“ Simply by playing the game and being a golfer you earn the right to praise or criticise golf courses. Your opinion is neither right nor wrong ; it is merely an opinion. However, the more types, styles, eras you play, the more weight your opinion conveys”
- Tony Dear, author The History of Golf in 50 Holes.
Middlesex Golf and its associated clubs illustrate many and varied types, styles and eras of the game. This series endeavours to highlight that infinite variety of golf clubs, their golf courses and an extremely diverse community of golfers, to those who are, and will, play the Royal and Ancient game of Golf within the County of Middlesex.
Middlesex Golf 1920
Hampstead’s 9th green and clubhouse - does any clubhouse anywhere fit more perfectly into its surroundings?
Golf mainly arrived in London in the form of the first ‘golf boom’ at the latter part of the nineteenth century, those first London golf courses were quite rudimentary affairs and in the main were very poor imitations of the ancient Scottish seaside links they sought to imitate, with many, like Willesden and Tooting laid out over fields rented from a local farmer or by usurping common-land used mainly at the time for the grazing of animals. These courses struggled to offer much, if any, interesting sport and they soon disappeared. A few, however, were lucky enough to be laid out over undulating terrain offering the illusion of playing over the sand dunes of the ancient links, Hampstead is one of these latter sites.
Tom Dunn’s Hampstead circa 1910, those cop bunkers are still in play today.
The course at Hampstead although slightly altered over its 125 year plus history still retains the feel of a thoroughly enjoyable Victorian inland links and is an insight into what early golf at its best might have looked and felt like. Individual holes climb and descend over the magnificent slopes of Hampstead Heath and although just nine holes were ever built the desire to play them at least once more is ever present. Perhaps only the draw of a convivial whisky mac in the understated and intimate clubhouse being the wrench that finally draws your attention away from golf.
Inside Hampstead’s comfortable clubhouse you will find artefacts from the earliest days of the Club, not least of which are golf clubs made by James Govan the clubs first professional, Govan a man who would subsequently emigrate to the United States and take up the position of professional at famous Pine Valley GC in Philadelphia. Govan is noted as living on the property at Pine Valley (with his family) alongside enigmatic owner George Crump, Govan assisting in course construction. PV is currently rated by some experts as the No. 2 golf course in the world.
Looking back down the 9th hole it is hard the believe we are just 5 and a half miles from Trafalgar Square.
Hampstead is undoubtedly the most enjoyable golfing history lesson one might be blessed to enjoy. No HGC is not a self proclaimed ‘championship’ course, long hitters probably wont need their drivers, what is guaranteed is thoroughly enjoyable golf for ALL classes of golfer from a time when inland golf was but a mere newcomer.
Reasons To Play
A unique and very enjoyable 9-hole course offering a glimpse at how golf moved inland, and designed by prolific Tom Dunn who laid out courses at Broadstone, Lindrick, Royal Worlington, Woking and redesigned the London Scottish Golf Club at Wimbledon Common into an 18-hole course in 1871.
Visitors are most welcome by prior arrangement, a simple call will secure a mutually agreeable tee time. Please remember HGC is a busy 9-hole course so you may need to be flexible.
Tel. 020 8455 0203
Club Website: https://hampsteadgolfclub.co.uk/