Bunkers were not the only problem to be encountered on the course. Horace Davies made notes on one of them:
“We come to the problem No 8 across the valley, known to countless numbers of players as “Carter’s Folly” - so called because it was a green made up of two levels. A plateau green with two and a half feet lower front, leaving only eight yards of level putting surface at the higher part of the green. The entrance to the green bore no relation to the tees which had been constructed on the opposite bank near the 7th green. This resulted in shots for the tees hitting the plateau and rolling down the valley of the old 8th fairway. This problem was resolved by the reshaping of the green during 1923."
The yardage of the hole was deemed to be 106 yards. We can only surmise that the tee at the time was one of those currently used by the ladies when hitting to the present winter green, i.e. a third of the way down the bank of the valley.
Of all the holes at Southerndown, “Carter’s Folly” has caused most controversy over the years and has become one of the most memorable holes on the course.
In the autumn of 1920, a newspaper reported that Miss Cecil Leitch, the British Lady golf champion, played Porthcawl on the Monday and Southerndown on the Tuesday and had been favourably impressed with the standard of golf courses in South Wales. Talking on the Tuesday evening at the close of her two strenuous rounds, Miss Leitch expressed her admiration for the general lay-out of the links at Ogmore Down and the condition of the greens. But she candidly admitted that she could not recollect having been on a course so heavily bunkered as Southerndown.
She later commented:
“I played Southerndown and fell in love with the links. My partner was General Carter and we partnered Mr John Duncan and Mr Duff Carne in a four ball foursomes against bogey.
“I distinctly remember arriving on the tee of a short hole, was it the 8th? I forget. And General Carter, said: “I am particularly interested to see you play this hole as I designed it." I am told that it is unfair and impossible, and it is known as Carter’s Folly. General Carter was delighted when three of us holed out in 2, and he himself just missed his 2 and took 3."
In June 1920 Percy Alliss (then assistant professional at Royal Porthcawl) and C A Whitcombe (Radyr) played a 36 holes competition at Southerndown, having already met each other at both Porthcawl and Radyr. After the game, which Whitcombe won, the two gave their opinions of the course:
Whitcombe - Southerndown is an exceptionally good test of golf. About the only hole I do not like is the short eighth, which is neither a good nor a fair hole … if I had my way I would alter it immediately, it spoils a good round. (Carter’s Folly certainly spoiled both of Whitcombe’s rounds that day as he had a five each time!)
Alliss - One of the finest tests of golf in Wales …if anything a little more difficult than Royal Porthcawl.
In 1922, Justice Acton, and his party played several rounds at Southerndown over a weekend.
“They were much impressed by the situation of the links and Lady Acton in particular was delighted with the course. As is well known, the eighth hole has been the subject of much controversy, but Lady Acton, having holed out in 2, pronounced it to be one of the best short holes she had ever seen."
However, Club minutes reveal that Harry Colt was invited back in July 1924 “to advise on the reconstruction of the 5th hole." Nor was that an end to the matter. The 5th hole continued to attract constant attention over the next few years with several changes being made to green, tees and bunkers. Perhaps the final word on ‘Carter’s Folly’ should go to the Green Committee of 23rd May 1926 with its recommendation that “No. 5 [be] completely remodelled."
One of the questions often asked about Southerndown is at what time was the fairway of the 18th made into two layers. There is no definite date but the examination in 1921 by Harry Colt reads as follows:
“No 18 - the plateaux have been made far too artificial and a wing on the left of the top plateaux should have been carried out. The bunkers on the right are too much alike and should have the grass stripped off the faces to make them look much more natural. The green is not a good putting green."
The only really significant change would be not in the layout but in the sequence of holes played. A minute of 12th January 1924 records this decision:
One gains the impression therefore that, with the exception of enlargement of tees and alteration to bunkers, if a person from the 1920 era visited Southerndown today, he would see little or no major change in the course. It remains an excellent test of golf even with the advances in equipment and ball technology.
So who should take the credit for the design of the holes as we know them today? It takes detective work - and some speculation - to hazard an answer to that question, and even then allowance must be made for later alterations to tees, greens and bunkers.
Perhaps the honours should be awarded as follows:
The final word on course design should go to two of our architects:
Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea