Fowler & Simpson
What Fowler and Simpson achieved at Blackwell on a relatively small acreage is a tribute to their skills and one of only 7 in the UK in which they collaborated.
William Herbert Fowler
Perhaps the most daring and original of all golfing architects, and gifted with an inspired eye for the possibility of a golfing country
William Herbert Fowler (28 May 1856 – 13 April 1941), designed Walton Heath Golf Club , and many others in the UK including; Beau Desert, Delamere Forest, Saunton Sands, The Berkshire (Blue & Red) and in the US including; Bethpage (Black) and Eastward Ho! and in 1922 he redesigned the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. During a 1921 championship, the course owners received complaints about the short 18th hole, and asked Fowler to resolve the problem. He added just under 200 yards to the hole, transforming it from a 379-yard par 4 to a 548-yard par 5.
He believed strongly that courses should follow the contours of the land, and have a natural feeling, shunning the use of “man-made contrivances”, believing that topography could test the world’s best golfers just as adequately. He had strong views on many aspects of a golf course, including bunkers, which he believed should have gradual slopes to allow the ball to roll to the base. Contemporaries suggested that he designed large courses that would favour big hitters such as himself, but Fowler strenuously denied this, always claiming that they were designed with fairness in mind. 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”.
One of the most passionate advocates for strategic design; coined the phrase ‘Golden Age’, in reference to golf’s 1920s boom years
Tom Simpson start in golf course design came in partnership with Herbert Fowler, but Simpson quickly established his own practice and worked for a number of outstanding clients, including Ballybunion and County Louth in Ireland, Cruden Bay in Scotland, Royal Porthcawl in Wales, Liphook in England and the Royal Golf Club of Belgium. On each of these projects Simpson was employed essentially to overhaul existing layouts. The work he did on new courses is best seen in Europe, particularly France where he designed Hardelot (Les Pins), Chiberta, Fontainebleau and two gems north of Paris named Morfontaine and Chantilly. All 27 holes at Morfontaine are sublime, while the best holes at Chantilly and Fontainebleau are as good as any on the European mainland. Simpson also added key holes to St Enodoc, Rye, Carnoustie and Muirfield and designed the charming Royal GC des Fagnes course near Spa in Belgium, which, like Chantilly, features some wonderful cross bunkering.
Tom Simpson was one of the most passionate advocates for strategic design and the man who apparently coined the phrase ‘Golden Age’, in reference to golf’s boom years of the 1920s. Simpson and Wethered’s “Design For Golf” published in 1929 remains one of the most under-rated texts on golf course architecture. It is remarkable because so much of Simpson’s remaining work proves that he put it into practice, unlike some of the other better known authors and architects. For those interested, reading this book followed by some visits to his untouched work is highly enlightening. Any aspiring golf course architect could do far worse than to read and absorb what he wrote. It is a blue print for intelligent golf where, as he frequently wrote, “the Tiger, poor brute, deserves no mercy”. His “low profile” style, now more commonly known as “minimalist”, is as relevant now as it has ever been.