The Leatherhead Club celebrated its centenary in 2003 and there’s lots more to celebrate as we look to the future. Founded in 1903, our golf course has been played by a PGA Hall of Fame inductee, an Open Championship winner, the British Ryder Cup Team and even the Prime Minister during our proud history.
There have been course layout changes – when the M25 was built – but the majority of the course layout is as originally designed. Here are just a few of our milestones and some of our members’ achievements over many decades and generations.
Surrey Golf Club was formed at Pachesham Manor in 1903 on land owned by Mr F C Ramsey and Sir William Vincent. Press cuttings from 6 June 1903 indicate the course was laid out by Peter Paxton. He was an expert maker of clubs and balls and designed other courses including East Berkshire and Coventry. Horace Hutchinson was the first Club Captain and a prolific author of golf books.
“A high-quality local golf course built and run by local people”. By October 1903, nine holes were open and Sydney Cooper became club professional. Sydney’s son Harry, who was born in Leatherhead in 1903, was elected to the US PGA Hall of Fame in 1959.
There was a professional match between James Braid, Harry Vardon, William Mitchell (club professional) and Abe Mitchell (his claim to fame: the golfer on the Ryder Cup was modelled on Abe). Also playing was Arthur Balfour who was British Prime Minister 1902-1905.
The club changed its name from Surrey Golf Club to The Leatherhead Golf Club. To this day, one trophy from the era – The Pachesham Challenge Cup – is still competed for by members.
Alf Perry came to Leatherhead from Walton Heath, where he was the assistant to James Braid. Alf subsequently became the professional at Leatherhead when William Mitchell moved to Effingham. And 1935 saw the greatest achievement in the history of club members when Alf Perry won the Open Championship at Muirfield with rounds of 69, 75, 67 and 72.
In September, the British Ryder Cup team (which included Alf Perry) played practice rounds at Leatherhead in readiness for the tournament at Ridgewood Country Club, New Jersey. However, the US team which included golfing legends Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen won 9-3.
The Second World War saw the original clubhouse bombed. To support the war effort, crops were grown alongside the A243 (to the right of the 1st and 3rd holes). There were anti-aircraft guns located near the current location of the clubhouse. Understandably, this period saw a decline in membership and the club didn’t return to its former glory until the 1950s.
Tournaments in the 1950s welcomed international players to Leatherhead. And in 1958, Bobby Locke (the famous South African winner of four Open Championships) played an exhibition match with Alf Perry.
In the late 1970s, there was speculation that the route of the M25 London orbital motorway would go through the golf course. Course expansion options were explored, including the area to the right of the 8th hole (owned by the Crown Estate and formerly Prince Leopold of Belgium) but plans eventually came to nothing.
The Ministry of Transport confirmed the land it required to construct the M25 and Junction 9 link roads and roundabout. This effectively cut off the southern tip of the course where most of the 1st hole and clubhouse were originally located. A brand new clubhouse – that still stands today – was built in 1984 on the site known as North Gate.
There was extensive work to the course to lengthen and return it to the original yardage. Stuart Macmillan, the third generation of a greenkeeper family, led the work. The 14th green was built on land that was reclaimed after the M25 construction was completed.
Centenary celebrations took place at the club throughout the year. There were also exchanges with other clubs which were also celebrating their 100th year.
Extensive work was carried out on the back nine holes to upgrade and level the tees.
A new majority shareholder extended the clubhouse and practice facilities. Membership grew during this period and the club welcomed many more visitors, but the course condition suffered.
New owners took full ownership in the summer. They immediately embarked on major investment in the course including extensive work to tees, fairways and greens, plus much-needed drainage infrastructure projects. The clubhouse lounge and function rooms were refurbished and new all-weather practice facilities were installed.
Every great club is built on strong foundations. For The Leatherhead Club that’s our rich and illustrious heritage. Our membership is growing, and the course and clubhouse are undergoing a major upgrade – there’s still so much to look forward to.
So, join us and be a part of our bright future.