History of the Club

Birth of a Golf Club

High on top of the South Downs behind Beachy Head, Eastbourne Downs Golf Course occupies a glorious position looking over the town of Eastbourne and was first laid out in 1908 by J.H. Taylor. Mr Carew Davies-Gilbert, who owned the acres that extended to East Dean, agreed that a newly formed limited company could play golf and build their clubhouse, under a lease

The golfers of the fully constituted Eastbourne Downs Golf Club entered their new clubhouse (which was originally at the bottom of the hill, where the youth hostel is now) in 1909, under the leadership of it's first captain, Stanley Ellis. Mr Carew Davies-Gilbert, the Club President, took the first drive at the opening ceremony on 2 August 1909. But several competitions were played and trophies donated, prior to that, during 1908, including the Bruford Cup, the Gildredge Manor Cup, the Stanley Ellis Challenge Cup and the St Cyprian's Challenge Cup

An Eastbourne Guide book from that era says:
"The Eastbourne Downs Golf Club has an excellent 18 hole course on the Downs above the Old Town. Pits, ponds and gorse are natural hazards. The total length is about 5,500 yards. Entrance fee; Gentlemen £2.2.0. Ladies £1.1.0. Subscription, Gentlemen £2.2.0 Ladies £1.1.0."

In 1974 the club moved into a new era and into a new clubhouse, built on "the top", alongside many new course alterations, where it remains to this day

Eastbourne Downs' Most Famous Son

Eastbourne Downs has a special claim to fame as the home of Major Cyril Tolley, Amateur Champion of 1920 and 1929, who played seven times for Great Britain in the Walker Cup Matches and adds to his many laurels the renown of being one of the most powerful hitters of his time. Cyril Tolley joined the club on October 7 1909 as a Junior member. By November 1910, at 15 years old he was playing off 16, just 5 years later, in May 1914 he was declared a scratch golfer. A glittering career included Amateur championships in 1920 and 1929, representing England & Scotland 12 times, chairman of the Walker Cup in 1938 and winning the Presidents Putter in 1938. Major Cyril Tolley was president of the Club from 1954 until 1979

Staffing the Club and the Course

The first professional was GH Adams, with Mrs Adams acting as club stewardess. When they left in June 1910, a Mr & Mrs Irving were employed in the same capacity, except that as well as the club professional, he was also green-keeper, for which he was paid the princely sum of 18 shillings a week (90p). A great help to the greens staff in 1912, was the employment of GT Scott, to cut and roll the fairways when necessary, with a horse drawn roller & mower

The outbreak of war in 1914 was a difficult time for everyone and EDGC was no exception, and so a number of cost savings were introduced, including asking Mr Marchant, if he could arrange for sheep to graze on the links, to help keep the growth of the grass down. These sheep would have come under the watchful eye of one of the well know shepherds of the day, Dick Wooller. Dick had seven sons, all of whom became single figure and scratch golfers and one in particular, Frank, became the club professional in later years. The Wooller lads were also caddies to all three local golf clubs. Frank Wooller took over as club professional in December 1932 and served for nearly 50 years. His son, Richard, continued the Wooller connection, after being selected to be the next Club Professional

Richard Wooler moved on in 1985, when our current Club Professional, Terry Marshall, took over

All Change

In 1929 the corporation of Eastbourne bought 4,000 acres of downland that took in both Beachy Head and the golf course. The Club's lease was still held by the Eastbourne Downs Golf Links Co. Ltd on licence from the Corporation. Then, in 1938 the Club was offered a new lease and it was agreed that the Club would buy the licence for the course from the Eastbourne Downs Golf Links Co. Ltd for £1,000 with the Corporation of Eastbourne taking over the lease

By the mid 60's the membership had grown to nearly 400 and with the clubhouse structure deteriorating and the worry that the steep climb up to the 1st & 2nd tees was putting off new members, plans began to be discussed to move the clubhouse "to the top". This was finally realised in 1971 when a grant of £10,000 from the Department of the Environment, a grant from the Corporation of £5,000 and a loan from the Corporation of £15,000 spread over 30 years was agreed, with the remainder being found by the club

Moving to the Top

Part of the building process involved excavating thousands of yards of chalk which were taken away to form the foundation for the massive road building programme across the marshy grasslands of Lottbridge Drove

The last meeting in the old clubhouse was held on New Year's Eve 1972, with a record attendance. This was also the week that marked 40 years of Frank Wooller's service to the Club. The new current clubhouse was officially opened in February 1974 by distinguished golf journalist Henry Longhurst and an exhibition match between four top professionals, Max Faulkner, Brian Barnes, Tommy Horton and Bernard Gallacher was played in May of that year as part of the grand opening

in 1995 the conservatory was added giving members and visitors stunning views over the town of Eastbourne and across the sea to Hastings