Copthorne Golf Club was formed in 1892 and later reconstituted in 1903. Full records exist from 1903 and it was thought for some time that the Club had only existed from the inaugural meeting of 1903. However, in 1969 the Club came into possession of two silver medals, one is inscribed 'Copthorne Golf Club' and the other 'Copthorne Golf Club won by Stanley Russell in 1894'. The medals bear an 1892 hallmark. The Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews were consulted and after a search the following record was found in the Golfers Guide of 1897 - 'Copthorne Golf Club - instituted in 1892.
The original golf course has the following entry in the same Guide - 'An 18 hole course on the common one mile from Rowfant Station. The grass is short and the hazards are mostly natural. The Ladies have a separate 9 hole course. There is a clubhouse near the green'.
Originally established by a group of golfing enthusiasts, Copthorne has remained a private members club ever since. Renowned for its hospitality from earliest times, golf has been enjoyed here by both men and women.
The Club has survived and prospered due to the vision and foresight of dedicated people. The quality of golf played by the members has varied but essentially the Club has provided fellowship and friendly competition for the average club golfer. It is rare in these days to find a club where it is possible to drive up at 8.15am or 12.00 pm on nearly every day of the week and be assured of a game.
In the early years it was necessary to provide stabling for horses whilst members enjoyed their round of golf. Again judging by their addresses many must have travelled by train to Rowfant and then walked across country to the course. The layout of the original course in 1892 has not survived and the Club struggled but it was revived in 1903 and by the spring of 1904 work had advanced to the point where a 9 hole course was in play and competitions were being played for over 18 holes presumably by repeating the 9 holes. The 9 hole course was installed on the west part of the Common opposite New Town Road. Work on building the course continued and, by the end of 1908, 18 holes were open for play.
In 1922, the problem of securing both the existing course and obtaining land to lengthen it began to exercise the attention of the committee. It was eventually agreed that the Club would rent two fields from Miss Locker Lampson with an option to purchase. This option was taken up when the Club purchased the land in 1936. In fact all the Club's freehold land on the south side of the A264, comprising holes 4 to 8, the first part of 9, the 10th Green and 11 to 16 was acquired from the family. The Manorial rights were purchased from the Marquis of Abergaveny during November 1928 at a cost of £500. The Common lands comprised three separate acreage's, Pot Common, Top Common and the Golf Course. Pot Common was located on the west side of Copthorne House (now Copthorne Hotel) and was sold for £35 in the spring of 1929. The Law of Property Act 1935 gave the right to register Common Lands under section 193 with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Both the Copthorne School and Copthorne Golf Club did so in 1931 and 1936 respectively.
The present Club house site was acquired in 1930 and on 4th December 1931 the new Club house (see photograph) was opened and the first recorded Dinner with auction sweep was held. Except for the addition of a substantial dining room and a splendid conservatory which overlooks the 18th green, it remained basically unaltered for many years. A major construction programme in 2001 has resulted in a significant improvement in the changing facilities, the integration of the pro-shop within the clubhouse and the modernisation of the kitchens.
In 1930 James Braid of Walton Heath was asked to design course modifications. So far as the current course is concerned we are indebted to Braid for the 4th, the 9th, the 10th and the 18th.
In 1967, the Club became aware of the plans to widen the A264. At the AGM of 1967 it was suggested 'It may be considered as a long term plan that land on the other side of the road be obtained and moving the clubhouse there to avoid crossing a busy road of increased width.' After lengthy discussions with the Forestry Commission, a contract was negotiated to acquire the freehold of the land which currently comprises holes 5 to 8 and 11 to 16.
Bill Cox designed the new holes; the first four, now numbered 13, 14, 15 and 16 were brought into play in May 1979. The remaining 6 were opened in 1984 and created a golf course worthy of the work and sacrifices made by the members during this period. Its quality is witnessed by the many champions it has produced over recent years.
The original version of this history was written by Tim Clark, Captain 1971/72. Sadly, Tim died in 2002 and the task of updating the information is now being undertaken by Captains of later years.
For more on Copthorne's history, take a look at the club museum within the clubhouse.