Bilston & Willenhall Golf Club, Prouds Lane.
Evidence has been found of an earlier club at Bilston. It was reported in the Birmingham Daily Post on Friday 9th March 1900 that "Sandwell scored a heavy victory over the Bilston Club, 51 to 13." See separate entry on the website for Wolverhampton & District Golf Club.
The later club first appeared in the early 1920s. A 9 hole course situated in the Proud Lane, Mount Pleasant area.
The Great Western Railway station at Bilston was just 10 minutes away. Local hotels were the Villiers Arms, Pipe and the Park Hall.
|1923-27||A E Baxter, "Lyndene" Dover St, Bilston.|
|1928-32||C Adams, Villiers Avenue, Bilston and E S Rhodes "Glenarry", Bilston.|
|1930s (mid)||W I Garratt, "Colton" Mountford Lane, Bilston and A Darbey "Lyncon" Wellington Rd.|
|1937-40||W I Garratt, c/o Lloyds Bank Ltd, Bilston and G D Lett, c/o E Hill & Sons, Broad St.|
|1940||W I Garratt, c/o Lloyds Bank Ltd, Bilston and H E Carder, Town Hall, Bilston.|
|1956-58||A E Webb, 138 Wellington Road, Bilston.|
|1922||W J Martin (pro)|
|1927-29||G Hooper (pro)|
|1930s (mid)||H Lewis (pro) F C Proud (greenkeeper)|
|1936/39||G E Reynolds (pro) F C Proud (gk)|
|1940-48||N R Jones (pro) F C Proud (gk)|
|1949-51||Fred Llewellyn (pro) F C Proud (gk)|
|1952-55||F C Proud (gk)|
|1956-58||K C Thomas (gk)|
From 1928 to 1932 the club had a membership of over 140. Visitors’ fees were 2/- a day and 5/- a week.
In the mid 1930s membership had increased to 160. Visitors’ fees were now 1/6 a day, weekend and Bank Holidays 2/6 a day and 5/- a week.
In 1936 the course had a SSS and Par of 68. The membership again increased to 175. Course records were, amateur R B Walton 63 and professional H Lewis 61. The club was now licensed.
In 1940 there was a membership of 160.
From 1952 to 55 the SSS was now 62. Visitors’ fees were 2/- a day, weekend and Bank Holidays 3/- a day, 5/- a week and 12/6 a month.
From 1956 to the clubs last year in 1958 the course measured 4626 yards. There was a membership of 100. Visitors’ fees were 2/6 a round and 3/6 a day.
I would like to thank Mike Fones for allowing me to use the following extracts and images from his book “Skylarks, Sticklebacks, Newts and Golf Balls – An historical review of Bilston Golf Club 1920 – 1956.”
In July 1920, having visited land in the Prouds Lane area, the Housing Committee of Bilston Urban District Council decided to offer the land to the newly formed Bilston & Willenhall Golf Club.
In 1921 the task of designing and laying out of a nine-hole golf course on undeveloped wasteland began. The course boundary was marked out with posts and wire fencing. It is reasonable to assume that the initial groundwork was carried out by Mr Freddie Proud the full time groundsman and green-keeper. The course had two fishing pools, the Iron Jack and the Cottage, plus a small shallow pool named the Skeleton.
It is clear that a well organised and well run golf club was established with most members being local wealthy business and professional men and their wives. They could play their golf surrounded by open spaces and be relatively free from the grime and dirt generated by the heavy and light industries approximately one mile away.
1930 was an important year for the club as it secured a twenty one year lease from the Corporation, thereby, giving club officials and members the confidence to invest in improvements and plan for the future.
Below are the teams for a Captain versus Vice Captain match played in 1933.
|Bilston & Willenhall - Captain's Team||Bilston & Willenhal Vice Captain's Team|
|H Marchant||Dr Sullivan.|
|G Griffiths||W Withers|
|P Hume||E Morey|
|W Garrett||L Tyler|
|H V Greenaway||F Lett|
|J George||B Turner|
|M B Rhodes||M Burton|
|J Pym||C O Price|
|E Probert||T Archer|
|H F Spencer||N E Baxter|
|F C Crowther||L Walton|
|F Williams||J Martin|
|T Rickwood||B Kirk|
From 1933/4 the club was known as Bilston Golf Club with no mention of Willenhall.
By 1938 the club had used its first sixteen years to good effect. The course had been developed and refined under the diligence and enthusiasm of groundsman Freddie Proud. He had been provided with good quality mowers and machinery financed by the club’s strong financial position. The club competed in the County league and had developed a full range of club competitions for its male and female members. There was also a vibrant and well supported social section.
In 1939 a three point policy was agreed with the Council:-
To replace the wooden clubhouse with a new £2000 brick one that would offer new and high quality facilities.
Extend and improve the course layout.
Replace the old wooden boundary fencing.
Had these plans been implemented the club would probably still be in existence today. However, with the onset of WW2 such projects were of far lesser importance.
At the end of the war a committee of old members met in a local pub with a view to organising a revival of the club. A loan was arranged and finances raised and within six months the club was back on its feet. By 1949 membership had reached 160.
Mike Fones recalls that “In 1955 a Bilston Tennis Club friend of mine asked if I would like to accompany him for a drink at the clubhouse of the Bilston Golf Club. He drove us to the club and we went inside. Apart from the bar steward we were the only people there. It was the only time I went into the clubhouse and I recall it being a touch rundown. We had one drink of beer each and left in search of more social activity. Within one year the club had gone leaving many people with only very fond memories.”
Had the improvements proposed in 1939 been implemented it is very likely that the course would still exist today, possibly as a Municipal nine-hole course.
The above picture from 1960 shows the encroachment of the Grammar School buildings and the undeveloped part of the course, with the Iron Jack pool. The young couple seem to be ignoring the playful dog.
From 1959 about half of the original course was developed for the Bilston Boy’s Grammar School. The 1959 Bilston Boy’s Grammar School annual magazine editorial makes many references to the school’s move to its new location. There is no reference at all to the previous use of the site being part of a golf course.