Welcome to the final part of my quest to re-discover the original 18 holes at Royal Cromer, in play between 1895 and 1914.
Below is the tale of The Match, played over this layout and recollected with the help of newspaper cuttings from the time. With thanks to The British Library.
17th July 1895
A 36 Hole Match between two of the world’s pre-eminent golf professionals had been arranged to mark the opening of the lavish Royal Links Hotel (this huge and grand building was sadly lost to a fire in the 1940’s. The site is now occupied by Cromer Country Club).
The occasion also co-incided with the extention of the golf course from 9 to 18 holes, achieved with the help and design of Old Tom Morris. Invitations were issued by Lord Suffield to the high society of the time, with The Match a central part of the entertainment on offer.
John Henry Taylor
JH Taylor, from Devon, formed part of the ‘Great Triumvirate’ of the sport in his day, along with Harry Vardon and James Braid. Taylor arrived at Cromer as a 2-time Open Champion, having retained his crown at St. Andrews just four weeks previously.
He would go on to win another 3 Claret Jugs in 1900, 1909 & 1913.
Alexander ‘Sandy’ Herd was a Scot, born in St Andrews but based in Huddersfield at the time of the match.
The match offered a chance for a small chunk of revenge for Herd, who had finished runner-up to Taylor at St Andrews the previous month.
Herd would finally go on to win his only major championship at The Open at Hoylake in 1902.
Play started at 11 o’clock, Mr P.M. Lucas acting as referee, with resident Professional Willie Aveston piloting the strangers from the tees to the greens.
A Tight Start
Though both players reached the 315 yard uphill first with their second shots, they halved the hole in five. The next hole, in front of the lighthouse was tied in one less. The third hole was a finely played four for each, the best stroke for this hole being Taylor’s mashie-cleek second out of long grass from the right hand side onto the green.
To and Fro
Herd won the fourth hole across the valley in a beautifully played three, and with it gave himself the lead. But this did not last long as Taylor won the next in four and the sixth also, with Herd cruelly lipping the hole with his third for a half.
Taylor takes a narrow lead
The difficult seventh was indifferently played, both men failing to reach the green in two, and taking three to hole after they had reached it. A long putt by Herd for a three at the eighth gained him the loudest applause of the day, but Taylor took the ninth to reach the turn 1 up.
Herd hits form
In going for the 240 yard tenth with his drive, Taylor was badly bunkered and after three unsuccessful attempts to extracate had to give up the hole. Both players were the wrong side of the bank facing the long 11th, with a half in six the unsatisfactory result. The 12th was a featureless half in four before a perfect three gave Herd the next.
The 14th was the seventh halved hole. Coming down from the Punch Bowl Herd secured the 15th in a fine four, Taylor being a little weak with his approach uphill to the green. The Huddersfield player was now 2 up.
Drama as the first round concludes
The final three holes of the first round were divided, with the home hole noticeable for the fact that both men, Herd with his Driver and Taylor with his cleek, drove into the clubhouse. Relief was obtained, with fine approach shots leading to matching three’s.
With the pace of play putting modern tournament professionals to shame, it was still before three o’clock when Lady Hastings, attended by Lord Suffield and a distinguished party, appeared in front of the clubhouse to formerly declare the 18-hole course open. The match then resumed with the second round.
Herd takes control
At the first, as in the morning round, Taylor missed a shortish putt, Herd having laid a devilish stymie. No.2 was halved. The next was Herd’s in four, the noteworthy stroke being his second, which landed him on the green. This made the Yorkshire pro 4 Up.
Taylor fights back
With Taylor messing up his tee-shot on the fourth, most people imagined that Herd was running away with the match. But Herd was a moment or two faulty at the short game, and Taylor seeing his opportunity holed in four to reduce the deficit to three.
The fifth was halved, though Taylor had a distinct chance for the hole. The zig-zag sixth hole – only a full cleek shot – Taylor secured with the help of a clinking putt and the game was brought back to the position at the luncheon interval.
The crucial period
The match took on its crucial period, and as in the morning round both players took three to reach the seventh green, and that hole and the next was halved, the latter being worthy of mention, inasmuch as Taylor, playing his third with Herd already dead, holed out an exceptionally fine putt.
The ninth and tenth were halved without any particular incident. Taylor had hard lines at the long eleventh in finding himself, after playing his second, obliged to approach out of long grass to the hole, the pin having been placed a good deal too near the edge of the green, or the long grass having been allowed to remain unmown much too close to the green.
Thanks to a stymie, and to the circumstance that the 12th hole had been cut out on the crown of a small eminence, Herd divided it, and the game stood 3 Up and 6 to play.
The Closing Scenes
Herd took the Punch Bowl in a five, after seemingly extinguishing Taylor’s last hurrah by matching his three on the 13th. ‘Dormy Four’ was the cry from the spectators, and with the 15th being halved, the match was over, Herd winning amidst general applause by 4 Up and 3 to play and with it gaining a modicum of revenge for his defeat at St Andrews the previous month.
And so the original 18 holes as layed out by Old Tom Morris at Royal Cromer was open for play. Over the next few years it would host at various times all of the greatest players of the day, including Vardon and Braid, as well as members of the Royal Family and Prime Ministers.
In 1905, as well as hosting the British Ladies Amateur Championships, Cromer was the site for the very first international golf match between the ladies of Great Britain and the United States, played in by the Curtis sisters and a pre-runner to the trophy that bears their name.