St George’s Hill is one of this nation’s prettiest golf courses but that’s not the only reason it stands out.
The Weybridge course has drawn praise throughout a century of existence for its stunning scenery and remains a wonderful monument to the work of architect Harry Colt.
His courses, though, are not unique. He had a hand in more than 300 during his long career and was responsible for designing 115 on his own.
What makes St George’s Hill special is the concept on which the course was founded. For the Surrey track is the first ever ‘estate’ golf course.
First among equals
When Walter George Tarrant acquired 964 acres of land from the Egerton family in 1911 he had grand aims in mind.
He was going to build the first residential, tennis and golf course development – with fairway-side houses the ultimate in luxury living.
More commonplace now, this was a brand new idea at the time. Wentworth, for example, didn’t come along until a decade later.
Colt was brought in and designed the course and, today, there are around 42o houses on the estate.
Celebrities and entrepreneurs were among the first occupants and it’s not a place your average Joe will be able to afford in the 21st century.
A 2007 survey revealed the average sale price of a house on the estate roads had been more than £3 million in the previous 12 months.
St George’s Hill was opened for play in October 1913 with 12 of the era’s leading professionals, including JH Taylor, James Braid and Abe Mitchell taking part in the inaugural competition.
George Duncan, who would go on to captain the winning Great Britain & Ireland Ryder Cup team at Moortown in 1929, took the honours with a round of 71 – four under the bogey score of 75.
Along with Mitchell, he would also see off Walter Hagen and MacDonald Smith in a 72 hole challenge match in 1924, half of which was staged at St George’s Hill. The Brits came out on top 4&2.
What a loop hole
Now in three loops of nine, the Red, Blue and Green, Colt used the naturally undulating terrain to develop a course with spectacular panoramas and memorable holes.
Look out for the characteristic heather, silver birch and Scots pine that frame the rollercoaster fairways.
St George’s Hill also has another defining characteristic. It’s not much of a hill. In fact, it is the lowest in Surrey to be listed in a national database of hills of Britain and Ireland.
That said, the easterly peak is the highest summit to be strictly private – narrowly seeing off a similar rival in Windlesham.
And, although Walton Heath can claim to be the only club that had a reigning monarch serve as captain, it wasn’t the only venue that had benefited from Edward VIII’s services.
The short-lived King, then merely the Prince of Wales, was elected as the top dog at St George’s Hill two years prior to his ascension to the throne in 1934.