The course dates back to 1936 when Henry Cotton, Jimmy Adams, R.A.Whitcombe and Alfred Padgham played a superb exhibition match to mark the official opening. When the golf course designers moved on to the site in 1936 they found a wealth of natural features despite the basic flatness of the area.
There are two or three small but significant changes in level and some marvelous sweeping contours in the terrain as it moves from open countryside through trees, bushes and shrubs. In addition to the natural tree cover of the estate, Sir William Gratwicke had cultivated marvellous gardens around the manor with fine stretches of lawn enclosed by yew hedges and some notably rare trees. Amid the profusion of rhododendron, magnolia, wisteria and azalea, exotic plants such as Chinese maidenhair fern and Algerian oaks make a dramatic contrast.
The back nine is completely rural with pleasant and tranquil views over the surrounding farmland and downs. The par of 70 is not easy to beat for although there are only two par fives they are both over 500 yards long and the short holes range from 143 to more than 200 yards.
In addition there are several par fours in excess of 400 yards. Though not within sight or sound of the sea Channel breezes can make a significant contribution to the difficulties of this delightful course. The inward half features both the par fives, one is the closing hole, and together with two lengthy par fours and a 200-yard par three it often seems more difficult than the outward nine.
Although the setting and the entire nature of the course is parkland, there is something of a links quality about the turf, no doubt stemming from close contact with the sea that this stretch of country enjoyed for centuries. Fine bladed and springy underfoot, the grass gives perfect fairway lies and produces absolutely true, even paced greens.
Tommy Horton, who was the professional at Ham for many years, used his Ryder Cup skills and his intimate knowledge of the course to set a professional course record of 62 in 1970, which will take a great deal of beating. In 1985 the amateur course record of 64 was achieved by Farrell Wieland.