William Herbert Fowler

The present Bradford Golf Club course was designed in 1923 by W Herbert Fowler, one of the most renowned golf architects of the “Golden Era” immediately after the First World War when many of the world’s great golf courses were built. By this time, Fowler had already become recognised as a great golf architect for his work on many of the best courses in Britain, long before MacKenzie, Campbell, Alison, Hutchison, Abercromby and Simpson had even begun their own design projects.

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”.

Fowler believed strongly that courses should follow the contours of the land, and have a natural feeling, shunning the use of “man-made contrivances” while believing that topography could test the world’s best golfers just as adequately.

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 and often 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. The 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. He never seemed to add mounds or other features to add definition, instead he used what was already there.

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, 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 classified as designed by Herbert Fowler, the other being Abbeydale in Sheffield.

Fowler was also asked to renovate or alter a number of other famous club courses, including Royal North Devon, Cruden Bay, Royal Aberdeen, Royal Lytham & St. Annes and in 1922 he redesigned the renowned 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

Image courtesy of Geoff Shackelford’s “the Golden Ages of Architecture”

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“4* – I don’t get out on the greens enough but when I do I normally go for courses nearby in Roundhay and Wike. However from working with Bradford Golf Club I had to try out the course and it’s (a) not a bad drive from North Leeds side and (b) a *superb* golf course. Really welcoming and professional – what you’re looking for in a golf club”

Duncan Coleman

“5* – Ive been following Herbert Fowler golf courses & looking to play as many as I can when work permits. Bradford Golf Club does not disappoint. Whilst there are a lot of trees, they are redeveloping the course and taking it back to its roots & are in the middle of major tree removal. The contours of the land are coming back through & you can definitely see the Fowler influence”

Ken Thorpe

“5* – Lovely surroundings and great for social events”

Caron Andrade

“5* – Quite possibly the best golf club in the area. All staff are friendly and welcoming. Banter is included if you’re a southerner. The course has never been a reason to complain on any of the many occasions I’ve played it. I urge any keen golfer to play this course – you will NOT be unimpressed by it.”

Mark Adi Wardle

“5* – Fantastic golf course. Every hole is different. Greens are also top drawer. Well worth a visit.”

Robert Harrison

“5* – Really enjoyed it , course in great condition for time of year !! Cheers to all involved!!”

Dave Gardner

“5* – Played in the Seniors open, well organised, excellent course and friendly staff. Looking forward to playing again next week with the Wike Ridge Golf Society. Certainly one of the best courses in the area.”

David Walters