To begin at the ending, the 18th hole at Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club, only about five miles from the heart of London, is a 267-yard dogleg right. It plays quite steeply up a hill towards the clubhouse. For me, it was a driver and a wedge. For my son Sam, a 3-wood and not much else. After holing out, you leave the green to the right-hand side and reflexively take in the London skyline in the distance. As you can tell from the photos here, we had a lovely May day for our game. (I’ll avoid any Election jokes.)
The golf club was founded in 1894 and the course was designed by Harry Colt, one of the greatest of the early golf architects. Laid out amid many mature oak trees on Sydenham Hill, the course overlooks Dulwich College and occasionally offers splendid views of the City, Canary Wharf and – to the other side of London – Wembley Stadium. One can enjoy more leisurely views of the same, as well as of this delightful golf course, from the first-floor clubhouse terrace. It’s a beautiful location for a cold beer.
There are a few holes in addition to the 18th where the fact that you are on Sydenham Hill is distinctly noticeable. The opener is a 236-yard par-three, which sounds a horribly daunting way to start a round but it plays so downhill that even I managed to get on in one and make my par. There were not many of those to follow but that didn’t diminish the sense of well-being generated by being in a very pleasant place on a very pleasant afternoon. I wasn’t too happy about taking nine at the 4th, though.
That is one of two par-fives. The par is 69 (there are five par-threes) but while the course only measures just over 6,000 yards from the tips, it is pretty demanding while also being pretty. The club’s most famous old boy is surely Peter Oosterhuis (‘Oosty’), now a TV commentator but very much a prospect for the future when he made his Walker Cup debut in 1967. He had been educated at Dulwich College and I vaguely recall seeing some feature about him on the BBC just before he played in that match.
How media golf coverage has changed since then! Oosterhuis later led the 1973 Masters by three shots with a round to play. I had to wait until the next morning’s newspaper to learn that he’d saddled himself with a closing 74 to finish third, two shots behind the winner, Tommy Aaron. These days the story would be all over Sky Sports and you’d have Ewen Murray practising his word play for the moment the winning putt went down and doubtless pondering when was the last time a major championship had been contested by two men whose surnames each began with the same two vowels. In those days I had to rely on the words of Pat Ward-Thomas, which for the time was no bad thing to have to do. (Hold on, I can hear it now…’It’s Augusta euphoria for Aaron’s amazing adventure’)
You can follow me on Twitter @robrtgreen and also on my other blog: f-factors.com