100 years of The Addington Golf Club, near Croydon - PG Wodehouse's home from home
PUBLISHED: 10:04 19 November 2013 | UPDATED: 12:57 31 March 2016
Celebrating its centenary this year, The Addington has a special place in golfing folklore, writes John Whitbread of the Surrey Golf Partnership
IF 221B Baker Street is very special to the followers of detective fiction, then 205 Shirley Church Road is just as inspirational for those who love golf.
It’s behind this somewhat anonymous Croydon address and a rather austere 1950’s clubhouse that they can find the delights of The Addington Golf Club, which this year celebrates its centenary.
A venture among the undulating 18 holes that weave their way through glorious birch and pine, heather and rhododendrons reveals a sylvan sporting haven, surprisingly close to London’s crowded bustle.
Holmes would also appreciate the way facts can belie the truth. A yardage of 6,284 off the back tees and a par of 69 might suggest a simple test, but The Addington is far from it. It unusually features six par threes and is a fiendishly tough track to conquer, with a standard scratch score of 71.
The early days
It all began on July 10, 1913, when Addington Golf Syndicate Ltd was incorporated with an initial share capital of £1,000. Leading the way was South African born John Frederic Abercromby, a former member of the Stock Exchange. He had become private secretary to the owner of Bridley Manor, who instructed him to build a course. Though a top class golfer who played off a handicap of plus six, Abercromby was a relative amateur in course design. With the aid of the experienced Willie Park Junior, however, he made an impressive start by building Worplesdon and Coombe Hill before he took on The Addington. He subsequently stayed on as a chairman from 1919 to his death in 1935.
During this time, the club went on to become so popular that, between the two World Wars, a second 18 holes were opened in 1923. The opening of the second course was met with great excitement, and leading stars of the day, including James Braid, Percy Alliss and Abe Mitchell, played a match just before the formal opening.
In the glory years, between 1919 and 1939, there were 800 members, of whom 200 were women, and it was said: “You could count those who did not come in their Rolls Royces on the fingers of one hand.” Indeed, there was even a chauffeurs’ hut next to the caddies’ hut.
Its distinction was underlined when King George VI became a patron in 1937, leading to it becoming temporarily known as Royal Addington.
The celebrated author PG Wodehouse was a member in the inter-war years and his love of the game was illustrated when he signed the preface to Heart of a Goof as P.G. Wodehouse, c/o the sixth bunker, Addington.
Later, in the 1950’s, Henry Longhurst, the doyen of BBC golf commentators, included the 13th and 16th holes in his book My Perfect Course. Of the club’s signature hole, the dramatic 229-yard par three 13th he eulogised: “I swear it to be, with the exception of the fifth at Pine Valley, the greatest one-shot hole in inland golf.”
Two serious events were to end the early halcyon days. During World War Two, the New Course was appropriated for military purposes and in 1944 Croydon Corporation recommended it for compulsory purchase to alleviate a housing shortage.
The second blow to hit The Addington came on the night of February 2, 1952, when a blaze destroyed the entire clubhouse, destroying with it all the treasured records and trophies plus no fewer than 2,000 golf clubs.
A new chapter
In 2006, The Addington was bought by the Altonwood Group (owned by former Wimbledon, Crystal Palace and Brentford chairman Ron Noades), which also owns and operates Surrey National, Westerham, Woldingham and Godstone Golf Clubs. Determined to restore the course’s high reputation, work has been progressing at a pace. The undergrowth has been cleared, bunkers have been renovated and several new tees have been constructed alongside other major course improvements.
Now ranked eighth in Surrey and 30th in England, among today’s notable members is comedian Ronnie Corbett whose home backs on to the course, while Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Roberto Di Matteo are among a raft of leading faces from football who share the fairways with cricketers such as Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart.
The Surrey Golf Partnership comprises 111 clubs that are also affiliated to the Surrey Golf Union and the Surrey Ladies Golf Union. See surreygolfpartnership.com