The following is an edited extract from A Matter of Course: The life of William Herbert Fowler 1856-1941 by Derek Markham:
“At the end of [World War I] hostilities, the Abbeydale club in Sheffield was in poor shape. The cost of endeavouring to return the course to its pre-war standard had driven the club significantly into debt. There was much speculation in real estate in the area which was ripe for house building. Providentially, one of the would-be developers offered the club suitable land nearby on which to build a new course.
Enter Herbert Fowler once more as chief adviser and course architect. On 2nd October 1922 he presented a glowing report to about 150 members at the King’s Head Hotel. Fowler gave his audience the hard sell: ‘If you carry this proposition through, it will be a pleasure to me to make one of the best courses in Yorkshire for you… there would be nothing of the same class in the neighbourhood of Sheffield.’
The Fowler and Simpson Partnership was engaged by Abbeydale to supervise course construction and the club committee were heavily relied on for all kinds of advice. During the construction of the new course and clubhouse Fowler was called in frequently. The Board was strong in numbers, with more than twenty members. After a great deal of delay, particularly with the clubhouse construction, the course finally opened in June 1924.
Abbeydale was only occasionally profitable during the inter-war years. The outbreak of the second world war coincided with an unsustainable level of liabilities. Eventually the club sold the land to the Sheffield Council and entered into an agreement to lease the course back. This ensured the club’s survival under acceptable conditions, and today the club flourishes. The contribution of Herbert Fowler to its history remains suitably acknowledged.”
Abbeydale is set on the western side of the city of Sheffield and is a pleasant parkland course. It is a traditional members club and entrance is down a long driveway, past the 17th and 18th holes and to a striking clubhouse with ample outdoor and balcony seating overlooking the course.
The course itself is pleasant with a few memorable holes. It does suffer in the Winter when it can get quite boggy.
The 1st tees off to the side of the clubhouse and the 18th returns in front of it. The 5th also returns to the clubhouse.
The 1st hole is a gentle right to left and your tee shot should be up the right hand side to avoid the trees on the left, before being left with a blind downhill 2nd shot into a tiered green. I don't mind the odd blind hole, particularly off the tee, but to have a 2nd shot where you can't see the green below you (unless you are a big hitter) isn't best design.
The 2nd is a short par 3, protected by bunkers. The 3rd, a par 5 leaves an approach shot to a green high above you and where again you cannot see the putting surface on what is a narrow green, so again better for having played it before so you know exactly what extra club and direction to aim at.
The 4th is a lovely hole, with a high tee looking doiwn on the hole, leaving a 2nd shot into a green which is below you, but have good bunkering and a false front to catch any shots that come up just a little bit short. A great driving hole off the tee.
The 5th is another blind shot over the hill, better to be left so you have a clearer view into what can be a tricky green.
Then another par 5, relatively straight forward but a nice hole to play before a climbb up the hill to the 7th, where you tee off across a ravine on a sort par 4. Aim left of bunkers and you should have a nice shot into the green. The 8th is another short hole, across a road, and its downhill all the way. Big hitters could reach the green, but there is trouble oob on the left and trees to catch errant shots to the right.
The 9th is a nice hole. You tee off across a small ravine and the shot down to the hole can be tricky depending upon time of year. This is followed by the 10th, a lovely par 3, downhill, all laid out in front of you, with bunkers front to catch you and a pond for errant shots to the left. A picturesque hole.
Then another par 5, up and over the brow of a hill sweeping down to a raised green, followed by a tough uphill long par 3. Club choice is key.
Then probably the hardest hole on the course, the 13th, a long par 4, a delightful yet tough hole. This is followed by another par 5 - tee shot needs to be up the left to avoid being blocked out by trees to the right hand side but even then a par should be possible. A narrow green with a severe fall away to the right, so accuracy again key.
And then another nice par 3 across the valley but this shouldn't cause too many issues.
You cross back across the road to the 16th, a straight hole but again precision is important with trees to the right and woods to the left, but a straight drive will leave a short to medium iron to the green, which slops front to back and this is it's protection.
The 17th is another good looking hole, like the 4th, from a high tee and with a 2nd shot to a sunken green which is probably out of sight.
You finish with a par 3. I'm not a fan of par 3 finishes in general, but this is a reasonable par 3 to finish with, an uphill tee shot to a sloping green, protected by bunkers and the driveway to the left hand side.
All in all a nice course to play once in a while, with just a few too many blind shots for my liking. And that par 3 finish.