Purley Downs Golf Club was formed in 1894, when a 9-hole course was brought into play. Ten years later, after negotiating a new land lease at an annual rent of £256 for the first 14 years and £356 thereafter, the club engaged J.H. Taylor for a fee of £24 to design a new 18-hole layout on 115 acres.
This included a 15-acre wedge on the west side of the East Grinstead railway line with the three holes on that little plot (the 12th, 13th and 14th) accessed by a wooden footbridge. Dick Glynne-Jones takes up the story in this edited extract from the book A Centenary Celebration: Purley Downs Golf Club:
“The purchase of the freehold in the early 1920s brought in for the first time the area known as Miller’s Field. Before that date the land occupied by the present 3rd, 4th, 5th , 6th and 7th was farmed by Mr Miller. This enabled the club to dispose of the five holes to the west, the revenue for which contributed to the new holes.
The new layout was designed by the well-known golf architect H S Colt, and became the course as we play it today. However, a drastic change was forced on the club during the Second World War. In 1943 the 6th and 7th holes and the first part of the 3rd were requisitioned for agriculture. The full course was not brought back into use until 1952.
Other changes since the war have been mostly cosmetic: the removal of humps by the 4th and 15th greens, for example, and ‘sculpturing’ the fairways by allowing the rough to grow out, especially in front of the bunkers.
The re-measuring which took place in the early 1970s produced some shocks: both the 6th and 12th were found to be less than 475 yards long and had to be reduced to par fours. The 12th was promoted back to a par five again by making the green smaller, so that the mid-point was further back.
There is hardly a bunker that has not been repositioned or reshaped or both. The philosophy behind the changes is clear: the old bunkers tended to make the game harder for the weaker player, instead of forcing the better player to think about his option and weigh the percentages. Many of the old midway bunkers have now been removed, and new ones have been placed to catch the long drive that is not quite straight.”
Today, the course measures 6,305 yards from the back markers, playing to a par of 70; out in 34 and back in 36. A round begins here with a par three then the routing brings the par four 9th back to the clubhouse before returning again with the par four 18th.
The club hosted the 26th edition of the British PGA Matchplay in 1933, when Percy Alliss won the first of his two titles in that championship.