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History

The club began life in 1891, known simply as Rochester Golf Club, with a 9-hole course at Oakleigh Farm in nearby Higham. This was later converted to 18-holes through the addition of alternate tees on each hole. A change of land ownership in 1919 threatened the club with closure until it was rescued by the 8th Earl of Darnley, who offered a lease of the Deer Park at Cobham Hall.

A letter to members informing them of the need to move stated that the new course was being laid out by Messrs Colt, Mackenzie and Alison, although records show that Capt. Alison did most of the work. The course opened in 1920 and the R&A was asked to fix a scratch score. The renowned golfer and golf writer Bernard Darwin was appointed to do this, and he fell in love with the course, writing of it: “…there is plenty of air, and the golfer never has the least sensation of being crowded …” a statement that still applies today.

The original clubhouse was transported from Higham to the new site, but was separated from the course by the A2. This was a situation that provided the club with the on-going need for minor changes that came to a head in 1992, when the Government unveiled the route of the Channel Tunnel rail link. The proposal indicated that the track would run straight through the clubhouse and affected several holes along that side of the course. This resulted in a major reconstruction of the course, and the opening of the present clubhouse in 1997.

The design for the new course was entrusted to Donald Steel, the man who provided the master plan for the modern St. Andrews. His design incorporated much of the 1920 course but required seven completely new holes, as well as changes to the other 11, and 18 completely new greens, all built to USGA standards. The present course is some 150 yards longer than the original with a shorter par of 71.

At the time of the redesign, restrictions were placed on the club’s planting scheme and, as a condition of planning permission, the club was required to return the parkland to Humphry Repton’s original concept of only featuring indigenous hardwood trees in the park. Consequently, the park now features some of the country’s finest specimens of beech, chestnut and hornbeam trees as well as several veteran oaks, one of which is believed to be over 600 years old.

Since the new course was completed the club has hosted the Kent Amateur Championship, the Brabazon Trophy final qualifier and two international matches, as well as being selected to join the elite group of 16 clubs that host regional qualifying for The Open Championship. Selection for these events underlines the course’s credential as being “one of the finest inland courses in the county”.

If you’d like to experience golf at Rochester & Cobham Park, click here for details of Green Fees and Society packages.

If you are interested in a more detailed history of the first 100 years of the club, copies of Mary Edmonds’ book: “1891 -1991 A Story of a Century of Golf” are available at £15.99 from the Club Manager’s office.

The 8th Earl Of Darnley
The Earl was a keen sportsman and a cricketer of some distinction. Before gaining his peerage he was known as The Honorable Ivo Bligh, and was famous for having captained an MCC team to victory in 1882/83, returning home with the urn containing The Ashes. The urn remained in Cobham Hall until after Ivo's death in 1927 when his widow, Florence, presented it to the MCC.
 
Humphry Repton
Poet-gardener Humphry Repton (1752 1815) who laid out the Deer Park at Cobham was the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown. Reptons seat, to the right of the 15th green, is where he sat and sketched his design for the park.