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Woolacombe Bay Golf Club, Mortehoe, Devon.

Founded 1907, the professional to 1909 was J Branch.. A splendid 18 hole well maintained links with lovely views just 3 minutes walk from the centre of Woolacombe. The station at Mortehoe was about 2 miles from the course with a bus service available to the clubhouse. The course was taken over for military training during WW2 and although the club was recorded in 1947 it is unlikely that golf was played following the war.

  Secretary Professional/Greenkeeper
1907-09   J Branch (p)
1913/14   A Padgham (p)
1914 E J Dawes, Mortehoe RSO.  William Gibson
1924 T S Watkinson, 3 Castle St, Barnstaple. R W Hansford (g)
1925-30s T S Watkinson, Sanfield, Woolacombe. J Morrison (p) G Bennett (g)
1935 T S Watkinson assisted by J W Morrison. A Smith (p) G Bennett (g)
1940-47 H W Jenkins, Estate Office, Woolacombe. A Smith (p) W Boden (g) and E Howard (g)

It was reported in April 1909 that visitors to Woolacombe were delighted with the extension of the golf links, presumably to 18 holes. There were a large number of entries for both the Open and Members Easter competitions. Prizes were given by the President, Lord Fortescue, and E J Soares M.P. The President’s prize was won by G H Smalldon and Mr Soares’s prize by J A E Merriman

Below is the result of a match played at Ilfracombe on Wednesday 23rd June 1909. 

Ilfracombe   Woolacombe  
Rev R L Whytehead (7&6) 1 L Carr 0
J Swinney 0 E J Merriman (2up) 1
G C Shiers (6&5) 1 W F H Laycock 0
J R Drake Goodban (6&4) 1 W Lydall 0
J B Saul (3&1) 1 J H Smalldon 0
B H D Harrison (7&5) 1 F Beer 0
Rev R L Whytehead & J Swinney (1up) 1 L Carr & E J Merriman 0
G C Shiers & J R Drake Goodban (half) 0 W F H Laycock & W Lydall (half) 0
J B Saul & B H D Harrison (6&5) 1 J H Smalldon & F Beer 0
  7   1

In 1914 the club had a membership of 50. The entry fee was £1/1/0 and the subs £1/1/0. Visitors’ fees were 2/6 a day, 10/- a week, 30/- a month. Ladies 1/6, 7/-, 20/- respectively. Sunday play was not allowed.

At the end of March 1914 an extraordinary general meeting was held at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel. In attendance were; Rev T W Pigot (in the chair), H Galsworthy, A Halsey, H D Maclure, W Salisbury, F Beer, G H Smalldon and Ernest J Dawes (hon sec) Owing to Miss Chichester’s decision not to let the links again it was decided to wind up the club when the lease expired on August 15th 1914.

Better news just a week later when the club came under new management. Mr Slaeman was to be the new secretary. The new professional was Wm Gibson, son of the well known professional at Westward Ho!

Nothing found so far regarding the club immediately following WW1 but it did re-appear in the mid 1920s. In 1924 visitors fees’ were 3/- a day, 15/- a week, £1 a fortnight, 30/- a month. Ladies 2/-, 10/-, 15/-, 20/- respectively.

In the late 1920s the amateur course record holder was E Hobbs 66. 

A unique golf record was set on January 1st 1936 when the Woolacombe professional, Mr Alfred Edward Smith, shot the lowest recorded score on an 18-hole course. He went round in 55 strokes on the 4,248 yard course which had a bogey score of 70. His score as follows; Out - 4,2,3,4,2,4,3,4,3 = 29; In – 2,3,3,3,3,2,5,4,1 = 26. The feat was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.

Alf Smith was a slight man in build, less than five feet six inches, with a swing that had a loop that could be compared to that of Jim Furyk. He had a magical short game and was a positive putter.

I would like to thank Mr Smith’s son, Paul, who has contacted us and said “The idea was that the course was quite frozen in December and the ball would run further. Remember he was playing with hickory shafted clubs, but he could still drive the ball 200 yards. He started trying to beat 60 in December and got pretty close. But on January 1st he looked like he was going to do it as he reached the eighteenth. And then he finished off with a hole-in-one for the 55. The ironic thing was that my father was contracted to Dunlop at the time; I think he got about £6 a year. He played the first seventeen holes with a Dunlop ball and then, for some reason, on the 18th tee changed to a Slazenger, he then proceeded to hole-in-one! I think that was hushed up a bit. He had a hard life as a professional golfer – mowing 18 holes in the morning before he could even think about playing golf. The life of a club professional was very different back then. He wanted me to get a proper job, so I became a solicitor”

Following WW2 Alfred Edward Smith went on to become professional at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Penwortham in Lancashire and Windermere.

Alfred Smith died aged 79 in 1996 while playing the game he loved; he was on the third tee at Bentham Golf Club in North Yorkshire, when he collapsed and died. 

 

Alfred Smith.

Alfred Smith in action. Image courtesy of Paul Smith.

 

The pro's shop.

Alfred Smith In the doorway of the pro’s shop. Image courtesy of Paul Smith.

 

In 1940 and the club’s final appearance in 1947 the 18 holes had a SSS of 70 and a Par of 65. Course records were, amateur E Hobbs 66 and professional A Smith 55. Visitors were as 1924. Sunday play was not allowed.

The golf links and pavilion are long gone, the sand dunes and former course are now the property of the National Trust. The “Jacob’s Ladder” was another feature of the course that has disappeared. It wasn’t a ladder as such, it was a wooden platform and walkway which led from the sandhills to the lower area of the course. 

Woolacombe Bay golf course

Records show that the course was founded in 1907. The postcard above, published by F Beer, Post Office, Woolacombe, was posted on 24th August 1904. It looks like a pavilion type building in the centre of the picture, perhaps the course was under construction at the time.

 

The first tee.

The first tee – F Frith Postcard – Authors Colllection.

 

The Clubhouse.

The Woolacombe Clubhouse. Postcard published by F Beer, Woolacombe. (Authors Collection)

 

Woolacombe Bay golf course

Later card showing the typical links land at Woolacombe. Image courtesy of Dave Blocksidge (Downtowndave)

 

Woolacombe Bay golf course map

Location of the course at Woolacombe.

Grid reference SS45770, 42445, co-ordinates 245770, 142445.

 

 

 

Woolacombe Bay golf course

The deserted site of the former Woolacombe links; pictures taken in 2003. Author's Collection.