Regional Qualifying Feature – Sandy Lodge Golf Club
As a gold prospector, James Frances Markes knew all about discovering hidden gems, so it is no surprise that he found the perfect location for a game of golf.
Markes, frustrated by playing on muddy courses in north London, set off in search of a better, dryer piece of land that he could enjoy all year round. 118 years later and Sandy Lodge will host Regional Qualifying for The Open for a fourth successive year.
With six par-3’s and over 100 bunkers, the prospect of reaching Carnoustie will seem a long way away for the players preparing to tee off at Sandy Lodge. But safe passage of the front nine at the Hertfordshire course will be enough encouragement for a player to start dreaming.
“We have six par-threes on the course so you have to be a good iron player. But it really gets going between five and ten,” said general manager David Griffin. “We have a 454-yard par-four fifth and the sixth is 461 yards. How you negotiate those holes is crucial to the score and that leads into a few holes.”
The variety of the holes at Sandy Lodge is down to Markes. He set off to find a sandy strip of land on which he could build his dream course at the turn of the 20th century. He designed the course himself with little outside interference and the opening date was set for 14th May 1910. Unfortunately, the death of King Edward VII set it back two months but the wait was worth it.
Such was the draw of a round at Sandy Lodge that six-time Champion Golfer Harry Vardon, at the height of his powers, faced five-time Champion Golfer James Braid.
Vardon was partnered by professional James Ferguson. They narrowly won by a shot, registering a 76 in comparison to Braid’s 77.
Too old for military service, Markes ran the club during the tough years of World War I before resigning in 1920. It is unlikely he ever imagined his course would provide a gateway to golf’s oldest championship.
But Sandy Lodge has become a stalwart of Regional Qualifying and Griffin insists it is one of the highlights of their year.
“This will be the fourth time and we are so proud to have it. It is always good to see the future professionals trying to progress to the next stage,” he said.
“We always make sure the golf course is at a very high standard and it is always a proud moment for the club when we do it.”
“The Open Championship is the biggest golf tournament in the world. It is a major challenge and we hope our course provides one too.”