As well as prominent writers, such as W. Somerset Maugham and Ian Fleming, the newspaper industry was represented on the Club’s rolls by Lords Northcliffe, Beaverbrook and Rothermere.
Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales — later to become Edward VIII — and the Duke of York, who reigned as George VI after his brother’s abdication, both played at Coombe Hill and were treated as ordinary members.
Coombe Hill was to play its part in the Second World War. Telegraph Cottage, situated in Warren Road, just behind the 14th tee, would soon become the secret hideaway of one of the war’s major players: General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Between September and November of 1940 no less than 25 high explosive shells fell on or near the course. A pair of AA shells almost hit the Clubhouse, and the fifth, sixth and seventh holes also received a pounding from the Luftwaffe.
A stick of bombs straddled Kingston Hill and one of them found the thirteenth, whilst a 500-pounder pulverised the house immediately behind the third tee. A V1 Flying Bomb is thought to have caused a huge crater in front of the tenth tee. Post-war, the Club was in decline. It had only 60 or so members, and was losing money. The lease was owned by a widow who had recently lost her husband and the course was more than a little battered. The Clubhouse was also in need of some renovation.
Yet its finest hour was at hand. Its imminent sale attracted the attention of Mr Lou Freedman, a prominent Jewish businessman who with his friend Johnny Segal were determined to build a different sort of golf club. In those days there were very few leading golf clubs who were not highly selective about the ethnic or religious origins of their applicants. At the second meeting of the committee it was established that ‘this Club is open to any gentleman of any colour or creed who has the suitable qualities to be a member of Coombe Hill’.
Mr Lou Freedman
Lou Freedman and Seve Ballesteros