Hatfield Park Private Golf Course, Herts. (1888 – 1938)

We would like to thank Jon Brindle who has kindly given us permission to reproduce his article that appeared in the Hatfied Local History Society Newsletter No 82 September 2011.

"HATFIELD’S FIRST GOLF COURSE - Following on from our story of the little known De Havilland golf course (Issue 81 – see separate entry on this website), the recent visit to Hatfield House presented an opportunity to ask about the ’golf course’ in the Park that was identified on a1919 Ordnance Survey map. This old map was clearly not exact in dating it’s topographical features as it showed the town of Welwyn Garden City on it, which was built shortly after.

However, the 1920s did see the emergence of three local golf courses; Potters Bar (1923), Welwyn Garden City  (1923) and Brookmans Park (1926). Clearly these were facilities to attract the middle-classes to come and settle in the new residential developments constructed around the time. Indeed, the Brookmans Park Golf Club website states; When the London & North Eastern Railway built a new station at Brookmans Park in 1926, with direct services to Kings Cross and Broad Street, an 18-hole parkland golf course was built to attract new house buyers to Brookmans Park. But, evidently, a golf course existed in Hatfield Park well before those others mentioned.

With information kindly provided by House archivist Robin Harcourt Williams, we present a quote from a letter dated 11 March 1888 from Lord Hugh Cecil to his mother: “…if I am all right I shall go straight thro’ to Hatfield to mark out the Golf Links”. Whilst not much documentation exists, papers from the 4th Marquess (died 1947 aged 86) include letters from people asking for permission to play. One such written request came from a Mr G. Clough of Barnet, on 14 February 1891. The letter begins “Some little time ago a statement appeared in the newspapers that a Golf Course had been laid out in the Park at Hatfield”.

Robin also provided a golf card, showing that it was a par 69, 18-hole course. It appears to have been an entirely private one for use by the family and their guests. House Labour Account records show that in 1905 a certain S. Brown was being paid 1/6d a day as a ‘Golfboy’. And a book about the early tank trials in the Park 1916 also draws reference to the golf course. It is further understood that J.C.McCowan, who was the Agent in Hatfield from 1897 to 1937, was a keen golfer who sometimes played with Lady Cowper’s Panshanger Agent, George Turner. It appears that Fore Street resident W.E. (Bill) Peters, was the last golf professional at the Park. His employment may have come to an end when the course fell into disuse, most probably at the start of WW2 ( c1939) when manpower and a demand for more arable land put an end to many other courses in Britain during the Dig for Victory campaign. Bill’s father, William, was also a golf pro, as was his brother, Bob, who became the pro at the Harpenden Common club.

HLHS member Brian Lawrence recalls that Bill Peters then went on to become the golf professional at Mid Herts golf club at Gustards Wood. This recollection is borne out by the Clubs’ Centenary book which records that their course professional, V.G.Thompson, died in 1940. The next known professional is Bill who reportedly took over as club professional after the War ended in 1945. But prior to this he had a motor cycle accident which ended his golf career as a tournament player and he went to work at De Havilland’s for a time after the closure of the Hatfield Park course. But, in 1960, the club historian writes; “….the long-serving Bill Peters decided he could no longer combine the green keepers responsibility with his duties as Professional (and part-time barkeeper!)…

” John Gray also mentions the Hatfield Park course in his book The History of Hatfield Cricket which stated; “..the Hatfield Park golf course had a Professional’s Hut, but not a clubhouse…..near to the water reservoir known as Carters Pond….” Bill Peters’ daughter, Sandra, was very young at the time but recalls her father had a ‘wooden slatted hut’ which she played in with her ‘bakelite dolls’. It was opposite the reservoir, which she termed a ‘swimming pool’. Typically such golf huts would have been placed near the first tee, which is believed to have been on the South Front of Hatfield House. Golfers would then play down South Avenue to the first green. The course would have turned anti-clockwise, parallel to Woodside Avenue, and then turn right again towards Essendon Lodge."

 

Hatfield Park Private Golf Course, Herts. Golf course scorecard courtesy of Hatfield House.

Above scorecard courtesy of Hatfield House.

 

Below is an article on Bill “Willie” Peters the professional at Hatfield Park.

 

Hatfield Park Private Golf Course, Herts. Article on Bill "Willie" Peters the professional at Hatfield Park.

 

Hatfield Park Private Golf Course, Herts. Picture of  Bill "Willie" Peters the professional at Hatfield Park.

Willie Peters is standing to the right on the above picture.

 

Hatfield House can be seen on the Briatain From Above image below. [EPW022351] Hatfield House, Hatfield, 1928.

 

Hatfield Park Private Golf Course, Herts. Hatfield Park on Britain From Above 1928.