Club Profile: Goodwood’s innovative membership subscription scheme

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 12, 2011 14:05

The Goodwood House is currently home to the Earl of March and Kinrara (Lord March), who took over the management of the Goodwood Estate Company, and chairmanship of Goodwood’s main golf course, from his father, the 10th Duke of Richmond, in 1994. (The first duke was Charles Lennox, one of the many illegitimate children of King Charles II, the man credited for restoring the monarchy following the English Civil War. The 10th duke incidentally, also named Charles Lennox, remains president of Goodwood Golf Club and is a cross-bencher in the House of Lords).

He is motivated by golf, and has overseen major developments to Goodwood Golf Club.

The club is now very modern-looking. Members simply pay for the amount of golf they want and when they want it by purchasing tariffs. Annual membership is relatively little but includes a compulsory purchase of ‘Goodwood Golf Credits’, equating to a certain number of rounds of off-peak or peak golf.

Split into three periods, according to the time of day, day of the week and time of year, the tariff for 18 holes at peak, popular and peaceful times have been 10, eight and five credits respectively. Credits can also be redeemed against buggy hire, competitions entry and buckets of practice balls.

Members are also offered the opportunity to open a ‘Goodwood Club Account’ to enable them to entertain friends and business associates in the clubhouse.

The origins of the club go back to the foundation of The Chichester Golf Club in 1892. The club, which was originally based at North Mundham, soon fell into decline, and in 1901 the sixth Duke of Richmond invited members to play on an 18-hole course laid out and maintained by his estate workers in the hills behind Goodwood House. The golf club was accommodated in the southern end of the kennels that the Regency architect James Wyatt had built in 1797 for the third duke’s Charlton Hunt. This magnificent building has been the clubhouse ever since, and its exterior has altered little from Wyatt’s original design.

The first club matches were played in 1893 and in 1906 the seventh duke was elected president of the club and made it one of the places to be seen throughout the Edwardian era, with the royal family regularly playing the course.

In 1913 the club was renamed the Goodwood Golf Club, under the captaincy of Lord Bernard Gordon Lennox, a passionate golfer who invited the leading architect of the day, James Braid, to design a new course for Goodwood. Braid’s course opened in 1914, when Braid played Open champion Ted Ray over 36 holes. The club’s membership at this time was 137 gentlemen and 75 ladies, who were instructed by a notice in the ladies’ room to “always give way to men”.

Braid’s course was 5,500 yards long. The bunkers were initially grass and fairways were cut by pony-drawn mowers and assisted by sheep. The club’s first tractor was purchased in 1925 (for £145) when the ponies went into decline. Although the course has been lengthened and subjected to many changes of detail over the years – from the arrival of sand for the bunkers in the late 1920s to the more recent loss of fine beech trees, as well as storms and honey fungus – Goodwood’s golfing landscape remains essentially the same.

Since the 1920s there have been many legendary stories. Len Passingham, a caddy who later died on a golf course in 1984, discovered a tunnel entrance near the present 18th hole that led to the servants’ quarters in Goodwood House. The course was also the first British one played by Bobby Locke, who won four Open championships. He did an air shot on the first tee in 1936. A year later ARE Gilligan began his first of three stints as club captain. He was the man who took six for seven in a cricket match against South Africa in 1924. And the course was even bombed during World War Two – in fact a crater at the back of the third green was not filled until 20 years ago.

Following those difficult wartime and early post-war years, the club’s finances were restored and debentures were issued to members, creating The Goodwood Golf Club Limited in 1962. However, in 2003, the members voted unanimously to transfer management of the club back to the Goodwood Estate.

In the 1980s the 18-hole Marriott Goodwood Park Hotel & Country Club’s Golf Club was built – but it has always played second fiddle to its older neighbour.

So after dabbling with motor sport, Lord March set about the task of bringing the golf course and the clubhouse up to a world-class standard. He commissioned Swan Golf Designs to redesign the layout of the original Braid course. The brief was to make Goodwood one of the finest golf courses in the South of England without compromising its natural beauty.

The £1million-plus reconstruction has seen the creation of six new holes – the first three and the last three – that lengthened the course to 6,917 yards from the blue tees. These were rejuvenated with the reconstruction of all bunkers, tees and greens. Greens and fairways throughout the course now have automatic irrigation for optimum playing conditions in all seasons, and sight lines have been vastly improved as the course moves into the dips and hillocks of the downland below Goodwood Racecourse. In addition, comprehensive practice and tuition facilities include a range and a short game academy.

But the course hasn’t really changed since 1914. It remains a downland setting of matchless beauty; an aesthetically pleasing natural retreat of chalk terrain and fescue greens that ensure ideal playing conditions all of the year. A mixture of undulating woods and open downs give views over Chichester’s cathedral spire and harbour, the Solent and the Isle of Wight.

The par three opening hole is a testing 201 yards from the medal markers, yet the spectacular second is the most memorable of the six new holes.

It is a combination of two of James Braid’s original holes. The impressive nature of the hole is enhanced with three bunkers at the greenside and a large, wide landing area framed with bunkering both left and right. At 390 yards and a par four it necessitates a carefully-placed drive to the top of the escarpment giving spectacular views down the valley, before your second shot is launched into the valley to a large and accommodating green.

Holes four, five and six are known as Target Bottom, because the area was once a rifle range, and butts are still visible beyond the fifth green.

The Sussex Stand at Goodwood Racecourse is the line for the drive from the elevated fourth tee, a centuries-old specimen yew tree lies to the left of the fifth green and the sixth hole is set high above the valley,  offering a remarkable panorama of the coast, the city and the cathedral.

The seventh hole is known as the finest example of a dogleg on a downland course, while the 11th offers views of Chichester Cathedral and the Isle of Wight. The long 14th is home to rare indigenous orchids and is perhaps the hardest hole on the course.

Due to the restructuring of the final three holes, the long 16th has seen yew trees and other mature specimens planted to the left of the fairway to maintain the qualities of the tree stock. It offers fine views over Goodwood House.

A wall made of Sussex flint guards the right greenside carry over the water hazard at the 17th. And the home hole has always been an impressive one, and it is now enhanced with stronger bunkering at the driving area, which combined with substantial tree work to left and right, and parkland planting, has created a good-looking end to the round. Uncluttered by the trees on each side, every player has the chance to finish the round successfully and enjoyably with a par, provided you are not too tired to hit long.



Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 12, 2011 14:05
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  1. twiggers October 13, 18:27

    It is a shame that the old 18th hole by the clubhouse was scrapped,it was a super focal point for spectators in the building,and the sunken wall (ha ha) a very unusual feature. Now the club house overlooks a scruffy field sometimes with sheep, long grass in the ha ha and looks neglected and serves no purpose. mr T Wignall,Littlehampton W Sx

    Reply to this comment
  2. wiggers October 13, 18:26

    It is a shame that the old 18th hole by the clubhouse was scrapped,it was a super focal point for spectators in the building,and the sunken wall (ha ha) a very unusual feature. Now the club house overlooks a scruffy field sometimes with sheep, long grass in the ha ha and looks neglected and serves no purpose. mr T Wignall,Littlehampton W Sx

    Reply to this comment
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