Came Down club origins
This brief history of Came Down's origins starts with a private club situated at Broadway Farm locally know as 'Lorton Links'. When play there was terminated in 1895, negotiations began with the landowner Lord Portarlington for 180 acres on Came Down. Successful talks led to Tom Dunn of Bournemouth laying out the original 9 hole course of 3,620 yards complete with small pavilion. The 'Dorchester Golf Club' opened for play on the 2nd of March 1896.
With golf in Bournemouth proving such a successful attraction, Weymouth Town Council enlisted former Open Champion J.H. Taylor as their golf course architect in 1904, with a view to setting up a first-class 18 hole course. Taylor took the view that there was no land suitable for golf south of the Ridgeway and recommended the expansion of the Dorchester Club's course to 18 holes. The proposal was carried out and the course extended to 18 holes over 6,090 yards. In addition, a new clubhouse was constructed at the northern end of the course and the Great Western Railway were persuaded to build a 'halt' at Monkton to provide golfers with easier access to the course just a mile away. The new course opened under the revised name of the 'Weymouth, Dorchester and County Golf Club' on the 15th May 1906.
The old clubhouse in the 1930s
During 1910 the club appointed Ernest Whitcombe to be the club Professional. Later his mother Bessie was appointed as the stewardess and brought her other two sons, Charles and Reg. The family stayed for 17 years and did much to put the club on the map. During the 1920's the brothers got to know Samuel Ryder, a country member who played at Came Down when on holiday Weymouth.
During 1923 and 1924 the club was thriving, helped by the fame and popularity of the Whitcombe brothers. A resolution was passed to liquidate the original company known as 'Weymouth, Dorchester and County Golf Club Company' and alter the name to 'Came Down Golf Club'. It was also agreed to raise money for improvement to the course and clubhouse. It was not until 1927 however that the work started. Harry Shapland Colt was employed to undertake a major course reconstruction. Mr Colt was himself a fine player but even more famous world-wide as a golf course architect responsible for such courses as Sunningdale, Wentworth, Royal Portrush and the redesign of Broadstone.
For more information about the Club and the Ryder Cup, click on the attached link to view the information collated by Peter Fry a Member of the Club.
The Whitcombe Brothers’ Military Service during World War I
With the centenary anniversary of the start of the First World War upon us, it is interesting to reflect on what the talented Whitcombe brothers did during that war before their various successes in British professional golf.
Whilst based at Came Down Golf Club, the three Whitcombe brothers enlisted in the First World War. Thankfully they all survived the war but suffered varying degrees of ill health as a consequence.
Eldest brother Ernest joined the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner attached to the 16th Division – part of Kitchener’s Army. Ernest engaged in battle at Hulluch, Guillemont, Messines and Ypres. He received slight wounds from a machine-gun burst which resulted in a minute piece of shrapnel lodging in his left eye which is thought may have affected his putting thereafter. For his war service, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Middle brother Charles served as an infantryman with the Dorset Regiment. Most of his battalion sailed to India initially to guard prisoners of war at Ahmednagar, thereby relieving regular troops for active service. Later the battalion transferred to the Mesopotamia campaign, fighting two hard battles at Ramadi Bridge and Khan Baghdad. Like brother Ernest, Charles was also awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Elements of malaria and gangrene picked up during the war so affected Charles that it was considered he was never quite the same player when put under the greatest pressure.
Youngest brother, Reg, was only 16 at the outbreak of war but, big lad that he was, made out that he was 19 months older in order not to be left out of things. He served with the 4th Battalion of the Dorsets but did not get called on to go overseas. Diagnosed as having a weak heart, he was invalided out two years later with the rank of lance corporal which is amazing considering that some 22 years later he won the Open Championship in the strongest wind the Open has ever endured. Reg was awarded the Silver War Badge which was usual for someone with a sick discharge.
Open Championship and Royal Liverpool Connection!
This July the Open Championship returns to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club better known as Hoylake. At this course 90 years ago the Came Down Club Professional Ernest Whitcombe came within ONE stroke of becoming the Open Champion. However a certain Walter Hagen pulled off a series of miraculous recovery shots which narrowly deprived the record books recording:-1924 - Open Champion - E.Whitcombe (Came Down GC)