John Henry “J.H.” Taylor (19 March 1871 – 10 February 1963) was one of the pioneers of the modern game of golf. He was also a significant golf course architect and designed the original course layout at Sonning along with Hawtree and Harry Colt. He was a member of the fabled ‘Great Triumvirate’ of the sport in his day, along with Harry Vardon and James Braid, and he won The Open Championship five times, twice at the Home of Golf, St Andrews. In 1901, Taylor was a co-founder and the first chairman of the British Professional Golfers’ Association. Taylor captained the 1933 Great Britain Ryder Cup team to a win over the United States and remains the only captain on either side to have never played in the matches. He is attributed with being the inventor of the ‘dogleg’.
Henry Shapland “Harry” Colt (4 August 1869 – 21 November 1951) was a golf course architect born in Highgate, England. He designed over 300 golf courses (115 on his own) in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa and is considered to be one of the greatest of all course designers. Colt’s courses of note in the UK include Sunningdale (New course), Rye, Stoke Park Club, Calcot Park, Goring and Streatley Golf Club, the East & West Courses at Wentworth Club and he collaborated with JH Taylor and Hawtree on the original layout at Sonning in 1912. In 1897 he became a Founder Member of the Royal & Ancient Rules of Golf Committee.
Henry Abraham Mitchell (born 18 Jan 1887 – 11 June 1947) was Sonning Golf Clubs first professional. He was runner-up in the 1912 Amateur Championship, losing to John Ball on the second extra hole. He was a fine amateur, and played for his country against the Scots in 1910, and the English team won. He won the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase twice in 1910 and 1913, and played in two Open Championships before turning professional in 1913, attached to Sonning Golf Club in Berkshire. Mitchell was Samuel Ryder’s personal golf instructor from 1925 at Verulam Golf Club, St Albans and it is his figure that sits atop the famous Ryder Cup trophy. He played on three Ryder Cup teams in 1929, 1931, and 1933. Mitchell was honoured by his peers when elected PGA Captain 1933/34 and passed away in St Albans, England at age 60.
Max Faulkner, OBE (29 July 1916 – 26 February 2005) was an assistant professional at Sonning Golf Club from 1936 – 37. He won the Open Championship in 1951 at Royal Portrush and was renowned for his colourful dress sense. Faulkner’s tournament career began in 1946, shortly after the war. He won 16 regular tournaments in Europe, including three Spanish Opens, with his last being the 1968 Portuguese Open at the age of 52. He also won the PGA Seniors Championship on two occasions. His greatest achievement was his victory in the 1951 Open Championship at Royal Portrush. With a round still to be played he had a 6-stroke lead and is reported to have signed autographs with the postscript “1951 Open Champion”. Faulkner played in the Ryder Cup Matches on five occasions, including the historic 1957 contest at Lindrick when the Great Britain team won for the only time between 1933 and 1985. In 2001, on the 50th anniversary of the Open triumph, Faulkner was honoured with an OBE for services to golf. He died in 2005 at the age of 88.
BRIGADIER GENERAL EDMUND JOHN PHIPPS-HORNBY VC
Brigadier General Edmund John Phipps-Hornby VC, CB, CMG, DL (31 December 1857 – 13 December 1947) was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Phipps-Hornby was born in 1857, the son of the Admiral of the Fleet Sir Geoffrey Thomas Phipps Hornby GCB. Phipps Hornby served in the First World War and later achieved the rank of brigadier general granted upon his retirement in 1918, after 40 years of service. His grave and memorial are in St Andrew’s churchyard at Sonning in Berkshire. Phipps Hornby was 42 years old, and a major commanding ‘Q’ Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, British Army, during the Second Boer War when he was awarded the VC. He was Captain of Sonning Golf Club from 1920 to 1922.
Harold Hilton was Sonning Golf Clubs first Secretary and is one of the great figures in world golf. In 1892, he won The Open Championship at Muirfield becoming the second amateur to do so. He won again in 1897 at his home club, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake. The only other amateurs who have won the Open Championship are John Ball and Bobby Jones.
Hilton also won The Amateur Championship on four occasions, including 1911, when he became the only British player to win the British and U.S. Amateurs in the same year. Hilton retired with a 99-29 record (77.3%) at the Amateur Championship. Hilton was also a golf writer. He was the first editor of Golf Monthly, and also the editor of Golf Illustrated. He also designed many courses. He died in 1942 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
The name ‘Hawtree’ has been synonymous with golf course design since 1912. The dynasty; FG, FW and MG is probably the longest continuous practice in golf course architecture. Martins grandfather FG (Frederic George) worked closely with JH Taylor and was the principle architect with Taylor and Colt on the original layout at Sonning. In 2010 Hawtree was brought in by Sonning’s owner, Stuart Crossley, to design a new 18th hole that finished in front of the clubhouse and the spectacular result is in play today. In recent years his extensive knowledge of links course design was recognised by Donald Trump who asked Hawtree to design the new courses at his ‘Trump International’ development in Aberdeen.