Corhampton Golf Club
By Tom Scott
When one thinks of the old Golf Clubs in England, one's thoughts usually turn to Royal Blackheath, Hoylake, Westward Ho! and Wimbledon. These indeed are the oldest, but there are others and lesser known Clubs whose history goes back nearly as far as some of the famous ones mentioned.
Such a Club is Corhampton in Hampshire, a small Club, it is true, but one with a history dating back to 1885, which make- it perhaps one of the dozen oldest in England.
And like many of the others, Corhampton started in a very modest way. Right up to the first world war there were few members, no artificial bunkers, and the only attention that the fairways (if they could be called such) received was from the sheep which grazed on the course. It was golf in the raw but the enthusiasts struggled on playing the game they loved until the skies of Europe became red with the reflection of war.
Then the little Club found the struggle too much, or at least the players did, for it appears that play ceased for a time and it was not until 1919 that efforts were made to get going again.
Chief among the men who were determined to get the Club going again was the late Rev. E. P. Mack, a great sportsman who was then residing at Swanmore. He was the leading light and under his wise and careful management the Club grew and prospered exceedingly. Soon the days of uncut fairways and rough holes were behind. The course was remodelled judiciously, but not much was done in this connection, the officials limiting themselves to getting what had been a golf course of a very indifferent nature into a circuit of quality. This, with the aid of the equipment that the prosperous days had brought, was achieved with some success.
Even at that, however, it was generally agreed that the lay-out of the course was not all that could be desired, and in 1932 with the coming of Pro-Greenkeeper, A. E. Dedman, plans were made, with his co-operation, for the replanning of the course which remains more or less the same today although he is no longer with the Club.
The days between the two wars were happy ones indeed for the Club and its members. Membership was greatly increased and the number of visitors grew apace, but the second world war put the brake on again. This time some of the course was given up to the plough, and the Club House to a fire.The Club had weathered worse times, however, and with the great efforts of Mr. A. E. Knight, Hon. Secretary in those days, and later by the work of Mr. J. W. Valentine, the Club was kept together, and in the years that have passed since the war, once more put on its feet. In this direction Mr. Rodney Clark, the Captain in 1949, also played a notable share.
The Club has now acquired the freehold of the Course including the Club House. Bought in 1950 the Club House was erected in the latter part of that year.
Perhaps it is by reason of its struggles that Corhampton has always been a friendly place and any visitor going there can be assured of a warm welcome and a good sporting round of golf, or indeed two sporting rounds, for the course is a nine-hole one, and it may be said loses nothing in being that. The only difference is that the delights of the holes can be repeated — so, of course, can the troubles if the game is not as it should be — but then the course can hardly be blamed for that.
But let us have a brief glimpse round the course so that the prospective player is enabled to visualise it for himself or herself
The opening hole is a two-shotter and all the trouble is on the right hand side. There is an out-of-bounds road, a clump of trees and some heavy rough all waiting for the player who is attacked by first tee nerves and who thereby slices. The green is narrow and runs slightly away to the left. It is well-guarded by bunkers and generally it can be said that it is extremely difficult to approach.
Accuracy from the tee is the keynote of success here, and if the drive is placed correctly the rest should not be too troublesome. The green is quite open and devoid of bunkers so that a smartly hit second should reach the mark.
Still, it is remarkable how many players can count their bogey before it is hatched.
This hole, because it is downhill all the way, plays rather shorter than the distance suggests, but nevertheless it cannot be treated with indifference by even the best of players, for it needs quite a well-hit and accurate shot to reach and hold the little green at the foot of the slope. Surrounding the green are four dangerous bunkers, and if that trouble is not ample for the wayward there is some very unhealthy rough on every side.
This is a very interesting hole which requires not only skill but some hard hitting. For the tee-shot there is the alternative of driving through a gap or a carry over a line of yew trees which runs the entire length of the fairway. The drive being accomplished satisfactorily, it will be found that the second also calls for some thought as the fairway slopes down towards the yew trees all the way, and consequently much trouble awaits a pulled shot. The green is set in the sideling fairway and has sand all round on the right side, but fortunately there is some compensation on the left side in the shape of a kindly bank which turns the ball into the pin. Crafty players will obviously take much help from this heaven-sent helper.
This time we have a slightly uphill hole. Main interest in this, as it should be in all good two-shot holes of this distance is the playing of the second shot. There are two very judiciously placed and intimidating bunkers at each corner of the green which has the effect of making the entrance very narrow. With such a state of affairs there must obviously be much care exercised in trying to get on with the second shot. This is the type of hole where a four can very easily indeed be turned into a five ... or even something higher.
This is the longest hole on the course, and a very testing one it is too. The fairway is a narrow one and the big hitter who thinks because it is a long hole he can take liberties will very quickly be disillusioned. Pressing leads to shots going off the line and being off the line at this hole can only lead to disaster and a score which might be of astronomical proportions. There is plenty of trouble on either side, and when the precincts of the green are safely reached, which will be the case if due care has been taken, it will be found that the troubles might not all be behind. The green is well guarded and if the pitch is too bold the ball will run over the green and land in sand behind the built-up bank which is at the back of the green ... a most unpleasant thought.
A sporting hole with a green on which it is not easy to make the ball stop as it runs away from the tee and to the right. Obviously, then, the tee-shot has to be placed with care. To make that ideal even more difficult there is a sand hazard at the back of the green, and for those who have erred on the side of caution and played too much to the left there are three pot bunkers which claim many victims in the course of the year.
The eighth hole is a slightly right hand dog-leg, with an out-of-bounds wood on the right. A well-placed bunker has been placed to catch the tee-shot which did not quite come off, and that, like the out-of-bounds, requires to be avoided. The correct line many will think will to the left of this bunker. The green is on the far side of a wide valley, and the front of it is completely blanked out by a bunker, and that means that only a real golf shot will stand any chance of getting home. Such a shot will be out of the reach of many as a second shot, and after all a five can be regarded as a very good return for any player's skill here.
It is a hole of 300 yards with bunkers right across the front of the green at about twenty yards distance. The green is sloped slightly against the player which gives everyone the opportunity of playing a bold second shot.
And so the circuit is ended. There is plenty of variation and no two holes are alike. Like many nine hole courses Corhampton has many charms and a second round is Something to be looked forward to. And after all, a second go gives the golfer the chance of putting to right the mistakes made on the first round.
'Anybody can do it a second time,' is an old golfing saying. But at Corhampton it is a case of "Wait and see" for some of the holes are not as simple as they look, and to conquer them may need even more than a second round. But that is the delight of this game called golf!
SUBSCRIPTIONS and FEES, etc.