Starting at the beginning is the logical place to start when telling a story and for this Historical Spotlight series, that beginning is at The West Middlesex Golf Club, the most senior club in the county. Originally instituted in 1891 as Ealing Golf Club and playing over a golf course at the then Twyford Abbey estate on the ground that would eventually become the Guinness brewery at Park Royal, large sections of the Ealing Club split away in 1894 and the Ladies Club along with them moved close by the Great Western Railway at Hanwell. This site would have been ideal for Victorian city folk looking for a golfing escape to the countryside and with Ealing fast becoming a fashionable place to live the renamed West Middlesex Club playing over its James Braid designed links were soon and still is a successful golf club.
Willie Park Junior was apparently involved in developing the new Hanwell course and permission to play on a Sunday was granted by landlord Lord Jersey in 1896. The golf course continued to be developed and improved over the following years and in a letter dated 17th November 1910, the distinguished golfer and Open Champion James Braid, who has been asked to survey the West Middlesex golf course, suggest improvements and submitted a detailed list of modifications. His plans were directed toward making play more interesting and were adamant about using the pond which he declared to be “a magnificent hazard”.
The club centenary book suggests another rebuild took place in 1926 with the firm of Colt, MacKenzie & Alison consulted but that partnership had dissolved some 3 years earlier, it is much more likely these adjustments were made by Messrs. Hawtree & J.H. Taylor. Hawtree & Taylor would return in c1939 to install excellent new strategic golf holes at 12 and 13 replacing unsatisfactory holes that now reside under the adjacent ‘Golf Links’ tower blocks.
It would be remiss to speak of West Middlesex without mention of the artistic tradition that existed at that club. Celebrated artist Hal Ludlow was a founder member of WMGC, a Ludlow bronze of Harry Vardon recently went for auction with a reserve of thirty thousand dollars. Ludlow was also commissioned to paint the Prince of Wales in 1931, it is the only portrait of the prince in golfing attire.
New Zealander and illustrator Harry Rountree also found his way to West Middlesex and would serve as both Club Captain in 1919 and Middlesex Golf President in 1934. Rountree was the illustrator for The Tatler, Golf Illustrated and Lewis Carol’s Alice to mention but a few. Lovers of golf art would do well to seek out Rountree’s work in Bernard Darwin’s ‘Golf Courses of the British Isles’ which includes a breathtaking collection of golfing art. This book is out of copyright and can be viewed online or purchased for pennies via abebooks.co.uk.
Rountree was also in the habit of sketching members at West Mid where the walls are adorned with examples of his work.
Reason to Play
The golf course at West Middlesex is as good as any of the more celebrated golf courses in the county, I particularly like the opening stretch over the old Dormers Wells gravel pits, the gently rolling undulations there are reminiscent of seaside golf, and the golf course as a whole offers a really interesting and strategic challenge where ball placement is of the utmost importance.
West Middlesex is one of my favourite Middlesex courses and well worth the green fee, the course has been much altered over its lifetime but always for the better in my opinion. The front 9 is linksy and idiosyncratically unique in Middlesex, it warms you up for the more modern and stringent strategic test offered by the back 9. A warm welcome is guaranteed and a tour of clubhouse artwork is a real treat.
Once again, I can confirm Ashford Manor has been able to perpetuate all of the above into the modern era, the course was originally laid out by Richmond greenkeeper Tom Hogg and it is recorded that Peter Lees of Royal-Mid Surrey GC advised and it is unthinkable that Hilton when acting as Club Secretary and latterly a long-term member was not asked to advise on the design of the golf course and influenced its course architecture. Surrey-esque in nature with pine trees a-plenty signposting the way, a visit to Ashford Manor is always a joy and to be highly recommended in whatever season of the year you may be wanting to visit.
Visitors are welcome and green fees can be found on the club website
8 miles & 26 minutes from Heathrow and 11 miles & 34 minutes from Marble Arch
Tel: 0208 349 5211
Golfs Missing Links 1305-eng-gl-ealing-golf-club
James Braid – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Braid_(golfer)
Author – Lee Patterson