When you play golf at Felixstowe, you are following in the footsteps of champions and a set of illustrious players who helped to popularise golf in England during the late Victorian and Edwardian period.
Lord Elcho, an obsessive golf enthusiast who founded the London and Scottish GC at Wimbledon, was a frequent visitor to Felixstowe as the town became a popular and accessible seaside resort with the opening of the railway in 1877.
Links golf at Bawdsey Common, owned by his good friend Col. Tomline, was soon in Elcho’s sights and after a very successful August Bank Holiday meeting, when a gold medal was played for, Felixstowe GC was formed in October 1880 to become the fifth oldest club in England and the first links course within easy reach of London.
Tom Dunn, the professional from Wimbledon, laid out 15 holes and to begin with the Martello tower was used as the club house. Open Champion Willie Fernie was appointed professional and later came Bob Martin who had won in 1876.
Included among the distinguished members was the Rt. Hon. A.J. Balfour – Club Captain in 1889, Captain of the R&A in 1894 and Prime Minister 1902 – 1905..
A ladies club was formed in 1894 with a separate club house and six holes on the seaward side of the main course. Unfortunately all this was eventually to be swept away by the sea.
Apart from the ever present threat of flooding, the club prospered with many members coming down from London to enjoy links golf. But with the first world war it all ended and the club was wound up and the course given over to a rifle range and the club house becoming an officers mess.
The club was resurrected in 1920, with an additional nine holes to go with what had been described before the war as “the finest nine hole links in the world”. The work was entrusted to the golf architects Messers Colt, Mackenzie and Allison, and Bernard Darwin credited Dr. Mackenzie with “ fusing the old and the new with the greatest ingenuity”. James Braid may have been an influence and was reported to have redesigned four holes a year or two later.
Between the wars the club developed, but flooding continued as an expensive problem. On the outbreak of WWII, the whole area became part of our defence against invasion with gun emplacements, pill boxes and troops in the club house.
1948 saw the second rebirth of the club , this time as Felixstowe Ferry G C. Walter Cross (a golfer and local builder) now owned the club and under his leadership a new course emerged designed by Henry Cotton and Sir Guy Campbell. Despite being delayed by a massive flood in 1949, the course was opened in 1950 with an exhibition match in which Henry Cotton and Max Faulkner played.
The course you play today is almost unchanged except for the short 5th which is a replacement for a very attractive par 3 which went straight out from the Martello tower and was lost to the sea in1963.
The ladies section has produced some of the club’s finest golfers with Julie Wade having outstanding success internationally. Her many achievements include British, English, Welsh and Spanish amateur championships and playing in the Curtis Cup on three occasions.
So, as you stride off the 1st tee, breath in the fresh air and savour the challenge that’s laid out before you – like generations of golfers have done before!