In January 1913, it was decided to approach Willie Park to ascertain his terms to visit the course for a week and produce a report. His terms were fifteen guineas plus expenses. The terms were acceptable and he subsequently visited the course and presented his report, dated 6th February 1913.
Willie Park Jnr, came from Musselburgh in Scotland and was described as golf’s first systematic course architect and designer. He was responsible for creating and improving 133 courses in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Europe, Canada and the United States, the most famous being Sunningdale. Following the example of his famous father, he won the Open Championship in 1887 and 1889.
His approach to golf course architecture is best summed up in his own words:
“The shape of the course must be decided by the nature of the ground. The selection of putting-greens is a much more difficult matter. They may be on the level course, or in a natural hollow or basin, provided it be sufficiently large and shallow, or they may be placed on the tops of large ‘tables'. All of these are good positions, and the more variety that can be introduced the better.
A golf architect must approach each bit of country with an absolute open mind, with no preconceived ideas of what he is going to lay out, the holes have to be found, and the land in its natural state used to its best advantage. Nature can always beat the handiwork of man and to achieve the best and most satisfactory results in laying out a golf course, you must humour nature.”
He is mainly remembered as an architect of golf courses, but he was also an enterprising gentleman. Having established your golf course, he would supply you with clubs and balls from his Musselburgh factory. If you wanted a professional, a good one could be found from amongst his acquaintances in “the Honest Toun".
The following are extracts from Park’s report. In essence, members of Southerndown should be very grateful to him as he was responsible for the design of the present 7th, 8th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes.
“After spending several days on the course and giving it careful consideration, I have formed the opinion that the ground is all that could be desired, the turf is equal to the best I have seen, and the natural undulations very fine. The holes at present are very good with the exception of three - the 10th, 15th and 18th, which are a bad distance being 265 yards each in length." (Fernie did not design any holes of this length, nor did Fowler. In each case their length was the consequence of other changes made by Fowler). “I would strongly advise you to carry out my alterations as marked off on the ground, and also make new bunkers to the holes that are to remain unaltered.
New 10th hole (220 yards), bunker 130 yards from tee, a bunker on the left 170 yards from tee; this putting green would require to be levelled up as explained.
New 15th hole, play to present 16th hole, bunker on right 130 yards from tee, bunker on left 180 yards from tee, bunker on right 250 yards from tee, a bunker on the left and short of green, bunker behind putting green.
16th hole would be your present 17th.
The new 17th hole requires to be cleared and levelled up in places, a bunker 90 yards in front of tee, a bunker to right 120 yards from tee, a bunker on left 150 yards from tee, a bunker right of green, the bunker on left of green to remain, the bunker behind to be filled up, the new green to be made short of the 15th.
18th hole, I do not recommend bunkers for the first stroke, for the second stroke the present bunkers remain, remove the present 16th tee, bunker on the right of the putting green to be extended, two new bunkers on left of green, small bunker behind green, the level of this green to be raised.
The length of the course when these alterations are carried out would be about 6,300 yards. To make a satisfactory job the cost would be about £600, but it could be less if you do it gradually. To ease the expenditure, the 1st, 14th and 18th greens could be used as at present. I suggest that you make some bunkers before the dry weather comes on, and by spending, say £200, next winter you should be able to do a considerable amount of the work required on these alterations. You have a very good man in Walker and I think it advisable you should leave the carrying out of the work pretty much in his hands."
The Club minutes show that in September 1913, Mr Alexander and Mr Moxon promised a subscription of 5 guineas each towards the cost of doing the work. It was suggested that subscriptions be asked from other members.
“We are now busy with the alterations to the Course and have just got the new 11th and 17th ready for turfing and hope to have the new 10th in the same position in the course of about a week. It has occurred to me that you would probably like to see the work before it is finished off as some alterations might occur to you …" - and then ends cryptically: “The Porthcawl Committee have called in Colt to advise them and I am told that he advises considerable alterations."
W R Randall
No time was lost in implementing Park’s proposals for new holes, as can be seen from Richard Randall’s letter to Park on 27th September 1913:
Park’s alterations were radical. Essentially he did away with the existing 10th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th holes and proposed to add over 40 new bunkers to the course. Fortunately, perhaps, the war intervened and much of the bunker work was left incomplete. His suggestion that “the 1st hole should be taken forward about 40 yards to a new putting green on the plateau” was never adopted.
The yardages which resulted from Park’s alterations are shown in the following handwritten notes. The first set is in the copperplate numerals of Randall, then Secretary of the Club (though he has holes 12 and 13 round the wrong way).
More interesting is the second set of yardages which are the pencilled numerals of John Alexander.
One can see that as early as 1913 he envisaged the change of hole numbering to create the present day two separate loops, i.e. his idea of the outward loop being the holes then numbered 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and then 6. This idea was given added impetus later when Colt shortened Park’s 11th hole, leaving a relatively long walk from the new green, our 8th, to the 12th tee. However, it was not to be implemented until 1924.
The meeting of 15th July 1914 agreed that the subscription towards the alterations was to be set at 10 shillings and 6 pence and that such subscriptions be voluntary.
Southerndown Golf Club
Ogmore by Sea