Golf Course Architecture - Issue 65, July 2021

42 Derek Markham’s biography of Herbert Fowler has been long awaited by all who knew it was being worked on, and does not disappoint. It is a very different book from Professor Jim Hansen’s magisterial biography of Robert Trent Jones Sr, A Difficult Par , but unquestionably it vies with that for the title of the best life of a golf architect yet written. Markham and his co-conspirator (and co-publisher) Philip Truett, the well- known historian of Fowler’s Walton Heath, have opted for a book that is laid out in magazine fashion, with many asides and boxouts. This makes it an ideal volume to dip in and out of, although perhaps making its core narrative a little harder to read. I personally do not feel that the extensive short boxes that include comments from today’s golfing figures add much, if anything, to the value of the book, but doubtless there will be many who disagree. Nonetheless, the depth and breadth of the research is remarkable. Fowler was, along with John Low, Harry Colt and a few others, the creator of strategic golf design. He was, of all Golden Age architects, arguably the most varied in his work: it is, to this day, hard to grasp that the same man, at basically the same time, built the wild greens of Beau Desert GC in Staffordshire and only fifty miles up the road in Cheshire, the very quiet ones of Delamere Forest GC. Born into an extremely wealthy Quaker family, and a partner in a private bank at the age of twenty-two, Fowler should have been set up for a life among the gilded people of late Victorian and Edwardian society. That he turned to golf design was the result of a combination of circumstances; certainly, including a lack of aptitude for business life – he was, as the book is not shy to relate, declared bankrupt in 1928, as he very nearly was in the early twentieth century, before his brother-in-law Cosmo Bonsor financed the creation of Walton Heath. But it was a happy accident nonetheless: many thousands of golfers across the world, whether they know it or not, give thanks every day for this accident. All should read this book if they can; they will learn a lot about the man who created their courses. A Matter of Course: the life of William Herbert Fowler, 1856-1941 Images: Courtesy of Artefact Design GOOD READ By Adam Lawrence