Golf Course Architecture - Issue 74, October 2023

ON SITE Peer pressure 64 The Foxhills Club & Resort is investing heavily in its courses to improve its offering to members and visitors. Adam Lawrence paid a visit. FOXHILLS, SURREY, ENGLAND The southern English county of Surrey is an extremely competitive golf market. Surrey, and the neighbouring county of Berkshire, was essentially the cradle of golf architecture; from Willie Park Jr’s creation of Sunningdale in 1900 onwards, the area has been packed full of great courses. Given it is also one of the most affluent parts of Britain, the demand for fine golf has always been high. In short, it is an area in which a golf facility can do great business, but it had better be good. Most of Surrey’s top courses were built in the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of golf architecture, which is to say before World War Two. There have been high profile (and, by their nature, fairly big money) developments in the area since, most recently the Queenwood and Beaverbrook clubs, but they are in a definite minority. Most of Surrey golf is old school members’ clubs, and fairly high-end ones at that. This, therefore, makes the Foxhills resort, located just to the north of the town of Woking, something of an outlier. Foxhills’ location puts it in some very exalted company: less than a mile (plus, to be fair, the M3 motorway) separate its courses from the Wentworth estate. Sunningdale is not much further away. The famous ‘Three Ws’ of Woking, Worplesdon and West Hill are just the other side of Woking town. And closest of all, the rigorously private and very expensive Queenwood is just across the road from Foxhills. Foxhills occupies an estate that was once home to the politician and bon viveur Charles James Fox. Fox’s gambling habits were legendary: in 1774, at the age of 25, his father had to pay off gambling debts of £140,000, the equivalent of £17 million today. Fox became an MP at the age of 19 but, owing to his support of causes such as American independence, the French Revolution and Catholic emancipation, he held high office for only a very short time. When Fox died in 1806, his body was found to contain 35 gallstones, a hardened liver, and seven pints of transparent fluid in his abdomen. The Manor House at Foxhills, now the centre of the estate’s extremely nice hotel, was built in the 19th century. Rooms have been added in several different phases: the courtyard block of about 20 rooms is of modern construction, but to a cursory gaze appears to be original: it is very well done. The estate was turned into a golf resort in 1975, with two courses designed by Fred Hawtree, now known as Longcross and Bernard Hunt, after the eight-time Ryder Cupper who served as pro at Foxhills for 25 years. The Surrey area became a golfing hotbed because so much of it is on sandy soil. All the famous old courses in the area are sandy, located on a geological formation known as the Bagshot Beds. Foxhills, however, is not wholly sandy, but has large areas of clay. There is heather, but only a tiny amount, and it is not really in play. The two courses are mostly lined with pine trees, though in several places the trees are in very straight lines, indicative of them being planted rather than self-sown. Longcross is generally regarded as the better of Foxhills’ two full sized courses (the estate has a third course