The grounds on which the course was designed were purchased by the Willett family from the Nathaniel Strode estate in 1890. The intention was to build over around 125 acres, but the Chislehurst Commons Conservators blocked this and eventually agreed to a course being constructed on approximately half the planned acreage.
Tom Dunn was appointed as the architect and he created a 9-hole course on property which was officially opened on 21 July 1894 by the Rt. Hon. A.J. Balfour.
During those first few years it was a proprietary club, owned by the Willetts. However, there was a move to establish a members’ owned club and a scheme was put together to buy back the clubhouse and the course.
At the time that the purchase was agreed with the Willets, Easton Devonshire designed an 18-hole course which involved the purchase of another 4 acres of land. The new layout was opened in June 1900, again by Mr Balfour.
James Braid was then called in to upgrade the layout as indicated in the following edited extract which is taken from James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses by John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming:
“In early 1914 Braid travelled down to south-east London to the now leafy suburbs of Chislehurst. His brief was to ‘alter’ the course. It was, and is, an unusual course. Nisbet, 1911, refers to it as ‘very picturesquely situated’ and ‘carefully laid out’ but ‘unfortunately too short for modern long driving’, before praising it as ‘an excellent test of golf’.
Braid lengthened holes 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 15 and 18, put in five new greens, and added over sixty bunkers. Hawtree, from nearby Sundridge Park, did the construction. On 23rd June 1914 he opened the altered course with Tom Ball who beat him by 8 strokes, 73:65, before they combined in the afternoon to beat Jones, the club professional, and Ross 3&2.”
The eighteen holes are laid out on an extraordinarily compact property extending to only around sixty acres. Amazingly, two good-sized par fives (at the 1st and 14th) and a couple of long par fours (in excess of 400 yards) are somehow squeezed into this confined tract.
There are back-to-back par threes on the outward half at the 7th and 8th and this arrangement of successive short holes is repeated on the inward half at the 12th and 13th. As if that wasn’t enough quirk, there are old-fashioned crossover fairways at holes 1 and 16 and holes 8 and 11.