Mr. Horace Hutchinson was twice amateur golf champion, who was also a gifted writer and a keen naturalist and sportsman.
He was a man of many gifts and a popular and picturesque figure in many different societies, but he will be best remembered as the man who both by precept and example did more than anyone else to bring golf to England. As a player–and he was in his day a very great player—he is to the modern generation of golfers a legend, but his books survive him, and what he did will not soon be forgotten.
Horatio Gordon Hutchinson was the third son of General William Nelson Hutchinson, and was born in London on May 16, 1859. He was for a short while at school at Charterhouse, where his maternal grandfather had been headmaster. He had to leave, however, owing to ill-health, and went afterwards to the United Services College at Westward Ho! Where, as a natural consequence, he began to play golf. Thence he went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he proved himself a good all-round athlete, playing cricket and football, both Rugby and Association, for his college, rowing in the college Torpid, and winning the University Cue at billiards. By this time he was already a very good golfer, and together with another fine player, Mr. Alexander Stuart, made Oxford practically invincible in the very early days of the University match.
In the early eighties golf was, save in a few places, comparatively little know in England, and Mr. Hutchinson, alike by his fine play and his pleasant writing, did a great deal to increase the popularity of the game. Indeed, it is hardly too much to say that at one time in golf to the Englishman in the street was represented by two names, those of Mr. Horace Hutchinson and Mr. Arthur Balfour. His playing career was a long and successful one. Having already made a great reputation at Westward Ho!, he won his first St. Andrews medal in 1884, and in the following year reached the final round of the first unofficial Amateur Championship Tournament at Hoylake. On this occasion he was beaten by Mr. A. F. Macfie, since retrospectively recognized as the first Amateur Champion, but in 1886, when the first official Championship took place at St. Andrews, he won outright, beating the late Mr. Henry Lamb in the final round. He won again at Hoylake in 1887, after a magnificent match with Mr. John Ball.
Among his other achievements in the Amateur Championship, he reached the semi-final round in 1901, when he lost to Mr. Hilton, and the final in 1903 at Muirfield, when he was beaten by Mr. Robert Maxwell. He was once more in the semi-final in 1904, but lost to Mr. Walter Travis, the American golfer, who ultimately one. In this Championship Mr. Hutchinson played some splendid golf; his finish against Robert Maxwell, whom he beat at the 19th hole, was a memorable one; but against Mr. Travis, possible because he was over-tired, his golf was disappointing. In the Open Championship probably his best performance was at Muirfield in 1892. Over 36 holes he led the field by several strokes, but this was the first year in which the competition was extended from 36 to 72 holes, and Mr. Hutchinson fell away on the second day and finished rather a long way behind the winner, Mr. Hilton. He won eight medals at St. Andrews, and innumerable other medals upon different courses, and played six times for England in the International match. Probably his long record would have been an even better one than it was had his health been more robust. He was often unwell, and in his later years grew rather easily tired. Mr. Hutchinson had a genius for golf, and his style had some eccentricities of genius. It was, as the late Mr. J. L. Low well called it, a style of “bombastic freedom,” a wonderfully loose and florid style, which, though attractive in its way, was hardly a safe model for any less-gifted golfer to copy.
It would be almost impossible by any brief record of his career to make clear all that Mr. Hutchinson did for golf in its early days in England. There had been other excellent writers on the game before him, but there were none whose writings approached his in popularity. His first golfing book was a small one called “Hints on Golf”; but the best and the best-known of his works was the “Badminton Library” volume on golf, which he edited and of which he contributed most of the chapters; for many years also he contributed golfing articles to various newspapers.
Mr. Hutchinson did not by any means confine his writings to golf. He had a great love and knowledge of natural history and was a fine shot and fisherman. For many years he wrote articles on these subjects for several newspapers, principally for Country Life, a paper in which he had taken greatest interest since its foundation. He also wrote a number of novels, the best known of which are perhaps “Peter Steele, the Cricketer” and “Bert Edward, the Golf Caddie.” Towards the end of his life he also essayed with success the form of the detective story, to which he gave a characteristic touch of distinction. But he was at his best as an essayist on the many subjects—sport, Nature, dreams, folk-lore—that interested him; his wide acquaintance with men and subjects made him an excellent choice as the biographer of the first Lord Avebury; and the more intimate side of his character is seen in “Records of a Human Soul” and in “From Doubt to Faith.”
Few men can have had a larger circle of friends and acquaintances than did Mr. Hutchinson; he seemed to have been everywhere and to know everybody, and with his handsome presence and graceful, kindly manner he had a great power of making people fond of him. He was a delightful and interesting talker when in the mood, and his talk had the same indefinable quality of charm that was present in his best writing. Moreover, unlike a good many men who have risen to great fame as players of games, he was widely read and took an interest in a great number of different things. His popularity was well shown by his election in 1908 as captain of the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews, a post which no other Englishman, save Royal Princes, had then held.
Mr. Hutchinson lived for many years at Shepherds’ Gate, a pretty house overlooking the golf course at Ashdown Forest. In the summer of 1913, he had a severe operation which made it impossible ever for him to play golf again. He then left the country and came to live in London. Though his health made his life semi-invalid, he endured all his deprivations with a most cheerful and ostentatious courage, found fresh interests for himself in various directions, and enjoyed the company of his friends so far as his strength would allow. He married Dorothy Margaret, daughter of the late Major Chapman, of the 14th Hussars, but leaves no children.
- An Obituary from The Times, Friday 29th July, 1932