At the end of 1893 a small group of local men formed the Sydenham Hill Golf Club, to play over six holes roughly laid out on Dulwich Wood Farm. The following year, under pressure from The Dulwich Estate (the farmer’s landlords who had known nothing of the plan) the founders changed the Club’s name, extended membership to 50 residents of Dulwich, many of whom were teachers at the College and increased the number of Lady members. The Estate Governors further demanded that there must be no play on a Sunday and no alcohol served at any time. The first clubhouse cost £229 and was built on top of the hill at the suggestion of golf architect Tom Dunn, who also helped lay out a larger, 9-hole course.
In 1909 the course was further extended to 10 holes by Willie Park junior and in 1911 to its full 18 by golf architect Harry Colt, but the ravages of World War I, when 50 members, the steward, professional and most of the green staff enlisted, again reduced the course to 9 holes, with the rough kept in check by the farmer’s sheep. Struggles of many kinds dominated the Club’s first half century, usually financial, notably the loss of nearly half the membership when in 1897 the Committee sought to regain solvency by increasing the subscription from two to three guineas, and World War II when in addition to depleted membership the clubhouse was destroyed in June 1944 by a V1 rocket, just one of 30 bombs that fell on the course.
After eighteen years occupying Ryecotes, a large Victorian house adjacent to the course, the present clubhouse was opened in 1966. A borehole, drilled in 1991, and subsequently the introduction of a course-wide sprinkler system and drainage, now provide excellent playing conditions both summer and winter. The Club has also been fortunate in the quality and long-service of its stewards, green staff and professionals – following the death in France in 1917 of John Champion, just three professionals, Charles Scott (1917-1952), Len Rowe (1953-1984) and thereafter David Baillie, have looked after the shop.
The Club’s most successful golfer, Peter Oosterhuis, was taught the game at 13 by Len Rowe and within a few years was dominating the European Tour, leading the Order of Merit for the four years 1970-3 before decamping for America. Peter was awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership of the European Tour in 2016, recognising his achievements and contribution to golf.