Royal Automobile Club (Coronation Course)Epsom, England
- AddressWoodcote Park, Wilmerhatch Ln, Epsom KT18 7EW, UK
The following edited extract is from A Matter of Course: The life of William Herbert Fowler 1856-1941 by Derek Markham:
“The R.A.C. Club was founded in 1897 as a private members’ motoring and social club. Until 1913 its sole premises were in Pall Mall, London, but in that year a magnificent sister establishment was opened near Epsom, Surrey, home to the famous Derby horse race.
Herbert Fowler was asked to design three loops of nine holes, labelled A, B and C. This novel idea allowed golfers to play a variety of eighteen hole combinations in their round. Although there was plenty of adverse comment about the length of some of the holes, the golfing press reacted favourably to Fowler’s new creation.
Most of the fairways were generously wide, but contained classic clusters of strategically placed sand bunkers. The putting greens were larger than on most courses, with no excessively abnormal slopes; however Fowler saw to it that there were undulations which demanded thought when choosing the putting line.
The official opening of Courses A and B was delayed by the outbreak of war, but eventually took place in April 1915. Both R.A.C. clubhouses were put at the disposal of the armed services [and] the requirements of the largely Canadian Military who were based at Woodcote Park meant that the nine holes of the C course were not completed.
Fowler was invited back in 1923 and asked to design an 18-hole course on the site where the 9-hole Course C had been planned. His reaction was unwilling; in his opinion the topography of the site would not be suitable for so many holes. For some years Course C was played as a nine-hole course with two tees used for each green for those wishing to play 18 holes.
The second world war caused further delay to the development of Course C, but eventually a design was agreed, and what was named the Coronation Course after the installation of Queen Elizabeth on the Throne was finished [by F.R. Smith] in 1953. ‘Fowler’s Pride’ became the par four 17th hole. The combined Courses A and B were christened the ‘Old Course,’ which today measures 6724 yards, 149 yards longer than Fowler’s original design.”
Rather like Moor Park’s West course, the Coronation layout at the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park property is the friendlier understudy to the club’s main Old course.
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Herbert Fowler was introduced to golf at Royal North Devon when visiting nearby Bideford on banking business in 1879 and he became a club member, winning the Prince of Wales Medal two years later.