Scotsmen like to reflect upon the robust popular heritage of golf, disparaging the effete and élitist tendencies of their English counterparts. But such enclaves of City money as Wentworth or Sunningdale have more than a little in common with the early merchants' clubs of central Scotland in terms of social composition.
It's pleasant parkland setting and moderate physical demands made golf the perfect sport for the middle-aged and middle class of both sexes. From a handful of courses outside Scotland, there were around a thousand in Britain by 1914. Even in quiet rural areas golf began to spread. Five new clubs were formed in Somerset in the 1890s and there were twelve by 1910. The collapse of agricultural prices had made it possible to acquire the hundred or more acres of farmland required for a course without too much difficulty in the late nineteenth century but competition from inter-war housing estates changed the picture. Initially, the cost had been easily within the reach of the committees of middle-class men, who had normally financed the purchase through the issue of debenture stock, i.e. capital loaned to a company (the club) upon which only interest was paid for a fixed period. Club subscriptions would cover interest payments while a larger sum was accumulated to pay off the long-term loans. Debentures provided an excellent financial means for those with small capital surpluses to acquire a share in a large piece of real estate, access to which would have been beyond their means as individuals. Builders began to see the potential for combining superior residential property with recreation. The golf club became the preferred embellishment of the high-class housing estate, where the 'nine-to-five' commuters could meet at the weekend. St George's Hill, Chipstead, and Edgware were among those founded in this way. Stanmore on the wealthy fringe of north London was originally part of the Gordon estate and the golfcourse was designed for the enjoyment of friends of the family. But the restrictive aristocratic ethic quickly gave way to the selfgoverning and incorporated private club based upon the principle of shareholding and providing collective access to a landed