Burnham Beeches is located in the Thames Valley to the south of the county of Buckinghamshire, some 25 miles to the west of London. The area, extending to 540 acres, is now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and also a National Nature Reserve. Acquired by the City of London in 1880 as open space for Victorian Londoners to enjoy, Burnham Beeches has remained a veritable oasis ever since.
Burnham Beeches Golf Club was founded in 1891 and Mike Berners Price fascinatingly describes its history in The Centurions of Golf. “In the early 1900s, more than a dozen teachers from Eaton College and a number of Dukes, Lords and Ladies helped to give the Club an exclusive air. In 1903, Raymond Hervey de Montmorency was elected Captain at the age of 28 playing off a handicap of plus-4. He later played golf for England and became President of the EGU in 1935. During a sporting weekend in 1904, he is said to have scored 72 for Oxford University against Rye at cricket on the Saturday with every run being a four and then repeated the score of 72 on the golf course the following day hitting eighteen fours!
J.H. Taylor advised on changes to the Burnham Beeches course in 1902 and 1907, the club faced possible lease problems and Taylor was asked for his views on a move to Stoke Park. In a response which would have surprised Harry Colt who designed the famous course at Stoke Park the following year, Taylor thought: “it was not suitable for a golf course as there are too many trees and, even if these were cleared, owing to the nature of the ground the golf would be of an uninteresting character.”
Burnham Beeches starts gently with a short par four that takes you away from the delightful old clubhouse with its cupola clock tower. But then the going gets tough at the 2nd with out of bounds all the down the right on this 424-yard hole which is one of six substantial par fours at Burnham Beeches. The par three 3rd is the easiest hole on the scorecard but such an apparently easy one-shot hole often results in a four on the card. The elevated tee shot on the 521-yard par five 4th is one of the most inviting in the county and it’s where even the most reserved golfer will be seriously tempted to grip it and rip it.
We’ll let Mike Berners Price bring Burnham Beeches to a conclusion: “Luke Donald set a four round course record of 270 (67, 68, 66, 69) in a regional amateur event in June 1997, and an earlier Ryder Cup player, Ken Bousfield, shot 69 in 1938 whilst completing a round in 91 minutes as par of a commercial challenge. He played a total of six rounds in three minutes over twelve hours with an average score of 72.5 and was sponsored by the advertising agency J Walter Thompson to promote a brand of cocoa which he was required to drink between rounds to prove its assistance for stamina. Members enjoyed a more potent drink in 1984 when the Club hosted the White Horse Whisky Challenge as part of the women’s professional tour. Burnham Beeches is a well-wooded traditional parkland course providing one of the best tests of golf within easy reach of Central London.”