A Short Narrative

Early Days of Stanton-on-the-Wolds Golf Club

The circumstances which brought about the foundation of our Club were as follows. Golf was played casually around Nottingham in the early eighties, possibly even the seventies of last century, but there was no organized Golf Club. An accidental meeting of the late Mr John Doleman, and the late Mr John Harris (who afterwards came to be jointly regarded as the Fathers of Golf in the County) resulted in the founding of the Notts. Golf Club, in the year 1887 playing the Bulwell Common Course. Even today that course is notoriously public, but the distastefulness of play there, when the game was a complete novelty to the spectators, who are, by no means of a taciturn type when they see something funny, can readily be imagined. Some Club Members regarded more privacy as the sine-qua-non of their further participation in the game, and, led by the late Mr T. A. Hill, who, at that time, and, until his death 40 years later, lived at Normanton-on-the-Wolds, they formed a new Club in the year 1890, called the "Plumtree Golf Club", and their first Course was on Clipstone Common, which lies to the right of the road leading from Plumtree to Clipstone-on-the-Hill. You can pick up this site where our Club originated, from a point about halfway down the present sixteenth fairway.

The Station Master at Plumtree stored Members' Clubs in his house, and also sold new Clubs, and Balls. There was no organised catering, and it seems likely that Members mostly relied on the hospitality of Mr Hill's house. It may be conjectured that, even on a Saturday, the field would rarely exceed ten. Of the Course itself, little is known, but old Members used to speak of it with affection, and greatly regretted the necessity for removal, but, alas, it was also let for shooting, and the two sports were found to be incompatible. It is hard to concentrate when the shot is spreading round you!

The removal to Stanton-on-the-Wolds took place in 1893. Here the Farmhouse provided a repository for Clubs, and offered catering, but in those pre-motoring days, to be distant 7 miles from town, and 1¼ from Plumtree Station was a considerable handicap. There was no drainage, and an entire absence of anything resembling fairways. It cannot now be ascertained whether the Greens were fenced round, but, in all probability, not. The Club retained its name of the "Plumtree Golf Club", and we have a list of rather more than 30 Members, probably not all Members at the same time, as the Rules restricted the membership to 35. The Entrance Fee was 10/-, the Annual Subscription 10/-, and the tariff for Caddies was 3d. per round of nine holes. The membership was almost entirely drawn from Nottingham.

In the meantime, events had happened at Bulwell Forest, which, until 1901, was the only other local Course. The Miners who had at first rolled up to scoff at the game and the players, now saw something in it. They had formed the Artisans' Club, and they policed the Course, and made it tolerable.

Our membership began to drift away again, and by the year 1897, the Club had simply become derelict, and had petered out without any formal dissolution.

Its revival in 1906 owed its inspiration to Mr. John Harris, who has been earlier mentioned in these notes. He had come to live at Keyworth, and, no doubt, wanted his old game again at his doorstep. He must have played on the old Course of 1893 to 1897 without ever having been a member of the Plumtree Golf Club. On the 14th March 1906, the first of several Meetings of those interested was held at the "Griffin Inn" Plumtree (the two, local Rectors in the Chair) , and the Club re-constituted under its present name, and, as early as April some of the course was in existence.

The claim for continuity, despite a gap of 9 years, and a change of name, rests on a fairly solid basis. Mr. T. A. Hill, who had been the life of the old Club, with several other old Members, immediately re-joined the new, and the earliest Minutes record him as taking the Committee round the sites of old Tees and Greens. The old President, Major G. C. Robertson, became the new President. The site was the same, and even the layout of the old Course seems to have been closely followed.

At this stage, it may be mentioned that the old nine, holes Course was not greatly altered as regards the first seven holes, from the date of its reconstruction in 1906, until its abandonment in 1928. The eighth and ninth holes were altered twice. The map in the Card Room shows the line of these two holes, as it was in 1910, and as it remained until about 1920.

The present third hole has survived all the mutations of time. It is truly the Royal and Ancient Hole! The Tee has crept gradually further back, but the Green, and line of play are as in 1893. The second Green dates from the same time, but the line and character of the old hole is quite defunct.

In its first year, the reconstructed Club disposed of a total revenue of less than £125, out of which it had to create, as well as to maintain, its Course. But the standard of green-keeping, at that time, amongst Golf Clubs generally, was much more primitive than at present. From 1906 to 1928 improvements were constantly being made, but the fact that the Club had no more than an annual tenancy, and so could never afford to spend much money on the Course, meant that these improvements related to secondary matters only. Right up to 1927, there was hardly any attempt at drainage, and farming stock, sheep, cattle, horses, even an occassional pig wandered at will over Tee, Fairway, and Green! Green fencing was indeed carried out, removed, re-instated, and removed again, and the question to fence, or not, and if to fence, then what local rules to apply, was the subject matter of many a fierce discussion at Club Meetings, where feeling between the Fencers, and Non-Fencers often rose rough and strong!

It was the pre-motoring age, and transport was by train to Plumtree, thence a horse-drawn 'bus, capable of accommodating 7 or 8 at the most, could sometimes be expected, otherwise you could walk. A score or two of bicycles came up on a Saturday; you could often get a lift home on somebody's back step!

The earliest record of a Medal Round we have was played On the 10th and 12th May 1906, and resulted as follows:-

Competitor Gross H/cap Nett
H. Adams  110 24 86
J. Harris 100 10 90
R. Thompson     118 24 94
F. H. Jarvis    129 24 105
A. L. Rhind     121 16 105
A. J. Spreckley 146 30 116
J. H. Caine     160 30 130
Mrs Ling        163 30 133
Mrs Rhind       190 40 150
Mrs Caine    227 40 187

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite these truly appalling figures, we find that the Club was good enough to halve with the Erewash Valley Club, on their own Course, and beat them at Stanton, a few weeks later. We have to conclude that the scoring simply reflected the condition of the Course, and not the incapacity of the performers!

In 1908, the Club narrowly escaped extinction: the then Secretary actually convened a Meeting to pass a winding-up resolution, but, happily, the Members were of another mind.

Until 1920, or thereabouts, catering was done at the Farmhouse. The first beginnings of a Club House took shape in 1908, and are represented by the present Bar, and about half the Gentlemens' Lounge. It may be mentioned that the Ladies' Room was actually constructed by Members themselves in 1920.

With, the post-war period, we reach a time well within the recollection of many present Members, and subsequent events need only be given in general outline.

1927 was a fateful year for the Club. At the Annual Meeting, held in April, Sunday play was first legalised. In July, the Freehold of the Course, with additional room for extension, was purchased. In August, Mr Tom Williamson submitted his Plan for the 18 hole Course, and at an Extraordinary Meeting, held at the Mikado Cafe, in September, the Club resolved, with great unanimity and enthusiasm, to go forward with the scheme. The 18 Hole Course was opened in September 1928.


A few notes of departed Pioneers of the Club may be added.

Mr. T. A. Hill, Founder, and First Captain in 1890, joined the re-constituted Club in 1906, but very rarely played, giving up the game altogether within a year or two, though he remained in membership with us. A quaint glimpse of a byegone fashion is summoned up by the recollection of seeing him ride up on horseback, to watch us drive off the first Tee. In 1930 he was received into Life Membership, but died in 1931, and that event snapped the last personal link which bound us to the pioneer Club of the last decade of Queen Victoria's reign.

Major George Coke Robertson, of Widmerpool Hall, was, all his life, our Landlord. He was, naturally, the President of the Plumtree Golf Club, after its removal to Stanton-on-the-Wolds, and he again accepted the same office upon the Club's revival in 1906, and retained it for twenty years, until his death. A veteran of the Franco-Prussian War; a fine old country gentleman, and the willing friend of our Club; the game itself fascinated him. We have seen him in the extreme of old age, and feebleness, receiving a lesson from the (then) Professional, and endeavouring to induce the stiff limbs, and joints, upon which fourscore summers had done their work, to function in competition with easy youth.

Mr. John Harris became Captain of the Club in 1907, and, except for one year, retained the position until 1921, when, on a Saturday afternoon, in early Spring, the Course being closed down, and the Club in attendance, he was laid to rest in the quiet Churchyard adjoining the Links he loved so well.


 

This narrative, discovered in the Club's archives, was probably written in the 1930s