Of all the clubs with claims to fame, Coombe Hill has to be up there as having the most.
Future kings and princes graced the course, while General Dwight D Eisenhower – later the 34th President of the United States, had a secret hideaway situated at Telegraph Cottage, just behind the 14th tee.
A keen golfer, it’s no stretch to imagine the future Commander-in-Chief sneaking out for a quick knock – although he did occasionally have his hands full with other matters (read on).
Few people knew at the time that the Supreme Allied Commander, who would take the decision to launch D-Day, was living in the Warren Road house.
I’ll tell you who did know though – one Kay Summersby, who was Eisenhower’s driver and a former model.
Summersby, who the General nicknamed ’Irish’, later detailed an affair between the two, no doubt giving birth to the phrase: “I want to be like Ike” among the Allied forces.
‘It was as if we were frantic, and we were’ “Our jackets came off. Buttons were unbuttoned. It was as if we were frantic, and we were,” Summersby later wrote of their passions, before shattering Eisenhower’s street cred in an instant by claiming he had difficulty consummating the affair.
If only his ’Little General’ had also stood to attention…
And that wasn’t the only bombshell to hit Coombe Hill. Throughout just three months in 1940, the Luftwaffe pounded the course, damaging the clubhouse and a number of holes.
Sounds like a great place for a hideaway Dwight.
Ironically, way before it was a golf course, the area was a haunt for other people attempting to hide out. It was frequented by highwaymen, before then becoming a popular site for executions, earning it the nickname Gallows Hill.
From the lowest members of society to the highest – their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VIII, and the Duke of York, who became George VI, both played at the club, as well as then-Home Secretary Winston Churchill.
The Kingston upon Thames course was also home to James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang author Ian Fleming.
Fleming and Bond both shared the same handicap, playing off nine. I’m sure Bond could be lower, but where are you going to find a teaching professional in St Petersburg at 2am?
’Is that a gimme?’
’No Mr Bond, I expect you to putt’
Following in the footsteps of Bond’s creator, Sean Connery leads the army of celebrity golfers to have played the course. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Harry Secombe, Stanley Baker all frequented the club, while Jimmy Tarbuck was even club captain for a year.
Away from the glitz and glamour, Coombe Hill has had its fair share of golfing great attached to the club, including Open champions Sir Henry Cotton, Arthur Havers, Sandy Herd and Dick Burton.
Burton was a bit of a gambler and once bet an opponent he could beat him using only a putter. Tricky Dicky lost, but only on the 18th hole.
So good, he could beat you with Eisenhower’s
Burton holds the record for possessing the Claret Jug for longer than anyone else – he won the 1939 Open and held the trophy for seven years while World War II was taking place.
The unexpected consequence of the War being, therefore, that both he and the married Eisenhower were able to keep hold of something that wasn’t rightfully theirs for longer than they should have.
So there you go. More names dropped than the gallows that were once situated on the site.