William Herbert Fowler


(image courtesy of Geoff Shackelford's "the Golden Age of Architecture")

William Herbert Fowler

The Bradford Golf Course was redesigned by W Herbert Fowler in 1923. Fowler was one of the most renowned golf architects of the “Golden Era” of golf course construction immediately prior to the First World War when many of the world’s great golf courses were first built. By 1923, he had already become recognised as a great golf architect for his work on many of the best courses in Britain, the most notable being those at Walton Heath. He also altered or renovated several other famous courses, including Royal Lytham and St Annes as well as the iconic 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

Fowler believed strongly that courses should follow the contours of the land and have a natural feeling, shunning the use of "man-made contrivances". He simply thought that topography could test the world's best golfers just as adequately. Fowler felt that only side hazards should be put in during construction and that any cross-bunkers should be left until he could see how the ball would run.

In any case, he believed that bunkers on the sides and especially near greens were the prime requisite, that players sliced and pulled more than they topped and that as a slice was the greater fault, more bunkers should be placed on the right. Bunkers, he thought, should be shaped like an old hip bath, not with a steep bank and flat base as at many inland clubs but having a gradual curve from top to bottom so that balls did not lie hard against the face but ran down towards the centre. However they should be deeper than on most courses. Indeed, they became known as ‘Fowler's graves.' So long as a green was well guarded and the approach shot difficult, the hole would always be considered a good one, far more so than if its main difficulty lay in the tee shot.

Fowler liked to start designing the course by choosing the locations of the par 3s and then trying to work the holes to and from those locations in order to create the most interesting layout. Bradford is a fine example of this, with the third and fourteenth holes using the natural rise in topography. His style would be best described as understated. He kept his tee sites simple; he used his bunkers sparingly, concentrating on key strategic locations. He worked with the rolls and undulations of the natural land and never seemed to add mounds or other features to add definition, instead using what was already there.

He was described in a book by Bernard Darwin as "perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects, and gifted with an inspired eye for the possibility of a golfing country”

He designed a number of other golf courses in the United Kingdom and the United States, including his most famous Walton Heath, the Crystal Springs Course, Los Angeles CC (South), the great Eastward Ho near Cape Cod, Beau Desert Course, Berkshire (Red&Blue) Southerndown, West Surrey , Delamere Forest, Cooden Beach and a second course at Walton Heath. The Bradford Golf Club is one of only two Yorkshire clubs classifed as designed by Herbert Fowler, the other being Abbeydale in Sheffield.

Fowler was also asked to renovate or alter a number of other famous clubs including  Royal North Devon, Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen, Royal Lytham & St. Annes and in 1922 he redesigned the iconic 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

John Beaumont wrote a very good article on Herbert Fowler's design at Bradford for the Golf Atlas: Herbert Fowler Golf Atlas Article