Club profile: Oxford Golf Club

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick January 25, 2024 10:41

Last year was special for Oxford Golf Club, which launched the Colt Invitational to celebrate 100 years since Harry Colt redesigned its course, and a book about its history, published by the club’s former secretary, was placed in the Bodleian Library for local students to study.

Last summer, Oxford Golf Club launched the Colt Invitational, a day that marked exactly 100 years since Harry Colt designed its Cowley course, which is one of only 115 in the world he independently worked on. Others include Wentworth and Sunningdale.

The Cowley venue, which has had golf played on its land dating back to 1873, was redesigned in the 1920s by Colt with 95 percent of his original layout still operational today.

Members of other Colt-designed courses dotted across England journeyed to Oxfordshire’s oldest course to mark the 100-year anniversary.

Each visiting club was also presented with a copy of Oxford Golf Club’s centenary book to keep for their records.

Steve Greenwood, general manager at Oxford Golf Club, said: “As one of few Colt designed courses in England, we were pleased to deliver the first Colt Invitational to form part of our centenary celebrations.

“We’re proud of our course’s history and the 100-year anniversary served as the perfect excuse to unite other Colt venues and share our experiences of playing on his legendary layouts.

“Mr Colt is arguably the finest course architect to walk the planet. His courses are held in high esteem which guarantees a fun round with a few challenges along the way.”

Although the course layout has remained constant in the last 100 years, other aspects of Oxford Golf Club have been tweaked to deliver a quality through-the-door and playing experience to both members and guests.

The club remains home to a par-70 course complemented by practice facilities for putting, short-game and long-game including a recently added teaching studio and covered practice bays.

There is also a function room, restaurant that can host 90 people, conference room, a bar and shop.

Greenwood added: “Golf has experienced a significant shift in recent years regarding not only how the game is played, but also the public’s perception of the sport.

“Gone are the days of golf being associated with wealth and exclusivity. Instead, the sport is now very inclusive, recording record participation figures as people look to take up a new challenge which mixes being outside, keeping active and being part of a thriving social environment.”

Meanwhile, a book celebrating those 100 years has been published by the club’s former secretary – and it’s being kept at the Bodleian Library.

Colin Whittle joined Oxford Golf Club – then known as Oxford City Club – in 1982 and also served as club captain in 2007-08 and later president in 2015-16.

‘Endured the Test of Time’ documents the design of the current course layout by Harry Colt, which incorporated three holes originally designed by James Braid at the turn of the century.

The book also details a history of golf in the city from informal play on Cowley Marsh from 1873 to the establishment of the three clubs that made up what is now Oxford Golf Club – the University Club in 1875, the City Club in 1899 and the Ladies Club in 1901.

It is now available to read for research and reference purposes by all Oxford University and Bodleian Reader card holders.

Whittle said: “Oxford is so fortunate to be home to such a high quality and well-regarded course within reach of the city centre.

“The layout is virtually unchanged since Harry Colt’s work was completed exactly 100 years ago, and there is a great sense of pride within the club to celebrate such a key milestone.

“Endured the Test of Time explores the rich history of Oxford Golf Club. From originally being founded as a club exclusively for members of Oxford University, to the inclusion of both ‘town and gown’ members before World War I, the club’s post-war development and present-day operation.

“It also lists the famous names associated with the club, including the Great Triumvirate – JH Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon – who played here as well as notable local benefactors like William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield, who was a club president for 37 years.

“On behalf of the whole club, we are honoured the Bodleian, as well as the British Library, will keep a copy and we hope it serves a useful purpose to golf enthusiasts and those researching sport and its history in Oxford, which we are very proud to be part of.”


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick January 25, 2024 10:41
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