The Friends of Beckenham Place Park

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THE GOLF COURSE (From 1907 to closure in 2017)
240 acres (85 hectares) of open space. Ancient Woodland, Grass/meadow areas, Riverside and Heritage features.


The History of Beckenham Place Park

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This page has been superceded by the closing by London Borough of Lewisham of the Golf Course in 2017. Therefore present tense phrases need to be amended to past tense. It should be recorded that the golf course had historic significance as the  first public  golf course, nearest to central London and at one time the busiest course in Europe.

The 'Foxgrove Golf Club' was established in 1907 and occupied a large area of Beckenham Place Park although we understand only a 9 hole course to begin with. The clubhouse was on the site of the current Foxgrove Club which is an Edwardian building dating to 1922 and currently (til 2017)  run as a private social club. It stands beside the current (former) 1st green which was the original 9th or 18th green and 1st tee.  After the park was purchased by the London County Council in 1927  it seems the golf course continued to run until 1934 when  an article in The Gazette Friday April 6th 1934 reported...

" Quarter Day fell on March 25th and with it ended the Foxgrove Golf Club’s tenancy of the major portion of the park. In brilliant sunshine members with caddies in attendance played their final games under the old conditions. To promote safety among all visitors to the park, the L.C.C.undertook the re-planning of parts of the course to obviate any driving over roads and pathways. With the club in possession it was impossible to complete this work by March 26th, as was once expected. At the weekend it was announced that the course as a municipal one, would open in about three weeks. It is temporarily closed.

The occasion will be of importance not only to players of the game, which King James is supposed to have brought from the north to Blackheath. With the opening of further parts of the great new park the public are to enter into possession of an open space, which in area is nearly as great as the famous heath, from whence, since the Great War, golfers of the Royal Club and more humble exponents of the game have disappeared.

Hitherto visitors other than members of the Foxgrove Golf Club have had to content themselves with the enjoyment of the woodland walks and three areas of grassland on which cricket and football have been played.

The story of the acquisttion of what was [once] the Cator estate goes back to 1926. The property consists of 211 acres of land of which 151 acres is in the county of London and wholly inn the borough of Lewisham and the remaining 60 acres in Beckenham. The L.C.C. as the London parks authority wrote to Lewisham Council asking what contribution they would make if it should found possible to acquire the property. Lewisham immediately offered £5,000 if the whole estate were bought as ‘an open space’. It is history now that a similar letter to the Beckenham Council of the day brought a refusal to contribute at all.

The total estimated cost of the property was £44,300 and in December 1927 the contract for the purchase was exchanged. At that time the Foxgrove Golf Club held a lease at £448 a year, and in 1928 without consulting the Lewisham authorities, the L.C.C. granted the club a new lease 103 acres of land covering the golf course £500 a year. The lease of the old Cator mansion – let as a sanatorium or nursing home – at £310 ran on until the present month (April). These and other leases have now expired and the public have the enjoyment of the 172 acres in the park proper, and to some extent of the 39 acres to the east side of the railway, where a considerable amount of levelling is still needed to make this land fit for a recognised playing fields.  "

    This next passage was contributed by the late Geoff Lewis, a park ‘friend’ and a golfer, and is included in memory of him. 

"Beckenham Place Park is the home of what has been for many years Britain’s busiest golf course. It provides sport for many golfers without handicaps as well as the two associated golf clubs, Beckenham Place Park Golf Club founded in 1907 and its junior, Breaside Golf Club, founded in 1947. For many years the professional was Tom Cotton, brother of the more famous Henry and father of Geoffery Cotton, who followed in the family footsteps after World War II and enjoyed fame as Chairman of the PGA (Professional Golfers Association). He was followed more recently by Bill Woodman, who left when the operation of the course passed to David Lloyd Leisure in the 1990s. BPP was also the nursery for many assistants who moved to major professional posts in other golf clubs after Tom Cotton’s tutelage. The course is short by today’s standards at 5,722 yards, but is regarded as challenging though much of the rough was cut back in the sixties to speed up play. (At present efforts are being made to extend the rough to encourage more wild life, maybe at the expense of ‘wild’ golfers, who have to hunt for lost golf balls!) Perhaps the final tribute to the course in these days of hi-tech equipment and reduced rough, is that the course record of 62, set many years ago by Tom Cotton remains unassailed. This was long before green keepers and the gales of 1987 removed some landmark hazards."

The recent history of the course since the London Borough of Lewisham (LBL) acquired the park in 1972 is that council employed greenkeepers to maintain the course up to the present day. David Lloyd Leisure had the management of the golf course from 1992 to 1999 and since 1999 the  golf returned to management by LBL until this year when Glendale Golf are managing the golf course on a short term contract. They have also taken over catering in the cafe. Details are available on Glendale Golf's website.

Although a short course by some standards at 5722 yards it compared well with nearby Chislehurst Golf Club 5119 yards and occupied 90 acres of ground compared to Chislehursts 70 acres. Beckenham Place has a variety of flats and hills with lateral hazards and the risk of losing your ball if going off line into the woods was ever present.

The Course struggled to maintain a good turnover of income perhaps because in some small way due to more golf facilities within travelling distance and the depressed economic conditions which affect relatively high cost forms of passtime and the frequent changes of management haven't always promoted the course to best advantage. However, a golf green fee for 4 hours entertainment compared well with most football match tickets in my view.