Tooting Bec Golf Club at Furzedown and South Lodge, Mitcham Common.
In April 1889 there was a report of golf on Tooting Common. Mr Broadhurst MP was involved in a match for a handsome and valuable prize, “the game was being played by the Tooting Common Club” This favourite Scottish game had “caught on” in England, and wherever the ground was, or could be made suitable, golf clubs were being instituted and matches being played. In the early 1890s the Tooting Bec course was located on part of the Seely Estate which adjoined Tooting Junction railway station. The Furzedown course was designed by Tom Dunn who had recently moved south from North Berwick. It was a club with great tradition and was frequented by many well known celebrities. The Seelys were very well connected themselves, both Charles and his son Sir Charles were MPs and their playing partners and guests would have included the rich and famous, Arthur Balfour the prime minister played there. The Seely estate was sold at the beginning of the twentieth century, the club moved to South Lodge, Mitcham.
The Tooting Bec Medal is still awarded to the PGA member born in, or with parents born in the UK or the Republic of Ireland who records the lowest single round score in The Open.
From a report attributed to the Leeds Mercury 7th January 1892. “If anyone had said a few months ago that it was possible to establish a private golf course within five miles of Charing Cross, he would have been regarded as prophesying an impossibility. There is, however, good reason to anticipate that the existence of such a course will in a few months be accomplished fact. Beyond Tooting Common there is a fine property known as the Furzedown Estate. It extends to between 80 and 100 acres, and it has not yet come within the range of the London builder. In a few years it will be infallibly covered with villas and streets, but for the present the owner thinks he cannot do better than lease it out as a golf course. The ground will be taken over by the existing Tooting Bec Club, which already numbers between 400 and 500 members. There are two ponds in the ground, and little rivulet meanders through it. There will, therefore, be sufficient hazards, and Mr Tom Dunn, the professional of the Tooting Bec club, is satisfied that a very fine course can be laid. Mr Balfour, Mr Marjorie Banks , Mr Finlay, The Marquis of Granby, Lord Walter Gordon Lennox, Mr Walter James, and several other Members of Parliament, are members of the club.
The following interesting reports are from the Inverness Courier dated May 1892. The first report describes the opening of the course and also gives an insight into the growing problems with golf on common land. “The private course of the Tooting Bec Golf Club was opened on Saturday 21st May 1892. Lord Granby, the captain, drove the first ball. His lordship made a successful drive, for which he was cheered. The club have got into their own ground just in time, as the County Council has within the last few days prohibited play on the public common. It has been fully understood that that the game would be subjected there to gradually increased restrictions, but entire prohibition was not anticipated, and it is said to be due to complaint of a ball having been driven into a perambulator. Mr A J Balfour played over the new ground on Saturday afternoon. He was in a foursome, his partner being Mr Guy Pym, and one of his opponents being Tom Dunn, the professional. A couple of photographers had been admitted to the ground, and the leader of the House of Commons was too good a subject to be missed. He submitted to them with good grace, posing before the cameras on a teeing ground”
The second report is entitled; Mr Balfour on Golf and Open Spaces – A writer in the new radical paper, the Morning Advertiser, had a conversation with Mr Balfour at Tooting on Saturday. Said the journalist, “There is no doubt you have helped greatly to spread golf in England during the last few years. Clubs are springing up everywhere. Do you think the game has come to stay?” Mr Balfour replied “I think so. It is an old game in Scotland, and I do not believe that golfing will be an ephemeral thing – like lawn tennis perhaps” he went on “I hope the County Council is not going to set its face against golf. I see it has happened at Tooting Bec, which of course, is a great loss to golfers”
In October 1892 the picture of the Parliamentary golf tournament had been completed. In the foreground was Arthur Balfour, although he did not play in the tournament. By his side preparing to hole a long put was the Marquis of Granby, captain of the Tooting Bec club, on whose ground the competition took place. Also in the picture are, Mr John Penn, well known Blackheath player, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, Sir Herbert Maxwell, Mr Shaw-Stewart and Mr Donald Crawford.
In February 1893 it was reported that the Parliamentary Handicap which created so much interest in 1892 was to be repeated in spring 1893. Instead of being played over Tooting Common, the competition will now take place over the new private course at Furzedown, owned by the Tooting Bec club.
On Monday March 13th 1893 Mr De Zoete set a new course record for the Furzedown course, score as follows; Out – 5,5,6,4,4,5,4,5,4 = 42; Home – 4,4,4,3,4,4,4,4,4 = 35 - total, 77. Curiously, for some unexplained reason, the only hole not holed out was the fifth where he was on the green in one. He was accompanied by the club secretary, Mr J Duthrie Matthew, who recorded the score.
Following are a selection of results for the club from the 1890s.
At Furzedown in April 1893 in the third round of the Parliamentary Handicap A J Robertson (6) beat H W Forster MP (2) 1 up.
Result of the monthly medal played on Saturday 3rd June 1893; Neville Hicks, 89-9-80; W Beveridge, 96-15-81; W Williams, 94-12-82; W F Richmond, 97-15-82.
On Saturday 1st July 1893 two competitions took place over the Furzedown course. There were about 100 entrants in the club monthly medal, result; John Wood, 95-16-79; G Collyer, 97-16-81; A Denman, 87-2-85. On the same day a second round match of the Parliamentary Foursome took place; J P Croal (6) and A J Robertson (6) tied with J Moore (18) and A Mackintosh (22).
Result of the monthly medal played on Saturday 7th October 1893, 150 members took part, leading scores; J Moore, 89-14-75; J G Maclean, 89-10-79; A F Water, 88-4-84; R F Fisher, 91-7-84; J T Steen, 100-16-84; D Noel, 104-20-84.
Result of the Bristowe Challenge Cup which was competed for on the first days play of the Autumn Meeting on Friday 13th October 1893; J T Stein, 94-16-78; H Tollemache M.P, 89-10-79; R Stewart Bain, 98-18-30. A large field started, 40 cards were returned.
At the Autumn Meeting the Guy Pym Challenge Cup was played for on Saturday 14th October 1893. The winner was Mr Read Douglas Morrison with a score of 96-18-76, Mr Williams was runner-up, 90-11-79 and in third place J G Maclean, 88-8-80. The Ellis scratch medal was won by T R Pinkerton.
Following is the result of the November 1893 medal; Norman Dawson, 98-15-83; A J Robertson, 93-5-88. About 70 members entered.
About 70 players took part in the December 1893 monthly medal played on Saturday 2nd at Furzedown. Owing to the severe frost scoring was high, result; Lieutenant-Colonel R P Hare, 107-16-91; Mr C Bigwood J.P, 107-15-92; Mr G L Denman, 110-18-92; Mr J D S Sim, 112-20-92.
The clubs half yearly handicap competition for prizes given by the club’s president, the Marquis of Granby, concluded in December 1893. The winner was N C Bailey (18), a well-known Old Westminster footballer, who beat Mr A Hood (12) in the final by 1up, Mr Bailey would hold the trophy for six months. About 60 players took part including; Mr T R Pinkerton who had a +3 handicap; Mr C E Walker (16); Mr R L DeZoete, scratch.
In February 1894 sixty members returned cards for the monthly medal, result; Mr J F Collyer, 89-14-75; Mr J Verran, 89-10-79; Mr W F Richmond, 91-12-79.
Result of the March medal 1894; H W Forster MP, 82-2-80; A Wood, 90-10-80; Dr H Hetley, 94-14-80; T R Pinkerton, 78+3-81; H Lugton, 81scratch.
On Tuesday 10th April 1894 the following second round tie was played in the Parliamentary Tournament; Mr G W Balfour MP beat H Tollemache by 4 and 3; in the first round Captain McCalmont MP scratched to A J Robertson of the Press Gallery; H Mackenzie, Clerk, House of Lords scratched to C W Campion, Examiner, House of Commons.
At the Tooting Bec spring meeting in May 1894 the Guy Pym Cup and the monthly medal were both won by A J Balfour MP with a score of 89-13-76, Captain E E Schuyler with 92-12-80 taking second place in each; The Bristowe Challenge Cup was won by W F Richmond, 91-12-79;tie for second place between, H H Lawless, 101-16-85 and H Poulter, 103-18-85; Aggregate prizes for two days play, W F Richmond, 79 and 86 – 185, O G Langley, 89 and 82 – 171, Captain Schuyler, 91 and 80 – 171, J C Bayldon, 90 and 82 – 172; Aggregate scratch medal, J Gould-Smith, 91 1nd 87 – 178; Dudley Ward Cup, J G Maclean, 91 and 85 – 176
On Monday 23rd May 1894 in the Parliamentary Tournament at Furzedown Mr Balfour beat Mr C Hamilton, clerk to the House of Lords, by 9 and 7
After three months of play the final of the trophy presented by Lord Granby was completed in January 1895. Mr T R Pinkerton fought his way through and won his last two matches with ease. In the final he beat Mr Kingdom 6 and 5, in the semi-final he had beaten Mr Jeans by 7 and 5, Major Ruck was the other defeated semi-finalist he lost to Mr Kingdom by one hole. The competition was played in the autumn/winter season when the Furzedown course could be very wet, particularly if the River Graveney decided to steal over its banks and inundate the course.
Played on Saturday 4th May 1895 the Parliamentary Handicap results; W Austin Leigh beat Sir W Ledderburn, 1up; J Cumming Macdona beat A A Brodribb, 6 & 4; Herbert Gladstone beat J Penn, 1up. On the same day the Tooting Bec club played for the Guy Pym Cup, the winner was D M Mason, 100-16-84, the runner-up, T Mackay with 85 scratch.
In July 1895 the Guy Pym Cup was won by D G Langley with a score of 80net.
On Saturday 11th January 1896 the gold medal competition was played, result; F E Badham, 87-7-80; J C Bayedon, 98-10-88; E Coles, 95-6-89.
Result of the monthly bogey for May 1896; D M Mason, 1up; F W Leaf, all squre; A Hood, R Bramwell Davies QC and E Wright all 1down.
Result of the monthly medal for October 1896; D F Ranson, 86-7-79; E H Stevenson, 93-12-81; J F Steedman, 96-14-82. There were about 80 players taking part.
Result of the April 1897 medal; D F Ranson, 86-5-81; G B Concannon, 93-9-84; F Walton Leat, 94-10-84.
Result of the January 1898 bogey; Harold W Beveridge (8) all square; L W Rolleston, (8) 5down; Dr J F Steedman, (9) 5down.
Result of one of the rounds of the Parliamentary Golf Tournament played at Furzedown in April 1898; Earl of Dudley (6) beat Mr F C Cook MP by 5 and 4; Sir Robert Finlay MP (9) beat Mr L Goodenough Taylor, Press Gallery (12) 1up; Mr H P St John, Clerk House of Commons (9) beat Mr H T Anstruther MP (4) 1up; Mr Percy Hill, Clerk House of Commons (13) beat Mr H C Malkin, Clerk House of Lords (21) 2up.
Result of the Gold Medal handicap competition open to this year’s monthly medal winners was played on Saturday December 10th 1898 and resulted in a tie; A J Robertson 89 scratch, C E Walker 93-4-89 and L S Fitter 97-8-89. Result of the December medal; C E Walker, 88-4-84 (won the play-off); Dr R Worth, 96-12-84; H Fownes Turner, 95-10-85. On December 17th 1898 the monthly bogey was played and resulted in a four way tie; H T Roberts (1), R Alston (7), Colonel C H Coles (12) and H Margetson (14) all finished 4down.
Result of the monthly bogey for January 1899, there were about 30 entrants; Harold Margetson (9) 5down; Harold W Beveridge, (4) 6down. Charles E Walker won the gold medal competition, open to 1898 medal winners with a score of 91-4-87; runner-up L S Fitter, 111-8-103. Over 80 players competed for the January medal , result; H W Beveridge, 86-7-79; G H Gill, 95-13-82;
Result of the April 1899 medal; R Worth, 96-12-84; H T Roberts, 88-1-87; H F Crosthwaite, 103-16-87.
In May 1899 ties in the third round of the Parliamentary Competition played at Furzedown; A J Robertson, Press Gallery (3) beat A Lyttleton MP (7) 1up; John Wilson MP, Falkirk beat H T Anstruther MP, St Andrews, 3 and 2.
In June 1899 Joseph Tapley, a well known opera singer, won the 36 hole Tooting Bec Club’s Victoria Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup with a score of 162 net.
Following is the result of the bogey competition held in January 1900; H W Beveridge (1) 2up; Allan George (2) 1up; V F Maude (6) 1down.
Mr A J Robertson, scratch, (Press Galley) winner of the previous year’s Parliamentary Handicap, met Mr Felix Skene, handicap 6, (House of Lords) in the third round at Furzedown on Thursday 31st May 1900. Mr Robertson won the match by 4 and 3.
By 1900 the Prince’s, Mitcham Golf Club, were also holding matches in the Parliamentary Handicap Competition.
By 1912 (exact date still to be found) the club had moved. In 1914 the secretary was now available at South Lodge, East Side, Mitcham Common. The professional was A Fosbury. It was an 18-hole course with holes varying from 150 to 500yards with a total length of 6,000yds. Hazards were trees, ditches and ponds. The clubhouse was a charming old building with some 2 ½ acres of lawns and gardens. There was a membership 400. Entry fees were £5/5/0 and subs £5/5/0. Visitors’ fees on introduction were 2/6 a day and 10/- a week. Sunday play was allowed with caddies. The railway stations at Mitcham Junction, Tooting Junction and Boddington Lane were all one mile away.
From 1923 to 1927 the secretary was F R (or R F) Pike at Tooting Bec, South Lodge, Watneys Road, Mitcham Common, Surrey, telephone 1510. The professional was M Dragon. Visitors’ fees on introduction were 2/6 a day, weekend and Bank Holiday 5/- a day. Ladies played during restricted hours at weekend. Stations were as before but now with an additional tramway service from Croydon or Westminster Bridge.
In 1928 the secretary was H W Parker the professional was M Daragon and the greenkeeper S Bradley. Course records were, amateur E J Slater 70 and professional H C Kinch and J Ockenden 72. Visitors, on introduction, paid 2/6 a day, Weekend and Bank Holiday 5/- a day. Ladies played restricted hours at weekend.
The Tooting Bec golf course was still appearing on OS maps in the mid 1930s. The club and course had disappeared by the outbreak of WW2.