On 10 July 1913, Addington Golf Syndicate was incorporated with a share capital of £1000. The top signatory for the syndicate was JF Abercromby (‘Aber’), an excellent golfer who, despite having no previous knowledge of golf course design, had undertaken management of the Worplesdon and then Coombe Hill course builds. The Addington was soon to become his third and finest course and Aber stayed there until his death in 1935.
There was much controversy over the building of the first ‘old’ course at The Addington; a month after the syndicate was incorporated a local paper wrote: “New golf grounds, like new picture palaces, are springing up apace. I understand the latest intention is to provide a golf ground in Addington Park, where the shades of previous archbishops may protest in vain against this sacrilege”.
The article went on to say “I understand the use of this ground is to be strictly confined to people of a very high circle – and indeed that no one under a peer of the realm is to be allowed to peer over those realms of past Episcopal glory.” This account proved to be very true; between the two World Wars, The Addington became one of the three most favoured clubs surrounding London, its members being of such high standing that it became informally known as ‘Royal Addington’ – indeed, King George VI became Patron of the Club in 1937.
Throughout its construction, The Addington continued to cause controversy – whether over the havoc it wreaked through the countryside on which it was built (there was a long protest article in January 1914 entitled ‘A Countryside Tragedy’) or for its complexity of design. Writing about the construction of the Old Course in 1914, Bernard Darwin – a leading golf writer of the time and an Honorary Member of The Addington – said: “20 years ago, a golf architect would never have chosen the heavily wooded hill for the course and its construction was a massive undertaking, employing 500 navvies to clear 1500 trees and 700 barrow loads of stones”.
Aber ploughed ahead. As a designer he never measured distance but simply walke d along until he reached exactly the right spot for a bunker, stopped, said where it was to be and never changed his mind. His eye for the natural lie of the land saw only modest need for bunkers throughout a course which has always provided a solid challenge to experienced golfers.
It is even more remarkable that, more than a century ahead and in spite of the advance in golf equipment and balls, so little change has taken place to the course.
The Old Course quickly proved so popular a choice that a second (New) course was opened just across the road in October 1923, to enormous interest. This course went on to host major competitions although experts valued both courses as being nearly equal as examples of excellent golf courses.
Having survived two World Wars, during which The Addington continued to strive, the original clubhouse was destroyed by fire in the early fifties and replaced with the existing building.
Second in charge of The Addington, Moira Fabes ruled with an iron fist from 1964 to 2002, after her father, the previous Chairman, acquired the majority of the syndicate shares. Moira dedicated herself to retaining the standards and practices of the Club in its heyday. Stories are legion about her absolute authority, those she permitted to play as visitors at The Addington and those who did not pass her criteria for membership but, whilst her eccentricities often led to people being refused play, she was immensely kind to many, including the children of members and was a regular fundraiser for the Sparks charity. Moira died in 2005 but her legacy remains an integral part of our history.
Between 2002 and 2006, the Board of the Syndicate managed the Club. They introduced a course improvement plan which led to the reinstatement of the Club to the Top 100 in the country in 2006; no mean feat since, during Moira’s time, the course was, to an extent, ‘left to nature’.
It was from the Board that we purchased The Addington in 2006. Throughout this time, we have continued investment in a programme of continuous improvement which has been rewarded with our movement up the list of Top 100 golf courses in the UK, to our current position of 27th in England and 70th in the UK and Ireland.
Our programme continues in line with Ron Noades’ ambitions for the Club, to improve the quality of the course whilst retaining the unique qualities of JF Abercromby’s original design.
I was so lucky. Ron Noades ,,