The History of Thames Ditton & Esher Golf Club

The History of the Common and the Golf Club

A three hole golf course was established by Hannibal Speer (born Hannibal Sandys) for his servants. The source of which can be found in an article written in ‘Thames Ditton Today’ (see below) in the winter of 1973.
Hannibal had inherited the Lordship of the manor of Weston a couple of stages removed from his grandfather William Speer (the younger) who bought it from the crown in 1801 along with its commons. William a rapacious purchaser of property acquired many other landholdings in the area to put with it.

The commons were sold by Hannibal’s heirs (the Litchfield-Speers ) For £360 to the then Esher and the Dittons Urban Council in 1920, five years after Hannibal died without issue. There’s a reference to that sale in “Esher-the Story of a council” by E. Royston Pike, available at Esher library or other Surrey Libraries. Pp 27-28, but no mention of the golf club in the selected text quoted by Royston Pike.

The golf club already had the leasehold of its course from Hannibal and it is likely that as with other lands that he `gave’ to the local community for its use, the lease was for 99 years (he always `gave’ land on leasehold not freehold!) A retired Weston Green councillor confirmed that the lease for the golf club came up for renewal in the 1990s, and this ties in with the golf club founded date of 1892.

The "Alma" (6th & 15th)

The best way to approach the `Alma’ is to cut across Weston Green from the direction of Esher Station.

Before there would be a typical English village scene. Take away the motor cars outside the building and replace them with farm carts, and there would be little difference from the view of a century ago. Trees would have been shorter, and the brewers name different, but the `Old Red House’ the pond and the surrounding cottages would still have made the appropriate background that it does today.

This is a picturesque and rustic cul-de-sac who would think that the Hampton Court Way roars within a 100 yards? There is a tradition that there once was a hunting lodge on the site during the reign of Henry VIII, while in 1843 it was a private dwelling, and there is a record of it being a public house in 1868 ,so somewhere in between these dates it was transformed, possibly in the 50s as it was named after the famous Crimean Victory of 1854.

If there is snow in any year and you want to see the perfect Christmas card then crunch your way to the `Alma’ which is especially attractive at this time of year - you might even see us playing golf

A distant view of Weston Green, and it is possible to see a gentleman holding a golf bag with a few clubs in it. This card was Postally used on the 14th February 1918 and the writer mentions a return to duty Monday next and is writing to a Miss Waldron at sessions house, Newington causeway, SE1, which may indicate that he is not a wounded soldier during World War 1, but perhaps a worker / Policeman there.

Article taken from`Thames Ditton Today’ Volume 4 No 4 Winter 1973

Long ago (it sounds like a fairytale doesn’t it?) the local lord of the manor of Weston green, Lord Speer, realised a novel way of keeping his servants entertained. He arranged a three - hole golf course for their exercise and pleasure use.

This is fact and from this lowly start the present Thames Ditton & Esher Golf Course became registered in 1892. Via Esher council or its equivalent, and to keep alive an early wish of the lord to supply the common folk with the necessary land to walk on and to pursue the ‘Royal and Ancient’ game of golf the club stands amongst the oldest in the country there being very few earlier registered clubs.

It is amazing to learn during the summer golfing months as many as 400 golfers enjoy the pleasure of a round of golf. Local information shows that of this 400 there are probably as many as 200 local (if you consider 3 or 4 miles radius local) players in this figure. The main reason for the larger numbers must be the very reasonable Green Fees for a weekday namely 50p per round. The weekend Green Fee, excluding play before 12.30 pm on Sundays, is still no more than one might expect to pay on any other course for weekday use, about £1.25.

A lot of credit must go to the Green Keeper for the course upkeep and the general cleanliness of the common as a result of his labour. It’s big money this golf, but thanks to the grant by the Lord and the management of it by the committee in conjunction with Esher council, we at Weston Green can enjoy some of the cheapest golf to be found anywhere in the world! The course is a nine hole one, therefore two circuits are required to make up your 18 holes. Total distance for the 18 holes is some 5420 yards, or a little over three miles. The standard scratch score for the course is 66 – 33 out and 33 in. The shortest hole is 147 yards, the longest 410 yards.

If you don’t think it sounds too awesome, I’ve heard several good golfers remark on just how hard it is to play on this course. There is a lot of rough and plenty of trees, making accurate golf shots the order of the day. This is the sort of golf best taught by the tournament professional Rodney Hutton or his assistant Lyn Jennins. Both these men’s services are available for tuition and advice, not only on playing but on equipment and clothing. This is available in the ‘Golf Shop’ in the club headquarters adjacent to the Marquis of Granby public house. The club has it’s own car park too – what a god send these days! All in all, I think we at Weston Green are blessed by that early Lord’s consideration for his servants and later for the `commoners’ in having such a desirable feature as part of our heritage. Even if we don’t all use it, It’s nice to know we can if we wish to.

Footnote from Rodney Hutton: “Golfers never die- they only lose their temper”