by Terry Lardeau-Randall
In 1904 the founders of Southerndown Golf Club engaged Willie Fernie, the professional at Glamorganshire Golf Club, to draw up preliminary designs for their course. Fernie made no secret of his opinion that from the point of view of the quality of the turf neither St Andrews nor Sandwich could approach the Southerndown site.
He surveyed the ground in question and later, accompanied by the committee members with wooden stakes and a mallet, led them around giving them instructions to the placement of tees and greens en route. No doubt his professional judgement would have been fully explained and justified between stopping points. Unlike some course architects of today, his idea was to use as many of the natural features as possible to avoid any high and unnecessary expense.
The problem was not to find eighteen holes but to limit it to that number - a newspaper report at the time commented:
“The holes of the new course have already been mapped out, and no less than thirty six absolutely perfect ones can be made… so the task of arranging them has proved an arduous one, for so well suited is the ground, that no sooner was an excellent place discovered for one hole than a number of others of equal advantage were found…"
The proposed layout was 7,170 yards for the total length of the course.
Though all were agreed as to the excellence of the site and the turf, the proposed length of the course was viewed with mixed feelings and caused quite a stir in the golfing world. In May 1905, the following article appeared in The Daily Chronicle:
“These are the days - unfortunately, many people will say - of record breaking golf, and the record in length of course is in the process of making. The new course … at present being laid out on the Ogmore Down is to be the longest in the United Kingdom, and its 18 holes will make the total length of 7,170 yards. There is, perhaps, not very much to be proud of in the matter, for the best judges have held that the most enjoyment and the best test of golf are provided by courses about 6,000 yards long, which is what the championship links average in length. Of the new course there are seven holes of 500 yards or over… What a place for a golfer who is a little off with his wooden clubs!"
One local long handicap golfer even wrote to The South Wales Daily News asking whether, as the course would be over four miles in length, the Southerndown Green Committee had made any provision in the 1906-07 estimates for applying to Parliament for powers to construct a light railway to take golfers round the course.
The reply by “Bogey” (Mr Max Wright) was that anyone with such a lethargic constitution would do better to give up golf and take up croquet or bowls. He felt that a longer course was needed and that Southerndown would meet that need.
For the sake of comparison with the Southerndown course as originally planned, these were the lengths in 1905 of the five best known championship courses in the country:
St Andrews - 6,323 yards
Prestwick - 5,732 yards
Hoylake - 6,070 yards
Sandwich - 6,012 yards
Muirfield - 5,829 yards
Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea