The club’s history
Golf was undoubtedly played on Corhampton Down more than a century ago, but the first traceable record of the club’s institution dates back to 1891 and the Royal and Ancient Club ruled that we must accept this year for our Centenary.
The club was first mentioned in the 1897-8 Golfing Annual’s directory, sandwiched between Cootamundra Golf Club, an Australian course described as “interesting” and Cork, illustrating the world-wide following enjoyed by the game even in those far off days.
However, the first mention of the club’s institution appeared in the 1906-7 edition – and here is the entry:
“CORHAMPTON GOLF CLUB. Instituted 1891. Annual subscription ten shillings; number of members 32. Hon. Secretary R.B. Campbell-Wyndham, Corhampton House, Bishops Waltham. The course of nine holes on Corhampton Down is a mile-and-threequarters from Droxford Station (L. and S.W. Ry). Only seven holes are played on Saturdays.”
Cricket was already well-established on Corhampton Down when the first sketchy golf course was laid out – and it was the all-important Saturday cricket fixture which meant that golfers had to skirt the boundaries of the ground where the willow was being struck and play just seven holes. Cricket was regularly reported in the Hampshire Chronicle. For example in 1885 it was reported that the Corhampton Valley Club had been reorganised. The ground on the Down. had been “judiciously chosen and relaid”.
A cricket pavilion was built and remained there until it was destroyed by fire during World War II. Sadly no public record of the official formation of Corhampton Golf Club can be traced and it is a matter of great regret that none of the club’s minutes or other documents leading up to World War II are in the club’s possession.
This has certainly raised the handicap when researching the story of the early days of this splendid club. Old copies of the club rules record that permission to play on the Downs was given to members by Mr. Wyndham-Long, who owned the freehold of the land.
It is clear that golf at Corhampton started in a very modest way, with membership of about 30. Right up to the First World War there were no artificial bunkers, although no doubt plenty of other hazards existed, and the only attention the fairways received was from the sheep which grazed on the course. You could call it golf in the raw!
After the Great War the club started to make real progress and soon the days of uncut fairways and miniature greens were left behind. The course was remodelled and turned into nine quality holes.
In 1932, with the arrival of professional-greenkeeper Bert Dedman, the course was reshaped into the nine-hole course which was to remain virtually unchanged for more than 40 years.
Corhampton gained an enviable reputation as a friendly club where visitors could be assured of a warm welcome and a good sporting round of golf. Few courses could claim such a magnificent setting, with views across the lovely Meon Valley and long panoramas descending towards the Solent and the New Forest. A rich variety of wild flowers and bird life added to the pleasure.
When World War II was over a great deal of dedicated, not to mention back breaking work put the club back on its feet -the ninth hole had been put under the plough – and in 1950 the club acquired the freehold of the course and built a new clubhouse.
At about that time the entrance fee was £2.2s., the men’s subscription £3.3s, ladies £2.2s. and junior members £1.ls. Green fees were 2s.6d on weekdays (2s.0d. after 5 p.m.) and 5s. 0d on Sundays for a full day or 3s.6d per round.
As the years went by new courses sprang up in an attempt to meet the ever-growing popularity of the game and in 1973 Corhampton members decided to “go 18” and build a spanking new clubhouse.
There was disappointment when the club was outbid in a battle to buy additional land -and patience was required to surmount planning problems. It was decided to redesign and extend the course within its own 88 acres, based on plans drawn up by former Club Captain, Bill Wilson, by now the Course Manager. Work started in July that year and involved construction of eleven new greens and tees, new bunkers, and reseeding a large fairway. Play continued throughout the time work was under way.
The year 1975 was undoubtedly the most significant in the club’s long history. The new-look Par 68 course, measuring 5,932 yards, was opened by Club Captain George Davis and this momentous occasion was followed by the opening of the new clubhouse by Bernard Hunt, then British Ryder Cup team captain. He unveiled the plaque situated inside the lounge and bar area. 1975 also saw the arrival of our popular professional John Harris, who was to become such an asset to the club and a friend to members.
Turning the course from nine to 18 holes cost the club £25,000 while work on the clubhouse together with furnishings and fittings ran up a bill of £55,000.
Financing both projects was largely borne by the members, each of whom was called upon to put down a repayable £50 deposit. In addition 40 members paid £500 apiece for a 20-year membership.
Although the number of members was increased from 320 to 450 there was still a waiting list. Today’s membership is approaching 700 and such is the popularity of golf that there is still a queue to join.
Having made the big break-through Corhampton pressed on with further developments which have improved the quality of the course and the amenities enjoyed by members and visitors.
A borehole was sunk into the deep chalk to provide a head of water for an automatic sprinkler system – and the clubhouse was enlarged in 1983.
In 1988 members took the important decision to buy more land so that the course could be reshaped and extended to measure approximately 6500 yards. The course would have two loops of nine holes, with a large practice area and an extended car park. The new holes were to be numbered 12, 13, 14 and 15, leaving the celebrated 16th “valley” hole -one of the outstanding holes in Hampshire – unchanged.
The extension has been landscaped by Hawtree and Company, golf club architects, who have designed many famous courses at home and abroad.
A last word from Club Secretary Peter Taylor: “The membership of this club can be rightly proud of what has been achieved over the last two decades. It has been done at an affordable rate, by very careful budgeting and without taking on too much of a financial burden.”