Anthony Gibson’s new book recalls the incredible achievements of Ernie Foord and his claim to have played one of the finest 18-holes ever seen
Don’t envy Burnham & Berrow head professional David Haines. This is going to be the toughest of acts to follow.
On Friday, he will try and recreate what is surely one of the most incredible rounds ever played. He will take on the Somerset course’s memorable links using only a hickory putter.
He is emulating an incredible 18-holes – played more than a century ago by Ernie Foord and the subject of a captivating new book by Anthony Gibson.
For Foord, a single club in hand, knocked it round the difficult layout in a mere 73 strokes.
You may not be familiar with Foord, but Gibson’s book: Golf’s Most Astonishing Round – the story of Ernie Foord, Somerset’s unsung golfing hero, aims to right that wrong.
Born in 1883, Foord’s father, Walter, helped layout the original Burnham course that opened in 1891. The family were steeped in the new club – his mother, Sarah, was the first steward and Foord became the pro in 1900 at 16. He followed JH Taylor.
In 1903, Foord set a course record of 63 – 15 shots better than the bogey score. Gibson reveals that Golf Illustrated described the round as “possibly a world’s record”.
Even more incredible feats were to follow. With no limit set on the number of clubs players could carry, Foord decided to demonstrate you did not need heavy bags full of hickories to put together a good score.
‘This is a truly astonishing score’
He played the course with only a putter and Gibson, in his book, recounts how he took 78 – a number around 3-over for the course at the time.
When he had another go, on March 12, 1913, he fashioned a score of 73 and beat an 8-handicapper, given a five-hole start, at the same time.
The score caught the attention of Bernard Darwin, the doyen of golf writers, who wrote in this column in The Times: “Ernest Foord, the professional, armed only with a single putter, gave a start of five holes to an 8-handicap player and beat him by three holes up and 2 to play, completing the round in the score of 73 strokes.
“This is a truly astonishing score, as Burnham is neither a particularly short nor a particularly easy course.”
Remembering that incredible day, Gibson’s book relives the round and tells the story of Burnham & Berrow and its golfers in its early glory days – including Taylor, who would win five Open Championships.
Foord emigrated to the USA in 1916 and became one of the leading professionals – ending up at Oakland Hills when the US Open visited in 1924. He died in 1941.
But Gibson’s book aims to reignite the memories around a remarkable round and a fine golfer.
Haines, Burnham & Berrow’s current occupant, will try to replicate the feat using a Foord-made club. It won’t quite be a putter, he’ll give himself a little bit more loft, but he’s sure his score will only shine further light on what a remarkable player Foord really was.
“It’ll certainly be 73 shots at one point – but it will probably be by the 14th!” he said. “I’ve actually got an Ernest Foord mid-iron – made by him with the hickory shaft and a sharp leading edge.
“I’ve also got some 1.62inch Dunlop 65 balls in their original wrappers that I’ll use. I went out on our Channel course to see what I could get round in and I had four double bogeys and five bogeys! I probably hit it around 160 yards.
“The course is different now to how he played it and, in some respects, it would be a bit easier – the lies will be a bit better and the greens a bit quicker.
“They were probably using the Haskell ball then as well, so it was an astonishing round. If I can get round in roughly a bogey a hole, if I could break 90, I think that would be OK.”
You can buy Anthony Gibson’s book: Golf’s Most Astonishing Round – the Story of Ernie Foord, Somerset’s Unsung Golfing Genius by clicking here. It is officially released on October 27.
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