There are many courses who have been bestowed with the title of ‘Royal’ – more than 60 worldwide. But did you know that…
Walton Heath is the only English club to have had a reigning monarch as captain?
He was the man that gave up his throne for the woman he loved. But Wallis Simpson wasn’t the only passion in the life of Edward VIII, a single-handicapper golfer who first played the game aged 13.
In his teenage years, the Prince had enjoyed steeplechasing and hunting, but his mother, Queen Mary, urged him to give up the dangerous sports in favour of something a bit more sedate – so Edward turned to golf.
’VIII is actually my handicap’
In doing so, Edward followed in the footsteps of other British monarchs who took to the fairways during their spare time – stretching back to James IV and Mary Queen of Scots.
He was crowned in 1936 while serving as captain at Walton Heath – though given he gave up the throne less than a year later, we’re not sure which role he preferred.
’Can we hurry this along, I’ve got a tee time at 3?’
It has been said Edward first came to Walton Heath to get lessons from James Braid, the five-time Open champion. Braid reportedly helped the Royal heir get his handicap down to single figures, a decent but modest achievement when you consider the golfing exploits of other world leaders.
Take the enigmatic North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who reportedly scored 11 holes-in-one during his first round of golf. He does own his own nuclear arsenal though, so when Little Kim asks for a tee time, you get the feeling he isn’t going to be told there’s a clutch going out at that point.
’Please, go ahead, I insist…’
All evidence points to the Prince of Wales being a more affable benefactor at Walton Heath, and he was known to be friendly with other members of the club.
Ladies’ member Phyl Foster said: “The Prince was quite a pal. He would land his plane near a big house owned by some friends of ours behind the school at Kingswood, opposite the church. One day he was expected but didn’t come – he’d disappeared with Mrs Simpson.”
In fact, he wasn’t the only prestigious former member and the club was the home of the Parliamentary Golfers society. Four Prime Ministers all played their golf at Walton Heath – David Lloyd George, Andrew Bonar Law, Arthur Balfour and Winston Churchill.
“I shall be back tomorrow between 11 and 12 and thought it would do us good to play a little golf at Walton Heath,” said Churchill, a member at the club from 1910 until his death in 1965.
‘Have you seen #ThisGirlGolfs?’
The British leaders chose well, with almost 90 amateur and professional events having been held over the two championship courses, including five European Opens and the Ryder Cup.
There can’t be many other courses in the UK with such a prestigious history, but if your course has a claim to fame – the more unusual the better – then get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week we discovered which club was a hideout for bandits – and not the handicap kind.