Walton Heath (Old)
The history of Walton Heath is exceptional. The two world class championship courses have hosted nearly ninety significant amateur and professional championships and events, including five European Opens, The Ryder Cup, the U.S. Open Qualifying and most recently the Senior Open Championship . The world’s top players have taken on and enjoyed the challenges of these two outstanding heathland courses for over a century.
The courses were designed by Herbert Fowler who was related by marriage to the founder, Sir Henry Cosmo Bonsor. The Old Course was opened for play in 1904. “It was a stroke of genius on the part of Mr Herbert Fowler to see with his prophetic eye a noble golf course on the expanse of Walton Heath”, wrote Bernard Darwin. James Braid, five times Open Champion, became the first professioinal and he remained until 1950. Walton Heath is less than 20 miles to the south of the centre of London. It is 700ft/213m above sea level, yet it is usually described as an inland links: the drainage is excellent, the turf beautifully crisp, the lies tight, the bunkers deep and encrusted with heather, and the greens firm and swift.
Walton Heath’s fame is not confined to its courses and golfing heritage. No other club in England has been honoured with a reigning monarch as captain and included four British Prime Ministers amongst its members. King Edward VIII, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill all played their golf at Walton Heath, whose clubhouse walls and heathland turf have witnessed many a historic conversation over the years.
Walton Heath is the venue of a number of national amateur tournaments and championships. It has also hosted several high profile professional events including the 1981 Ryder Cup, when it stepped in as a replacement venue after construction at The Belfry had not been completed in time. The club also hosted five editions of the European Open, a European Tour event, between 1978 and 1991. Since 2005, Walton Heath has been the venue for the U.S. Open European qualifying tournament. In the first year, New Zealander Michael Campbell qualified at Walton Heath, and went on to win the Open at Pinehurst. Walton Heath hosted The Senior Open Championship, one of the five majors recognised by the Champions Tour, the world’s dominant tour for golfers 50 and older, from 21–24 July 2011. The event was eventually won by Russ Cochran