Both the Old Course, designed by Harry Shapland Colt and the New Course, designed by Donald Steel are owned and managed by the John Lewis Partnership (JLP). This unique arrangement has a rich and interesting history, intertwined with the story of the man who established this Partnership, Mr John Spedan Lewis.
He was a true philosophical pioneer who put his beliefs into practice in the most demonstrable way. He established the JLP which resulted in the ownership of the company being handed over to all of the employees. It also meant that the golf courses were and still remain, for the benefit and use of those employees, though today a number of non-employees are allowed to join.
The Old Course…
The story began in 1929, when Harry Shapland Colt, a world famous golf course architect by this time, was invited to view the terrain for a golf course to be constructed in the village of Leckford. He was taken with the land and in particular with the flint subsoil, which would prove perfect for drainage of the course to be constructed there. A beautiful valley, lined with mature beech trees and other English hardwoods, with spectacular views from the high points of the land.
From this unique parcel of rural Hampshire he created a nine hole masterpiece. An early description reads “as a test of golf the course ranks high, as high as any inland course in England”. The course was initially for private use but in 1931 it was opened for general play and it was called the Leckford and Longstock Golf Club, named after the two villages that lie on either side of the famous trout river The Test. It was available for the use of all employees, known as “Partners”, their spouses and dependents and they may play golf at Leckford once they have been employed for three months.
The minutes of early meetings of 1931 detail the terms and conditions of employment of the first club secretary, Mr Michael Fenn, who combined those duties with that of head green-keeper, the latter function considered the most important. The Gazette of the same year published a report given by J S F Morrison (Colt, Alison & Morrison Ltd) on the state of the course, and the arrangement to visit twice a year to assess the course.
During World War 2 the course, in common with many others, was ploughed up and the land was used for arable farming, the minutes also define how the assessment of equipment for the maintenance would be approved and purchased further indications of the profound respect John Spedan Lewis had for his employees.
The New Course…
In the late 1980’s a further 9 holes were added to be used for employees wishing to learn the game. A site was found at Leckford Abbas, formerly used for arable farming and oil seed rape in particular, not far from the Old Course.
Construction on the site began on 15th July 1987, under the watchful eye of the eminent golf course architect Donald Steel. It was not designed as he put it, to test the pros, but to provide enjoyment. He completed this to perfection, adding a new dimension to the Leckford Golf Club. The New Course was formally opened on Thursday, 23rd March 1989.
The first foursome to play was Donald Steel, Miss Nicola Ingram a county player, David Brooker an assistant greenkeeper, and Colonel Ian McCausland. Cold, windy showers did not dampen the spirits as the first four sampled and enjoyed the New Course.
Throughout the life of the two courses there has been a common thread, the passion that John Spedan Lewis had for nature and conservation. The John Spedan Lewis Trust is dedicated to the advancement of the Natural Sciences and was an enthusiastic naturalist, with his retirement in 1955, he established the fund to encourage these activities with nature reserves and eventually study centres, with fully equipped laboratory facilities.
The influences on the courses is positive and beneficial, and helps to provide the harmony between leisure and nature evident at Leckford Golf Club to this day.