up Sean. I agree with all that you said, and think the stretch from 10-12 is the best on the course. I also thought the 5th was a fantastic hole. The slopes on that green seemed different to any other green on the property, with a shelf on the upper-right side.

Peter Pallotta

Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2016, 11:11:19 AM »
Does anybody know if the type of heather is different at Walton Heath compared to the heathland courses not capped by clay?
Ciao

Sean - not surprisingly I have no answer to your question, but I did go back and look at the photos again and in light of your question noticed the broken/rough ground that is sprinkled throughout the course and how, along with the heather, adds immeasurably to the character of the place as well as serving a 'golfing' function.

Peter 

Bill_McBride

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2016, 01:02:28 PM »
The first hole on the Old is indeed an odd one.  When the Ryder Cup was played there, the second became the first hole and a composite course was created with several holes from the New. 

Marc Haring

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2016, 01:42:47 PM »
Does anybody know if the type of heather is different at Walton Heath compared to the heathland courses not capped by clay?


Ciao


It is standard ling heather Sean (calluna vulgaris) There are occasional bits of erica cinarea or bell heather but even that is found on all heathland sites. The absolute key is maintaining an impoverished and acid soil otherwise it will rapidly revert to grassland. Being on clay is unusual but the heather doesn't mind so long as it is poor and acid. They have a very good heath management programme in place.

Michael Felton

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2016, 03:43:54 PM »
The first hole on the Old is indeed an odd one.  When the Ryder Cup was played there, the second became the first hole and a composite course was created with several holes from the New.


It was once a short par four with the tee on the other side of the road. They had to nix that tee because of health and safety concerns, so they moved the tee over the road and made it a long three. I think that's why it's such a funky hole. It's "supposed" to take a wedge and it's a hybrid, long iron or fairway wood.

Michael Felton

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2016, 03:48:26 PM »
Does anybody know if the type of heather is different at Walton Heath compared to the heathland courses not capped by clay?


Ciao


I have no idea about the actual science of the matter, but I have played a fair few heathery courses around the area and have never found anywhere else (possible exception of Hankley Common) that has heather as thick as at Walton. There is a patch down the left hand side of the 13th hole that is no exaggeration waist high. If you hit it in there there's basically no point in even looking for it, because if you find it you're just going to have to walk back to the tee anyway. Other courses seem to just have the flowering part of the plant, but Walton has a thick nest of quite thick branches underneath that. It seems to me a little bit like I might imagine a mangrove swamp to be.

Mark Chaplin

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2016, 12:31:51 AM »
Sean, Sean, Sean a knight is always referred to by their first name when using their title so it's either Sir Ernest or Sir Ernest Holderness never Sir Holderness, honestly you foreign types!
Cave Nil Vino

MCirba

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2016, 10:14:00 AM »
Brilliant, Sean.

Thanks for sharing!
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge

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Niall C

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2016, 11:16:23 AM »
Does anybody know if the type of heather is different at Walton Heath compared to the heathland courses not capped by clay?


Ciao


Sean


Absolutely no idea as to your question but I don't know if you saw Countryside (?) on BBC1 last night as their was a feature on reintroducing heather on the Surrey Heathland courses. They showed what they were doing down at Mid Herts where they stripped the turf (about an inch ?) off the top and then filled in with looked like leaf litter/twigs/branches etc from heather areas from elsewhere, on the basis that seeds of heather would then germinate. At least that is what I think they said, it was a fairly brief piece.


In contrast to that method of reintroducing heather, like Ally I recall doing a study tour of Walton Heath back in 2000 when they were taking out a lot of trees and trying to reintroduce the heather. The method they used then was to strip the turf as described above and then simply turn it lay it back down with the bottom upwards on the basis that the remnants of heather seeds/plants were hidden below the surface (if someone can explain it better, please do !). I'd be interested to know how effective that was and whether they ended up using other methods.


Michael


Re brutal heather, at my club it has got so bad that the club have bought a machine to chop it down to the ground to make it more playable. As you say the stems (?) of the plant can get as thick as your finger with the heather coming up to just about the knee. When it gets to that stage it's as bad as gorse.


Niall

Mark Chaplin

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2016, 02:09:55 PM »
The hardest heather for me at WH is the stuff on the bunker faces. The Met Police championships are held annually at Walton Heath, 36 holes of medal play. Many a title challenge has floundered in the heathery face of a bunker, resulting in a 7 or 8 from nowhere.
Cave Nil Vino

Eric Smith

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #23 on: January 13, 2016, 11:39:12 AM »
Thanks for the new photos, Sean. I'm really looking forward to visiting this summer. Want to tee it up?

John Mayhugh

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Re: The Venerable WALTON HEATH OLD COURSE
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2016, 01:16:55 PM »
It was once a short par four with the tee on the other side of the road. They had to nix that tee because of health and safety concerns, so they moved the tee over the road and made it a long three. I think that's why it's such a funky hole. It's "supposed" to take a wedge and it's a hybrid, long iron or fairway wood.

Amazing how quickly I forgot about the 1st hole after I crossed the road.  What follows is good enough that the starter is a distant memory. 

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