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Situated twenty-six miles northwest from the Palace of Westminster, outside the small market town of Amersham, Harewood Downs Golf Club dates back to 1907, two years after J.H. Taylor and Horace Hutchinson were first engaged to set out a course for a membership consisting largely of politicians from the House of Commons and lawyers from the Bar Council in London.
The layout was officially opened on 22nd June 1908 with a 36-hole exhibition match between course architect Taylor and another multiple Open Championship winner, Harry Vardon. Taylor had a score of 74 in the morning to his opponent’s 80, then he shot a 75 to Vardon’s 73 in the afternoon, winning the game 4 & 3 overall.
Within five years of its formation as a private golfing retreat, Harewood Downs was the home club of two Prime Ministers, seventeen Lords, nine Barons and Knights, a couple of Generals and a variety of parliamentarians. In 1972, a shake-up in the shares structure allowed the club to become fully owned by its members for the first time.
A club publication entitled Harewood Downs Golf Club: The Early Years by Malcolm Barker reveals that the original course was altered only one year after it was laid out, brought about by the acquisition of additional land. As the author states: “This redesigned course was very much as we know it today but with the 1st and 10th starting holes reversed.”
Further changes were made in later years. James Braid visited in 1928 and made many recommendations on changes to tees, bunkers and greens but the club decided to alter only ten holes. Cecil Hutchison then submitted a report on proposed modifications to three holes in 1937 and this work was carried out in full by the club.
Set out across undulating terrain on the south-facing side of the Misbourne Valley, this 18-hole track offers lovely views of the rolling Chiltern Hills from just about every hole. Extending to just over 6,000 yards from the back markers and playing to a par of 69, the course is modest in length but a standard scratch score rating of 70 indicates it’s no pushover.
Highlight holes include the short par four 4th, played from a left-to-right sloping fairway to the green, and this relatively benign hole is followed by three demanding par fours in succession, rated stroke index 3, 7 and 1. The front nine then concludes with an uphill, 405-yard par four where only the longest of drivers can see the pin as they play their approach.
On the inward half, the long par three signature 12th hole requires an all-carry tee shot over a gulley to a green bordered at the rear by out of bounds. The 410-yard 16th is another strong hole, doglegging right to a raised green which slopes back-to-front, and the round ends in fine style at the 18th on a home green that does its best to confound with subtle slopes and borrows.
The club carried out a major bunker improvement program under the guidance of the renowned architects Mackenzie and Ebert during the autumn and winter of 2018 and this work involved reducing bunker numbers and moving bunkers more into play for the better golfers, toughening the test for these players while making things a little easier for others.