Horace Rawlins was born on August 4 th 1874, at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. By the
age of 16 he was working as a caddy at the Royal Isle of Wight Club where his brother
Harry also played. He caught the eye of the club’s professional Arthur Jackson with
whom Horace was to forge a long and fruitful relationship.
In 1893, Rawlins was hired by Mid-Herts Golf Club as groundsman and professional for
the princely sum of 17 shillings a week. He then moved onto Raynes Park Golf Club in
London, joining up again with Jackson. It was at Raynes Park where Rawlins first took
an interest in club making. All the while he continued to play every chance he got.
Horace’s brother Harry, who would later become the golf professional at Atlantic City
Country Club, had already emigrated to America and Horace reckoned he would try his
luck. He joined Scotsman Willie Davis at the Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island, where
he was apparently instructed to “teach golf, tend greens, and stay out of the way”
In 1895 the first national golf tournament in America was held at the Newport Club.
The tournament was to be contested strictly among amateur players – there was no
such thing as organized professional golf. This first professional championship was
merely an afterthought; a tournament added on at the end of the three day amateur
event. Thus the inaugural U.S. Open was contested by only ten professionals plus one
amateur. Horace entered the competition and won with a score of 173 over 4 rounds
of the 9 hole course, beating the ‘favourite’ Scottish born Willie Dunn by two strokes.
He won $200 although $50 was deducted for the cost of the winner’s gold medal (pictured below).
Horace was runner-up the following year when the tournament was held at Shinnecock
Hills and he competed thirteen times over the next eighteen years – his best
subsequent result was tied 8th in 1897.
After his initial win, Horace made a visit back to England where his old friend Arthur
Jackson arranged a match between Rawlins and James Braid, a five time Open
Championship winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member. ‘Golf Illustrated’ carried
this report on April 4th 1896:- “On Saturday last a match was played over the
Crowborough Golf links between James Braid and Horace Rawlins, who holds the
handsome gold medal which was presented by the Golf Association of the United States
as a memento of the Open Championship of America of 1895. Braid won fairly
comfortably, being round in 88 and 81, as against 94 and 86”.
Rawlins returned to America in 1896 becoming head Golf Professional at Sadaquada
Golf Club in Whiteboro, New York. Shortly before becoming Springhaven’s head Golf
Professional in 1904, his life nearly came to end in 1903 when, as reported in ‘The
World /Evening World’ newspaper on June 25th, he was shot at while walking on the
links near Baltusrol where he was to compete in the US Open the next day. It was
believed to be a case of mistaken identity by one of a pair of local burglars.
Springhaven had moved from Five Points in Media to its current location in Wallingford
in 1904 and hired Rawlins to become the first Head Professional at the new location.
The timing of his hire was perfect for a new course. Not only did the club get a golfer of
some renown but also a golfer with a groundskeepers background whose input was
crucial to the final layout of the course.
All in all, Horace Rawlins spent some 19 years in the USA. He spent seven years at
Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester Vermont and six seasons at Waumbek Golf Club
in Jefferson New Hampshire.
Rawlins married in England in 1911 and then went back to America until 1913 when he
again returned to England to attend to his ailing mother. When she died a year later he
ended his golfing career, inheriting a family drapery business. It seems most surprising
that Horace’s son Robert was either unfamiliar, or indifferent to his father’s fame and
he in turn never mentioned the sport to his son Michael. It was only when Michael
opened his late father’s safe deposit box in a bank and found the gold medal, with
photographs and other material that the significance of his grandfather’s achievements
came to light.
At the height of his powers, Horace was cited by ‘The Times’ for his”well balanced
game, strong in all its elements yet brilliant in none. He is a good heady player with a
happy faculty of not getting discouraged when in difficulties. Then he goes at his work
with an ease and fearlessness that is most interesting. There were characteristics of his
play today that put him ahead of his older and more experienced competitors”.
Although Horace Rawlins is not known to have written a golf instruction book, he did
contribute this article in the ‘American Golf’ magazine in June 1900:
“A man may overdrive you every time but he will not get the hole if he is weak on the
approach and you are strong. What a player has to strive for is to play his ball on the
green in such a way that he will be able to lay his ball dead on the next stroke, and
then hole it. When you can do this, or make reasonably sure of doing so, you will be
entitled to consider yourself a golfer”
Words of wisdom which are as true today as they were over a century ago.
August 17, 2023
Horace Rawlins Invitational