Harry Shapland Colt
At the end of the war in 1918, it was realised that the layout of the course would have to be altered as it was too difficult, with narrow fairways lined by gorse and ferns and sand traps in almost every hollow. It is claimed that there was a sand trap for every day of the year and the redesign of 1919 reduced this number to 126 - currently there are 86 sand traps on the course.
The course, as it was, took an average player between four or five hours to complete 18 holes.
Mr Gottwaltz came to the rescue once more and offered to pay the fees and expenses to engage Mr Harry S Colt to advise the Committee how best to improve the course. In January 1919 his offer was accepted by the Committee.
At the February meeting a letter from Mr Gottwaltz was read, stating that Mr Colt’s visit was imminent and that he would require three or four hundred wooden pegs. Mr Irvine said he would provide 150 of these and the Hon Secretary was authorised to purchase a similar quantity.
Harry Shapland Colt was one of a handful of pioneering turn-of-the-century figures.
At a time when “Club Secretary” was an esteemed figure requiring technical skills of turf management as well as bookkeeping and diplomacy, Colt was perfectly suited. He became Secretary at Rye, and the fact that he was good enough to play in the British Amateur and the Open, gave him further opportunities. Colt, it should be noted, was the first course designer who had not first been a professional golfer.
Following the production of Mr Colt’s report, Mr Gottwaltz informed the Committee he had a scheme for carrying out the work embodied in the report under the supervision of a Mr Harris, who had been recommended by Mr Colt for this purpose. He also informed the meeting that he had subscriptions already promised towards the cost amounting to £300 and he had no doubt, providing the Committee would assist him, of obtaining further subscriptions sufficient to cover the whole cost. Based on his presentation, the following proposal was carried:
“That Mr Colt’s scheme be carried out ‘en bloc’ provided such can be done without calling on the Club’s funds."
Colt’s alterations were completed in March 1920. The following is a newspaper comment at the time:
“Judging by the crowd of players on Sunday last the improvements in the Southerndown links commended themselves to the golfing fraternity. The commissariat department at the club during lunch was fully taxed, as also was the garage accommodation. The Club will, no doubt, have to improve the access from the road to the clubhouse, and extend the garage."
Colt made several interesting changes. More is written later about the 8th (our 5th) which is known to everyone as ‘Carter’s Folly’.
Our own 8th (at that time the 11th) had been designed by Park as a straight hole from our 8th tee to our 11th green. Colt built a new green a short way to the west, creating the dog-leg which is a feature of the hole. Nowadays strangers to the course sometimes make the mistake of playing their second shot straight ahead at our 11th green, not realising that Park has given way to Colt!
Colt used the old green to lengthen his 5th, creating what we know as the 11th hole, and it was probably he who introduced the dogleg into the 12th by creating a new green on the horizon. This led to a new 13th tee where our old yellow box was (the modern 13th tee dates to 2001) and a new 13th green short of Fernie’s original long 12th.
The 14th green was moved 20 yards to the right and Fernie’s old 13th tee was brought back into use. Being quite a short par 3 the 14th was given the protection of several bunkers.
An article entitled “An Appreciation of Southerndown” by NUNI (Never Up Never In) appeared in The Western Mail, 10th April 1920. NUNI was the pen name for none other than General Carter, then Secretary of the Club, and he made the following comments relying heavily on Colt’s report. Extracts of this article were used in the official 1920 brochure of the Club.
“Your first hole (366 yards), as a ‘lever de rideau’ for serious business to come, is somewhat of a trying one, as it is played up a steepish hill. After a hearty meal and a few glasses of “hunting port” players with rotund figures are apt to emulate the grampus whilst struggling up the slope. It is, however, just a steady going easy 5 hole, two drives and a pitch. To make the hole easier, put a little beef into your initial tee shot, and strive to carry the formidable ridge facing you, then everything will be ‘couleur de rose'.
The second hole (400 yards) is, in my opinion, a hole which would be a prominent feature if it adorned any of our championship courses. Whilst playing the same you get a magnificent view of Porthcawl, nestling behind the huge sand hills that Nature has brought into being. It will take two of your bravest ‘smacks’ to reach the green and that second must be placed with the accuracy of a Mitchell, and then you will need the genius of Walter Travis (the Yankee champion) to get down in two more, for the green is as delusive and as slippery as an eel.
Then at the 4th hole (our 10th) comes your first real chance of a 3. This is an excellent though difficult one-shot hole, perfectly guarded like the harem of the Turk. The green slopes fairly briskly from right to left, and the ideal shot is played somewhat to the right of the pin with the view to ringing round towards the hole, and thus giving one a chance for a 2; but the prevailing wind is from the left, and the least push out finds you landed in the bunker to the right of the green.
The eighteenth green is a worthy finish to a close fought match. Great improvements have been effected in the fairway and this hole. Once it was dreaded and was responsible for more lurid language than any other, but now the fairway is like unto the terraces of Hampton Court and one walks up to the ball with perfect confidence."
NUNI ended his article in suitably flamboyant style by declaring
“There are no doubt some fine gruelling hazards at Southerndown, but it is not these that make the weak player’s knees knock together, it is the little pots of inconspicuous aspect that most emphatically decline to be ignored."
He was talking, specifically, about the bunkers and if the language seems a little poetic it must be remembered that, as well as being Secretary of Southerndown, Carter was also a professional journalist and, as such, was paid by the inch for his column.
Now, among the features of Southerndown golf are the uniformly fiendish behaviour of the wind and the fascinating variety of the stance experienced. Presumably the wind blows no harder than on other exposed courses, but the majority of holes are so contrived that the prevailing wind (S.W.) is generally blowing across one’s shot. It is this “flanking attack” which tears up score cards in competitions, and it is but seldom that you have a perfectly straightforward shot to play. Professionals are artists in utilising this wind, but the majority of amateurs are certainly not, and Southerndown on a medal day with a high wind is often to many of us a place of trial and disillusionment.
Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea