When gathering information for a project such as this, newspapers and golf annuals of the day are sometimes the only sources available. Unfortunately in the early years the spelling of names and places could differ from one week or year to the next. Infuriating things happen, such as “see next week’s issue for further information”, but very often, no mention would be made in the following edition, leaving gaps begging to be filled. A further example of confusion is course records; these scores can sometimes be higher in later years. This could possibly be due to changes in course location, layout etc which unfortunately were not always recorded and are therefore impossible to trace. Station distances could be unreliable in the early days, but could still be a useful guide to the course location, as could local hotels.
In the early years of the twentieth century, life could be very hectic for the golf professional who often took on the roll of greenkeeper, clubmaker, teacher and caddie-master. The opening of a new course was usually a formal affair and was very often carried out by a local dignitary, usually followed with a foursome challenge match, when two local amateurs would take on two famous professionals of the day. Many clubs also arranged challenge matches to supplement the income for the professionals, plus a side bet where a bit more money could be made.
Boundary and county name changes created further problems, and another anomaly is that some clubs were recorded for some time after WW1or 2 when, in fact, they had already ceased to exist; nevertheless, in most cases, this post WW1/2 information has been included unless the exact cessation date has been verified. I appreciate that this can sometimes make things a little disjointed in the reading, but unfortunately this cannot be avoided.
A common theme throughout the text is the mention of Sunday play which was very often not allowed, or at least restricted. In many areas, particularly in the early to mid 1900s, Sunday was strictly a day of rest, reserved for religious observance with many people attending church, so many clubs did not permit Sunday play. To play sport, go to the pub, cinema or to participate in the many social activities we accept nowadays was frowned upon back then as being disrespectful. Having said this, licensed golf clubs were one of the few places where alcohol was available on Sunday in the “dry areas” of the UK. Things began to change from about the late 1950s, when pub licensing hours on Sundays were relaxed; you could go to the cinema, theatre, football, cricket, or you could even queue for a parking space at the local supermarket. We accept now that the finals of many sporting events, including the Open, are played on Sundays, something that would never have been contemplated back then. And of course equality; many restrictions were made on ladies playing in the early years, and equality was not a consideration for many years.
This is by no means a comprehensive and complete list, as was my original intention. It has been difficult to decide which clubs should be included. Clubs and courses which disappeared completely were obvious candidates for inclusion. However, some clubs ceased to function for a period of time but subsequently reformed. Other clubs merged or changed their names, but date their foundation to that of the earlier club, so there is often conflicting information; I have tried to include all of these dates. Some clubs changed location rather than name, and have continued on another site. I have included clubs and courses for all these categories because I believe them to be part of golf history which, all too easily, might be forgotten. During the research it was sometimes difficult to distinguish artisan/engineers clubs from the parent club therefore some artisan clubs may appear. In many cases, because of my inability to trace any information, only the names of clubs appear. As my research continues I am finding still more clubs, some where I have been unable to trace the location as yet, and I suppose it’s a never ending task.
Please excuse my first attempt at cartography; the maps are not to scale and are intended for illustrative purposes but at least they give a good indication of the sites of the former courses. I will attempt to improve as my research into English, Irish and European clubs and courses continues.
I have received a great deal of help from people all over Britain who either have recollections of, or information about, defunct clubs and old courses. Their names have been included and I would like to thank everyone for all the help they have given me.
I hope that you find the information of interest. I have had a huge amount of enjoyment over the years in compiling the details (even when spending sunny days in dry and dusty archives and libraries), but most importantly, when travelling around various locations, meeting and speaking to some of the people who remember the “missing links”. Once again, I would like to record my gratitude to all the people who have given so much of their time in recording their memories.
I will attempt to keep the pages updated and I would appreciate any comments, alterations or help with clubs and courses in the UK and Europe that have disappeared that have not been mentioned.
John & Marie Llewellyn