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Woodspring Golf Club, Somerset. (1898 - WW1)

This must be one of the most unusual of all the clubs I’ve encountered. The club started towards the end of the 1890s, it was situated on land near the old Priory at Sand Point, Weston Super Mare.

In 1898, in a privately published book, it was stated that the course was one of the longest in England. Club membership; there were just eight members and this was to be the maximum. As five of the eight members were bachelors, and no numbers were given for female members, extinction seemed inevitable.

The club disappeared following WW1 and the land was sold in 1918. The area is now owned by the Landmark Trust.


Woodspring Golf Club, Weston-Super-Mare. The course is marked on the 1903 O.S map.

The Golf Course is marked on the above map. Reproduced from the {1903} Ordnance Survey Map.


The following extracts are from the book written by Greig Smith called Woodspring, published in 1898.

The following is from a chapter entitled - Of The Club Generally; "The Woodspring Golf Course is one of the longest in England, and the club is perhaps the smallest. It consists of only eight members, and any addition to the number is barred. As in other clubs there is an annual subscription, but the amount of this under the management of the present Secretary is unknown.

The old Priory of Woodspring was founded for ten canons of the order of St Augustine; we are two less in number, but, like the brothers of the older foundation, we seek seclusion from the world. Each of our octave of golfing canons is known by an adoptive name. We know them as follows; the Prior, the Epicure, the Professor, the Author, the Sportsman, the Soldier, the Minor Canon and the Man-of-no-Possessions. They are all excellent golfers, and whatever they lack in execution they make up for in the super-excellence of their knowledge of the game.

But our Cub does not live for golf alone. It has a pretty taste in vegetables, it knows something about mutton, and is not ignorant of vintages. We know something too about music; most of us sing, and sing well. Some are permitted to play the piano. Five of us are bachelors, and therefore we think we know something about women.

We have rules in our club, but not many. The member who, during a meal, mentions a single stoke of his own by boasting, is subject to a fine. Though the number of members is limited, there is no restriction as to the number of friends they may introduce as  visitors."

There is also a section for each of the members.

"A M Fry - "The Man-of-no-Possessions" - He does not possess a watch or a pencil, or a silver mounted dressing-case containing a button-hook. He knows when it is time get up in the morning by wandering into his neighbours' rooms and asking what the time is. He never has a pencil to mark his card; but he shows you how, by cutting your pencil into two, he can make one for himself. He has a fatherly way with caddies, and teaches them well.

He is secretary, and keeps the minutes. This he does in the largest hand and the fewest words on record. He is also green  committee. When anything special wants to be done he immediately provides the apparatus; when it wants doing badly he provides twice the apparatus.

Spencer Hare - "The Sportsman" - He has no occupation on earth; and he works harder at this than any amateur golfer. From early morn to dewy eve and well  into wet midnight he humbly pursues the fickle goddess of Sport. Sometimes he overtakes her. At golf he recognises the Professor only as his superior.

The Sportsman does not confine himself to golf. He sneaks of now and again on a yacht; anon he hails from a Scottish salmon river; about the twelfth of August he is on or near a grouse moor; he has also been seen at race meetings.

He has a fire in his room at nights, and says he is always up at five in the morning. His tea, however, is not brought to him till eight.

Berty Nash - "The Epicure" - Until he purchased the club donkey, the Epicure bore all the burdens of the club. The highest form of epicureanism is to give pleasure to others, and we are careful to see that our Epicure has this privilege. His most triumphant success was certainly the purchase of the Club donkey.

Peter Fry - "The Minor Canon" - The Minor Canon is always late for everything, and well in the front of everything he his late for, even golf. He his own brother to the "Man-of-no-Possessions," and less like him than any other member of the Club. The Minor Canon drinks his brother's wine, and shuns his brother's cigars. He is no fool.

Michael B Castle - "The Soldier" - He is only a militiaman, but he is a very good one; he might be a real soldier. His experience in the Militia has taught him the wisdom of putting his crest and his initials on everything he possesses - even his golf clubs and his pyjamas.

Now, the soldier has a fine style of play; he has played much in Scotland, and been coached by Scottish professionals. He makes the ball travel by what he calls putting "beef" into it. He wears a belt and a red coat, and the very latest fancies in gaiters, leggings, or spats. Some of us try to follow him in these things, and the Professor comes nearest to success.

Sidney R Lysaght - "The Author" - What the Author has doubts about he writes about. The only thing he has not written about is golf. He knows golf.

Golf, the Author considers, is ruined by the weary monotony of play on two or three links. So last Easter he travelled nine hundred miles, and in ten days played over eleven links in Scotland and elsewhere.

James Greig Smith - "The Professor" - The only way to keep the Professor quiet was to put him into the chair, so this was done. Here, his behaviour is simply perfect. At most club meetings his first duty is to reprimand the Secretary for having forgotten to enter any minutes. This he does with great dignity and much kindly feeling.                  

The Professor would not be described as a good exponent of the practical part of the game, but he is unrivalled in its science and its theory."

Mentioned in the Introduction of the book was the final member of the group, "The Prior." In fact this was the only mention of this mysterious character.

Hole-by-hole description of the course:-

Hole One - The Priory Hole - 280 yards; A fine hole, with a beautiful and cunningly protected green. A pull gets over a stone wall out of bounds; a slice lies on a nasty slope. Sand bunker before the green, admirably placed.

Hole Two - Middle Hope - 290 yards; Another pretty hole - a long strip of flat turf; a raised beach, with the sea on the right; a cliff and sloping turf covered with whins on the left and the sea beyond the green at the end. Tee on the edge of a cliff. Here one simply had to look around at the view. In front the broad brown Severn sea, and beyond it Penarth Cliff, Cardiff, and the Welsh mountains. To the right the grand sweep of a semi-circular bay, with rich red-brown beach and bright green lining, while the white walls of Clevedon stood out clear and distinct on their hills. 

Hole Three - The Pound - 250 yards; Tee up on a eminence; carry, a cattle-pen and pond; slice, into the sea or down a cliff; pull, into a field out of bounds.

Hole Four - Sand Bay - 500 yards; A driving hole, little hazard; uphill; three good drives should lie on the green, the last shot over a wall, blind approach. A pretty sloping green with a ridge in front.

Hole Five - Range - 500 yards; Another slogging hole, mostly uphill, with a dip in the middle. To the left a precipice waits for a pulled ball.

Hole Six - Swallow Tail - 230 yards; High tee, over rough ground and a stone wall; bunkers right and left, tricky sloping green.

Hole Seven - Ben Barrow - 480 yards; A fine driving hole. Tee up on the top of the Ben, a small sugar-loaf mountain. Two perfect drives will land you on the green, but first drive must carry that wall. A fine green on the down slope, with sea on two sides.

Hole Eight - The Bay - 160 yards; Across a pretty bay, with a beach of white pebbles; over some bushes up the face of steep slope fifty feet high, and on to a pretty sloping green.

A lovely walk to the next hole. The rich Yatton Valley in front, with the Mendips beyond, the Severn and Clevedon on the left, Sand Bay and Worlebury behind and to the right, and the picturesque broken contour of the links, with their little pebbly bays and grey rocks and bright green turf for foreground.

Hole Nine - Pipe Hole - 260 yards; A beautiful hole. One perfect drive and one perfect approach lands on the green. A short drive drops on a sharp slope or a road; a pull and a top gets into a sort of quarry; a little slice gets into a bunker or hollow. For the approach, two yawning sand bunkers intervene, and a precipice waits beyond. The green itself is as nearly as possible perfect. Reached the turn. Whisky; and one more look at the glorious views.

Hole Ten - Channel - 230 yards; A level hole, with a perfect green, protected on the left and beyond. Pull, down a precipice or into a valley; top, into a sand bunker.

Hole Eleven - Clevedon - 300 yards; Looked an easy hole, but really wanted playing and good judgment - especially in the approach.

Hole Twelve - St Thomas - 450 yards; A driving hole in which you must keep straight. A slice lands in a field out of bounds, or on rough ground or in whins; a pull, into the sea, or on a sharp slope. Whin hazards on both sides for the approach, a hollow and a ridge intervening.

Hole Thirteen - Rabbit Hole- 260 yards; A whinney gully at the front, and a sandy rabbit bunker to the right. This is a pretty green in a cup and on a slope full of hazards, and with wonderful turf considering its position.

Hole Fourteen - Marsh Hole - 300 yards; One of the prettiest holes. A fair drive over abundant hazards gives you a good lie, on which a perfect brassie shot lands you on the green. A superb drive may get you close to the green but has to cross awful hazards. Whin, marsh, sand bunker, stone wall, are amongst the hazards.

Hole Fifteen - Blow Hole - 290 yards; An uphill hole, with an excellent green, protected by a sand bunker.

Hole Sixteen - Camp - 260 yards; Drive over a wall; a beautiful green, protected by sand bunkers and rough ridges.

Hole Seventeen - Worle - 220 yards; A drive over a direction post should leave you with a mashie to the green.

Hole Eighteen - Home - 350 yards; A driving hole, with driving hazards of roads and rabbit holes to the left. A lovely flat green, with slope on the left and ridge in front.   

Thanks to Robert Moss for the recent pictures (2017) below. Adrian Stiff provided the comments accompanying the images.


Woodspring Golf Club, Somerset. Recent pictures of the course taken in 2017.

The ninth-hole crossed the Bay. The tenth tee is marked to the right.


Woodspring Golf Club, Somerset. Recent pictures of the course taken in 2017.

The eighth hole is in the foreground. The short downhill seventh hole is in the distance to the left.


Woodspring Golf Club, Somerset. Recent pictures of the course taken in 2017.

The twelfth hole.


Woodspring Golf Club, Somerset. Recent pictures of the course taken in 2017.

Above pictures of the former Woodspring course taken in 2017.


Woodspring Priory Golf Club, Somerset. Location of the former golf course.

Location of the Woodspring Priory course in the early 1900s.

Grid reference ST33555,66220, co-ordinates 333555,166220.