Royal Blackheath Golf Club appears in our ranked list courtesy of Golf World. They published a curious list – Top 100 Golf Courses of the World – in their November 2005 edition. They made it clear that their ranking was not based purely on the merits of the course, it was much more about the experience and they went on to say: “England’s oldest club has a stunning clubhouse and a fascinating museum containing hundreds of years’ worth of golfing memorabilia which is worth the visit alone.” We could leave it at that, but we think we’d be doing you and Royal Blackheath an injustice.
It is thought that the Scots formed the Society of Blackheath Golfers in 1608 after James I reunited the thrones and, there is no reason to doubt this, but it’s difficult to substantiate. Records were destroyed in a late 18th century fire. The earliest remaining facts point to a silver club that was presented to the Honourable Company of Golfers at Blackheath in 1766.
“Now I come to the course of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club, the premier golf club of the world,” wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1925 book The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “and I come to it with a heavy heart because this historic club plays no longer on its historic heath. Hordes of vandal boys playing football have kicked the sacred turf to pieces and made golf impossible. The holes are now no longer cut and the club has moved to Eltham. The Eltham course is in a pretty, park-like spot with admirable greens and a fine old club-house, but it is of course not the heath.”
Blackheath was originally a 7-hole course with competitions usually consisting of three rounds, over 21 holes. As traffic built up on the main A2 road into London, it became impractical and dangerous to drive tee shots across the road. In 1923, the club amalgamated with Eltham Golf Club and it has remained there ever since.
The 17th century Eltham Lodge is a worthy and fitting clubhouse for Royal Blackheath Golf Club, providing a decorous ambiance for such a historic club. You may visit the museum for approximately £10.00 per person and it’s probably the finest club museum anywhere in the world.