Stories of Old
A telling of the lives of members at Wentworth Club, by a long-time member and fan.
After the end of the Second World War in 1947, my father arrived home from Egypt. He had finished six years in North Africa with the Royal Dental Corps and spent two years dealing with the medical needs of Italian prisoners of war in Cairo.
He had also managed to spend much of his leave-time, sailing up and down the Nile and playing golf. There was a lot of good golf by the river, particularly in the North where the Nile reaches Alexandria and the Mediteranian.
He returned to Blighty in a troop ship and I can still remember him marching up the garden path, brown as a conker when he arrived home in Beaconsfield wearing his officers’ uniform.
In 1950, we moved to Virginia Water and my Father joined Wentworth. It was his life’s ambition and to make it even more of a permanent and deliberate move, he bought shares in the club. When I was eight, father paid for some lessons from Tom Halliburton.
There was no question but that I would be brought up by my father to play the game in those days, but coaching from a man like Tom was a generous gesture and a gift I’ve never forgotten. He had spent the war in the RAF and this had probably taken the edge off his game, but his elegant style was something I always tried to copy.
Halliburton was a prominent member of the Wentworth aristocracy and he joined the social scene on the estate. He was a Scot, but never a dour Scot. I can remember him arriving at a party in Wellington Avenue wearing one of his wife’s frocks. The party was given by Tommy Caird who published a golf magazine called “Fairway and Hazard.”
Among the guests was Peter Roscoe, who had been appointed Secretary of the club and who was a man with a mission. As the War dragged on to its end, the members and owners were looking for a way for the club to celebrate its return to championship golf and to celebrate recovery from the effects of the years at war. The club had already played its part.
In 1944, a network of tunnels had been dug beneath the clubhouse and it was said that the ‘D-day’ landings were planned there. By 1950, both the West and East Courses were back in prime playing condition and there was talk of playing the Ryder Cup again, and this time at Wentworth.
The club was an ideal venue for tournament golf with its proximity to London and had all the space needed to run a big event. And so, it was decided to hold the Ryder Cup there in 1953. Roscoe, as Secretary, would be in charge of the organisation and it would be a massive responsibility.
Roscoe was popular at Wentworth. A good golfer who knew what was required to ensure the welfare of the teams, I remember him calling me during the days before the practising had started. He said that someone had unexpectedly arrived and would I look after him?
“He wants to play the Burmah Road and would you play 18 holes with him? Of course, being fascinated by what was going on, I agreed. I went and saw Peter in his office and he asked me to be on the first tee at 8.30 next morning. I got there to find a hundred or so spectators around the hole and a man called Max Faulkner standing there smoking a cigarette.
Roscoe said, “Max wants to go round in case he’s needed. He wants to see the pin positions and loosen up a bit.”
My trouble was that Max Faulkner had won The Open two years previously and I had never played in front of a gallery.
To Peter Roscoe, this meant nothing. I had a decent handicap although that means nothing when you’re a callow youth.
Max said nothing , just lit another cigarette and drilled a threewood 300 yards down the centre of the hole. I can’t tell you what happened to me. but I’ll never forget his drive. Roscoe had no idea what I’d been through; “Thanks,” he said afterwards, drinks are on me.”