Tom Dunn (golf course architect)

Thomas Dunn (29 December 1849[1] – May 1902[2]) was a golfer, golf club maker and prolific architect of many golf courses in the early 20th century. Less celebrated than his contemporary, Old Tom Morris, Dunn created many functional layouts and helped lead the development of courses away from the coast into inland heathland locations, notably many around London.[3] In total, Dunn had four top-10 finishes in the Open Championship.

Thomas Dunn
Tom Dunn, golf course architect.PNG
Tom Dunn, c. 1889
Personal information
Born(1849-12-29)29 December 1849
Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
DiedMay 1902 (aged 52)
Blagdon, Somerset, England
Nationality Scotland
SpouseIsabella Gourlay
ChildrenIsabella May Gourlay Dunn
John Duncan Dunn
Seymour Dunn
Norah Eleanor Dunn
Turned professional1869
Best results in major championships
The Open Championship6th: 1868

Early lifeEdit

Dunn was born in Musselburgh, the son of Willie Dunn Snr (1821–1878).[4]

Willie Dunn Snr and his twin brother, Jamie, were notable golfers of their time, playing against Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris. Willie was apprenticed under the Gourlay family. At the time of Tom's birth, Willie Dunn Snr was greenkeeper at Blackheath where he remained until 1864.[5]

Dunn learned the game and family business of golf, including club manufacture and groundsmanship, from his father. Dunn also had an elder sister; Catherine (b. 1842 also in Musselburgh), and four younger sisters; Rebecca (b. 1852), Janet (b. 1854), Jemima (b. 1856) and Sarah (b. 1858).[6] His younger brother, William, (b. 1864 and known as Willie Jnr), like his younger sisters, was also born at Blackheath.[7]

In 1864 the Dunn family moved back to Scotland and Willie Dunn Snr was employed at Leith Links.[5]

Golf careerEdit

Dunn competed in the Open in 1868 finishing in 6th place. He competed a further seven times until 1886 but never improved his position.[8] Dunn's professional career started at North Berwick in 1869. Soon after, in 1870, he moved to the London Scottish Golf Club at Wimbledon and was formally the club's professional until 1880.[8] In 1871, he extended the course to eighteen holes.[5][8] Years later, Dunn revealed that this was initially 19 holes![9][10] Also in 1871, he joined his father at Leith Links.[5]

Following marriage to Isabella May Gourlay, Dunn established a golf club making business at his home on Wimbledon Common. His two sons, John Duncan (b. 1873) and William Gourlay[11] (b. 1874) were born here. Dunn's first daughter, Isabella May Gourlay Dunn, was born in early 1880.[12][13][14] Dunn's younger brother, Willie Dunn Jnr, was apprenticed to him whilst at London Scottish Golf Club in Wimbledon. During this period, Dunn's father died in Millhill, Inveresk in 1878 aged 59.[5] Dunn and family returned to North Berwick in 1882 and Dunn became father to a third son, Seymour in 1882 and a second daughter, Norah Eleanor, in 1886.[5][14]

Dunn left North Berwick for France during 1889 without informing his employer. Complaints were received that he was failing to attend his duties. Dunn subsequently wrote to the club explaining that he had been advised to head south for the good of his health and had been taken more ill whilst away. The club discharged him but made him a final payment.[5]

Dunn at Meyrick Park in 1895

Tooting BecEdit

In 1889, he was appointed greenkeeper and club maker to the Tooting Bec Golf Club where he laid out the Furzedown course. Dunn had taught the prime minister, Arthur Balfour, to play golf at North Berwick and while Parliament was sitting Balfour golfed at Tooting Bec.[5] The popularity of golf exploded during this period and demand for Dunn's services to lay out new courses was high.[4]

Meyrick ParkEdit

In 1895 Dunn was approached to lay out a new course in Bournemouth. Given a choice of three locations, he selected the Meyrick Park site and remained as professional for five years.[4] His son, John, continued the club-making while Dunn concentrated on designing golf courses.[5]

Emigration to USAEdit

John emigrated to the USA and was appointed manager of the West Florida Golf Association. At the end of five years in Bournemouth, Dunn's health began to fail. Dunn also emigrated to America in 1899 and assisted his son. Tom was employed by Oriental and Manhattan Hotel group to supervise their Florida golf courses.[5]

Tom Dunn returned to England in 1901 and took up residence at Hangar Lane.[15] Soon thereafter he accepted a position as head professional and greenkeeper at Hanger Hill where he laid out the course.[5][10]

Death and legacyEdit

Dunn died of tuberculosis at the Nordrach Clinic in Blagdon, Somerset in early May 1902 aged 52 years.[2][16]

After his death, but not before, critics derided his predictable use of hazards and his 'hit and run' staking-out methods. However, he provided a service at a time when very few people understood the basic architectural principles required for a functional layout, and Dunn had the skill and experience to deliver to order. Dunn himself claimed to have laid out a total of 137 courses, and, although some have closed and many since been further embellished and developed, the basic underlying layouts of many of Dunn's courses remain.

Although Beckenham, now Beckenham Place Park Golf Club, is sometimes attributed to Dunn,[10] it was laid out c. 1907 after Dunn's death.[17]

Results in major championshipsEdit

Tournament 1868 1869 1870 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886
The Open Championship 6 8 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T9 T20 DNP T18 DNP T17 T7 DNP T16

Note: Dunn played only in The Open Championship.

DNP = did not play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Yellow background for top-10

List of coursesEdit

List of golf courses attributed to Tom Dunn
Location Year Notes References
Ashley Park, Walton-on-Thames closed before World War I [4][18]
Babraham [4]
Balham since closed[when?] [4][10]
Bedstone Court [4]
Brighton extended [4]
Broadstone, Dorset 1898 [4][19]
Bromley [4][10]
Brooke [4]
Bude [4]
Bullwell Forest [4]
Buscot Park [4]
Chorleywood [4]
Cork [4]
Coubert, France [4]
Dinard, France 1887 [4][20]
Dorchester, Dorset 1896 9 holes extended to 18 by J. H. Taylor in 1904 [21]
Eltham [4][10]
Enfield [4][10]
Fan Court[where?] [4]
Felixstowe [4]
Fonthill[where?] [4]
Frinton-on-Sea [4]
Furzedown since closed – redeveloped as Tooting Bec Lido 1907 [5]
Ganton reconstructed [4]
Great Yarmouth [4]
Hampstead 1893 9 holes [10][22]
Hanger Hill since closed[when?] [5][10]
Hastings [4]
Hayling redeveloped by J. H. Taylor, 1905 and Tom Simpson 1933 [4][23]
Hincksey Marsh, Oxford [4]
Hurlingham Club 9 holes until closure in 1899 [4][24]
Kingsdown[where?] [4]
Lansdown, Bath [4]
Santa Úrsula, La Quinta, Tenerife 9 holes. Property of the Taoro Hotel in La Orotava. [4][25]
Littlestone-on-Sea reconstruction [4]
Meyrick Park 1895 [4][5]
Mitcham [4][10]
Norbury since closed[when?] [4][10]
Northwood [4][10]
Old Deer Park, Richmond [4]
Petworth [4]
Raynes Park since closed[when?] [4][10]
Reigate Heath Golf Club, Surrey 1895 9 hole course [26]
Seaford, East Sussex [4]
Sheffield & District 9 hole course [5]
Sheringham 1891 Dunn's original 9 hole course extended to 18 by Dunn in 1898 [4]
Shireoaks [4]
Skegness [4]
Soham, Newmarket [4]
Stanmore [4][10]
Staunton Harold [4]
Steningford[where?] [4]
Sudbrook Park, Petersham 1891 [4][10][27]
Surbiton 1895 original layout of 9 holes [4][10]
Taplow [4]
Ventnor [4]
Walton-on-Thames since closed[when?] [4][10]
Wanstead Park 1893 [10][28]
Welbeck Abbey [4]
Weston-super-Mare [4]
Wimbledon, (London Scottish Golf Club) 1871 extended to 18 holes [5][8][9]
Woking [4][10]
Woodford 1890 9 holes [10][29]
Worlington, Suffolk early 1890s 9 holes. Lengthened by Harry Colt.


  1. ^ "Births at Inveresk and Musselburgh". OPR Births 689/00 0170 0254. ScotlandsPeople. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Obituary". The Times. 9 May 1902. p. 10.
  3. ^ Graves, Robert Muir; Cornish, Geoffrey S. (23 July 1998). Golf Course Design. John Wiley & Sons. p. 4. ISBN 9780471137849.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be Macwood, Tom. "The Early Golf Architects: Beyond Old Tom". Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Seaton, Douglas (2012). "Dunn Family". Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  6. ^ United Kingdom Census 1861 Class: RG 9; Piece: 400; Folio: 71; Page: 32; GSU roll: 542631
  7. ^ United Kingdom Census 1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 829; Folio: 13; Page: 19; GSU roll: 1341196
  8. ^ a b c d "History". London Scottish Golf Club. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  9. ^ a b Leach, Henry (1914). The Happy Golfer – Being Some Experiences, Reflections, and a Few Deductions of a Wandering Golfer at Project Gutenberg
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Tom Dunn". Archived from the original on 4 December 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  11. ^ English Birth Certificate for William Gourlay Dunn, District; Kingston; Volume 2a; page 281. Date of Birth 18 Feb 1874; Place of Birth, Windmill Cottage, Wimbeldon, County of Surrey; Father Thomas Dunn; Mother Isabella Dunn formerly Gourlay; Registrar Arthur Harmer. 1881 Census shows name as Gourlay Dunn
  12. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  13. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  14. ^ a b United Kingdom Census 1891 Class: RG12; Piece: 455; Folio: 90; Page: 18; GSU roll: 6095565
  15. ^ United Kingdom Census 1901 Class: RG13; Piece: 1190; Folio: 107; Page: 44
  16. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  17. ^ Bolter, Jon (July 2009). "BECKENHAM PLACE CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT PLAN" (PDF). p. 25.
  18. ^ "Golf's missing links". Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  19. ^ "Broadstone Golf Club". Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  20. ^ "Golf de Dinard". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  21. ^ South Central Golf Guide. September 2012. p. 22.
  22. ^ "Hampstead Golf Club". Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Fine Golf at Hayling golf club". Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  24. ^ Laffaye, Horace A. (2012). Polo in Britain: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 47–50. ISBN 9780786465118.
  25. ^ A. Samler Brown (1903). Brown's Madeira, Canary Islands, and Azores: A Practical and Complete Guide ... New York Public Library. Sampson, Low, Marston & co., ltd; [etc., etc.] pp. 32.
  26. ^ Reigate Heath Club Minutes 21st May 1895
  27. ^ "The Course". The Richmond Golf Club. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Club History". Wanstead Golf Club. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  29. ^ "Woodford golf club: Club History". Retrieved 26 November 2012.