At about five miles out of the city, the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club sports the spectacular panoramic view of the London skyline over its 90 acres of greens.
From the clubhouse, members have seen the skyline change from the rise of Canary Wharf to the Wimbley Arch.
The golf club aims to be an all-inclusive place without the airs and graces that make many sporting clubs have reputations for being stuffy.
“We want people to come in and enjoy the golf club without being burdened with too many rules and regulations,” said General Manager Michael Sawicki. “We hope that people can come here to relax, have fun and enjoy an oasis of calm within touching distance of the city.”
Members of the club are from diverse backgrounds. There are doctors and lords who play at the club, and visitors from all areas.
“There are many different characters in the club. That’s what makes the club good,” said David Baillie, who will have been Head Professional for 30 years next month.
Baillie runs the golf shop on the ground floor and teaches lessons. The club has many regulars, some of whom have been coming longer than Baillie has been there. No matter the season, the hardy members still come out to play golf.
Penelope Crane, fondly known as Penny at the club, has been a member since 1997 and became Lady Captain in 2007. While she said she is not very good at golfing, she enjoys the sport and the social aspects.
“I’m hopeless at hitting a moving ball, so at least the ball is there still and so I can see it and hopefully hit it,” Crane said. “I have a lot of laughs here and a lot of good friends.”
While golf is a fairly expensive sport between all of the equipment and membership fees, the club offers other services for all community members. It is a place where anyone can meet up to eat and drink or take part in quiz nights and other events. The function room upstairs is a flexible space available for small business meetings or large fundraising events.
“It’s like your local pub,” Crane said with a laugh. “You don’t have local pubs anymore so you go up to the golf club, and the Guinness is extremely good up here. It’s just great fun and I shall carry on coming here as long as I can.”
There are members from the age of nine to 90 years. Handicap and age are not barriers to the sport either.
“We have a few ladies who have been playing it brilliantly in their 80‘s,” Crane said. “It’s not like most sports where you have to give them up when you get to a certain age.”
The golf club has a lot of history as it has been a part of the community for over a century. It was founded in 1894 and has undergone much improvement since then. In the 1911 the 18 hole course was remodeled to the current layout by Harry Colt, one of the greatest golf course architects of his day. Colt changed the game from being played in straight lines and sharp angles to a much more strategic game. Several of the holes at Dulwich are examples of his philosophy.
During the second world war parts of the course were taken by the Ministry of Defence to be used as barracks for troops and growing vegetable crops for the war effort. The course also had gun turrets on the tenth green to shoot down planes as they flew over. The original clubhouse was destroyed by a V1 rocket in 1944, one of 30 bombs that landed on the course during the war.
“It’s got a fair history with the war,” said Sawicki. “Other than that, we’re just an 18-hole golf club.”
For more information on the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club, please visit www.dulwichgolf.co.uk.