When moles Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean sought to contact Russia under their zeal to give the world power British secrets during the Cold War, they chose a sparcely populated Kentish summit.
The reason? At 700 feet above sea level, Biggin Hill provided a communication source clear to Soviet territory.
Today, Cherry Lodge Golf Club occupies a slice of this historic high ground, renowned also as a WW1 and WW11 aviation base.
Call into this friendly private members club and you’ll spy a fresh take in the 1970s clubhouse – refurbished and extended ladies changing provision that have raised facilities to a new high.
Supplied and installed by changing room specialists Crown Sports Lockers, the fitout has doubled the club’s previous capacity in what is Cherry Lodge’s 50th year, explains club manager Brian Bamford.
“Forty golf clubs are located within a nine-mile radius of Cherry Lodge,” he says, ”so it’s vital we focus on delivering exceptional member service.”
In the late 1960s, two fruit farmers converted this land to golf (hence the name) when the sport was up and coming in Britain. They sold out in the 1980s to Wates Leisure who in turn sold the club on to private members in 1993.
With some 550 members (most living within five or six miles of the club) and 60 of those aged under 35, prospects are rosey amid golf’s shifting patterns of use.
“The ladies section is 128-strong and growing,” adds Brian, “creating pressure on the club to expand our changing area. The influx of members when a neighbouring club closed prompted the need to extend.
“The men’s locker room had been refurbished 15 years ago but the ladies were still soldiering on with old outdated metal storage.
“Their events are so popular there was no room for everyone to change so we clearly had to act quickly,” continues Brian, himself a member of the Kent club for 30 years.
“We had been planning the refurbishment in early 2018 but the influx of new members prompted a rethink and we went back to the drawing board to look at a larger project.” His business background meant Brian would select changing room specialists with his keen eye on the club’s coffers as well as member service.
“Crown won the job after a tendering process,” he explains: “Their competitive pricing and build quality clearly stood out from the rest.”
Reflecting trends in the women’s game for more clubhouse equipment storage, Cherry Lodge specified 45 golf bag lockers and 80 holdall units fringed with upholstered seating – Crown also installing a central aisle with hanging space and two full-length mirrors regaling each end, double cupboard and a smaller one fitted underneath the captain’s desk.
Three large mirrors sit above the vanity unit to continue the accent on a bright, lively setting, finished with attractively upholstered drum stools. The light oak scheme is set off with welcoming cherry red carpeting. Traditional brass locks and keys keep equipment and belongings safe, while Crown fitted pound coin operation on the 12 visitor lockers.
“The mechanical option offers more security we feel,” Brian says. Crown sorted the washroom too, installing toilets and cubicles, four wash basins surfaced in hardwearing Corian, with standout 8ft by 4ft mirror a focus feature. Four showers with individual seat in each, wet walls and vinyl non-slip flooring complete the improvements. As the dedicated project manager for the job, Sam Palmer helped streamline the process,” Brian notes. “He was focused on our needs and our project and his advice was invaluable, especially when he had to return to resize after we suffered a levelling issue with the floor. We were singing off the same hymn sheet.”
In December 2018 Crown’s fitout team landed. “They were all done in three days,” recalls Brian. “A smooth, seamless installation with no fuss and minimal disruption.” Style and quality in the clubhouse now complement presentation and playability of the 18-hole Par 72, 6,395-yd parkland and woodland course, dramatically upgraded in 2014 when 240,000m3 of topsoil were ferried in and spread over 14 holes as contractors created 27 bunkers, 14 new men’s tees and 13 women’s.
Designed to suit modern lifestyles and those new to golf, the club’s first ever flexible membership package is drawing high interest. “We’ve signed up around 70 members and pretty much reached our limit,” Brian reports. “The demographic is shifting and we are adapting to that,” he explains. “Women are having children older now – well into their 30s rather than 20s – so they have disposable income later in life.” And reporting more good news he adds: “This year’s society bookings are very good, while to improve our events facilities we’re planning a glass partition along the front of the clubhouse to create a separate functions room.”
On a clear day you can see forever from Cherry Lodge and in the Cold War, this high ground presented the perfect opportunity for communist sympathisers to transmit vital intelligence to eastern Europe – to Russia with love rather than from it.
Today, Cherry Lodge is a club bonding past and present to satisfy its vibrant golfing community.