Felixstowe Golf Club.
It is claimed that golf was being played at Felixstowe, albeit on a rather haphazard course, on Landguard Common in the 1870s.
I would like to thank Michael Thomas, Trevor Mason and Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, for their help with the research into early golf at Felixstowe.
The following is taken from the history section on the Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club website:-
1874 - Colonel Jelf Sharp, Master of the Suffolk and Essex Foxhounds, and a member of the Blackheath Club, played golf on Langer Common as early as 1874. He cut holes near Landguard Fort and later laid down links between the Fort and the Ordnance Hotel, and he was joined by friends from Blackheath and matches were played. In 1879 Scottish officers, serving on board the Harwich Harbour guardship H.M.S. Penelope also played, and a most important recruit to the game was Mr F.W. Wilson, the proprietor and founder in 1874 of the East Anglian Daily Times
1875 - Lord Elcho M.P. was president of the London Scottish Golf at Wimbledon, and a frequent guest of Colonel Tomline at Orwell Park for what was considered to be the best partridge shooting in the world. He observed the natural capacity of the land at East End for golf, and had on a number of occasions from 1875 played a few holes there, In the spring of 1880, he was accompanied by General Lee Hope Grant of India fame, and Tom Dunn the Wimbledon professional, and went down to the Deben side, laid out a golf course, and played with the enthusiasm of a discoverer. Lord Elcho was then sixty-two years of age.
1880 - Tom Dunn's favourable report on the character of the ground, and the enthusiasm of Lord Elcho soon spread to the Wimbledon Club, and at Whitsuntide 1880, the brothers Frank and Alexander Crawford went down to Bawdsey Ferry and enjoyed a game over the close-cropped turf. They were followed on the August Bank Holiday by a party from London Scottish Golf Club. They cut nine holes, and played for a Challenge Gold Medal, which was won by Mr G.F. Muir who, in company with his associates, presented the trophy to the Felixstowe Golf Club on its formation a few weeks later. Thus the 'Bawdsey Challenge Gold Medal' became the first of the club's valuable trophies, although it was originally referred to as the Wimbledon gold Medal as the donors were all members of that club."
Extract from the Chelmsford Chronicle Friday 5th November 1880- "The new Felixstowe Golf Club was inaugurated under the happiest of circumstances on Saturday last. A course of 15-holes has been laid out, which in a short time will be extended to the regular St Andrew's number of 18, and Mackenzie had got the turf on the putting greens in capital order. The links commence near East-end Farm, and run right away to the houses of the pretty little hamlet known as Bawdsey Ferry, which is really part of Felixstowe. The first hole has been christened "Elcho's," after Lord Elcho M.P., the original discoverer of the ground, while the hole next Bawdsey-end is named "Col. Tomline's," after the patron of the club and lord of the manor.
Several of the local golfers, who during the last twelve months have played opposite Felixstowe station, showed in very creditable form, notably Mr B Binyon, Major Sandilands, Dr Elliston, A J Barber and J I Plummer. The day's play closed with darkness. In the evening several of the golfers dined together at the Bath Hotel."
Colonel Tomline seized on the opportunity of the expected development at Felixstowe west end and built the Beach Station, Manor Terrace and a large hotel called The Manor House. Unfortunately it never took off and soon closed down. It was used as the first Felixstowe Golf Club clubhouse.
The reference to ‘Bawdsey Ferry’ relates to the foot ferry that runs between the hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry and the village of Bawdsey across the River Deben, hence the reference to laying out the course at ‘the Deben side’.
The Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club have the book containing the minutes of the inaugural meeting and they still have the “Bawdsey Challenge Gold Medal” which is played for every year.
The club was initially called Felixstowe Golf Club and was renamed Felixstowe Ferry in 1948 after the club was re-established following WW2.
The Google Map below shows the area around Landguard Common (which stretched further west at the time.) This is where golf was first played at Felixstowe in the 1870s