The Addington dates back to 1913 and in its day was considered one of the best courses in the WORLD!!!. Designed by J.F Abercromby with the help of Harry Colt, who had designed the New Course at Sunningdale, the course quickly became very popular.
The club was for the gentry with no one under a peer of the crown allowed to play! You could count those who did not come in their Rolls Royce’s on the fingers of one hand. The club became so popular a second course, the New, the build started March 1922 and the course formally opened 6th October 1923.
Unfortunately, this course was appropriated for the military in World War 2 and in 1948 sold to Croydon council under compulsory purchase to alleviate the housing shortage. In 1952 the clubhouse burnt down and with it all historical documents.
I first heard about The Addington when I worked for the PGA in the late 80’s. The owner Moira Fabes, whose father had acquired all of the syndicate shares ran the club with a rod of iron only allowing those who she believed good enough to play the course the opportunity to enter through the gates.
Moira died in 2002 and a syndicate managed the club until Ron Noades, who I knew when I managed Loch Lomond, bought the club in 2006. Sadly, Ron died in 2013 and the club continued to be owned and run by his company Altonwood Group who also own and run 4 other golf clubs.
I had heard through the grapevine that there were big changes happening at The Addington namely from Cookie Jar Golf, who have their ear to the ground on most things and Greg Evans who has been commissioned to oversee the agronomy project. Ron’s youngest son Ryan took over The Addington in January 2020 when he persuaded the rest of the board that The Addington should not be kept in line with the other courses in the group.
The other clubs are very successful but they are modern courses, Ryan wanted to restore The Addington back to its origins with the goal of reinstating the course into the top 100 courses in the world.
A fellow left-hander Ryan plays of 9 so no shots were given for “The Round with Niall Challenge”. As we walked to the first tee you could see there was a lot of activity with bulldozers and JCB’s noticeably hard at work. A new short game area had just been seeded and smoke from a bonfire filled the air.
Ryan explained that the course had been left to become overgrown for a number of years and in order to restore it to the original landscape a huge number of trees had to be taken down. This has been carefully managed with the back nine holes being worked on through the pandemic and the deforestation programme to be finalised towards the end of summer 2022.
You could tell from the moment we stepped off the first tee this was not just a job for Ryan but a labour of love. He had embraced the changes required and hired Clayton, DeVries & Pont to help him to make the necessary changes to restore but also modify the design to deliver a top 100 course for today’s golfers. One of the directors of CDP, Frank Pont, received special dispensation to travel during the lockdown and he and Ryan used that time wisely continually walking the course until they were satisfied that every area had been accounted for and a brief set.
Ryan hits a long ball and quickly he was 2 up when we reached the 5th tee where he highlighted an opportunity to build a new clubhouse. This would allow the re-routing of the course in line with the original plans of 1913. Some tree removal had taken place overlooking the 2nd fairway and already you could see a tremendous vista of the London skyline as the club is just 11 miles from the city centre.
Ryan has studied the old photographs and as we made our way around the front nine, he showed me where the undergrowth was going to be taken back and the use of the newly installed irrigation system would allow for the greens to become bigger, as they once were, providing some very engaging pin positions and some amazing definition so as to enhance the presentation of certain holes.
3 down at the turn and after a warming cup of tea and a sausage sandwich I was really looking forward to the back nine not only to try and win some holes back but to see how much difference the clearing programme had made.
Dave Cannon one of my fellow Top 100 panellists for National Club Golfer and one of the world’s leading golf photographers has been commissioned to take a record of the redevelopment. Ryan placed red discs at certain spots around the course where he wants to capture the changes through David’s photography. As you progress through the back nine the changes are truly breathtaking and show the course to be a true classic masterpiece against the modern skyline of the city of London and all its famous landmarks.
I have been extremely lucky to have played several hundred of the best courses around the world, but I do not think I have seen a project that excites me so much and makes me impatient to see the finished work. All bunkers are to be reshaped and the natural grasses and vegetation reintroduced after the tree programme has ceased with the final date for the full restoration still several years away.
I managed to stop Ryan completely running away with the match and at the end of the round was 5 down. I have to say the golf was secondary as I was far too busy asking questions and observing the changes that have been made and the history restored to really concentrate on my game.
Ryan knows every inch of the property and his attention to detail is second to none. The project is still only halfway through and by the time we come to review the English courses again in 2025 I am sure that The Addington will be very close to the top if not at the very top of this illustrious list.
One thing that Ryan has in his favour, which he readily admits is that he has control of the project and does not have to defer to committees to make his dream a reality. By restoring one of the very best courses and investing in other areas of the club I am in no doubt the board will see that his brave decision to concentrate on the course and make golf the first priority will realise a substantial return on investment. I for one can’t wait to return and see the progress over the next couple of years
Until next time