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Rothbury Golf Club, Northumberland.

Founded in December 1891, the clubs first course was at Wolves Haugh and was known in the early years as Coquetdale Golf Club (Grid reference NU03690,01345, co-ordinates, 403690,601345)  . Following WW1the course was located south of Silverton Lane (Grid reference NU06420,00690, co-ordinates, 406420,600690).

It is interesting to note that the club failed in their attempt to move to the clubs first choice site at Carterside in 1890. The location of the current course, Whitton Bank Road is just off Carterside Road.

On Thursday afternoon December 3rd 1891 a meeting was held at the Queens Head Hotel, Rothbury to discuss the formation of a golf club for the district. A committee was formed to carry out further investigation, draw up the rules and to take the necessary steps in finding suitable land for a course.

Report from the Newcastle Courant Saturday 13th February 1892 which gives an in depth description of the course at Wolves Haugh and an interesting insight into golf and the reporting of the time. “Golf has at length found a home in the fair dale of Coquet. Henceforth Rothbury with its bracing pure air, its glorious panorama of hill and dale scenery, will have one more attraction to the many which it offers to its inhabitants and to its visitors. At the invitation of the promoters of the Coquetdale Golf Club, Mr J B Radcliffe visited Rothbury on Monday for the purposes of assisting them in laying out the new course. It is a matter of deep regret that the fine stretch of haughs at Carterside – a veritable inland elysium for the golfer – is not available for the new club. This far-spreading range of golfing country is intersected with grains, bunkers, streams and whins, well adapted to bring out the cunning of the game, and ample enough for an 18 hole course. To the west of the Carterside plot is Wolves Haugh, which covers about 38 acres of pasture land, with a percolating sub-soil of sand. On this spot it was determined to lay out the new course of nine holes. Wolves Haugh is about ten minutes walk from the town, and though not so well diversified in its features for golf purposes as Carterside, yet it rivals the Tyneside Club’s course at Ryton. After prospecting Wolves Haugh Mr Radcliffe made his first teeing ground at the commencement of the haugh, and placed the last hole within a few yards of the start, with a view of enabling a player to start the moment he reaches the haughs, and to finish the round at the point nearest Rothbury. The first hole is about 270 yards, and is placed beyond a pond, which will form a trap to catch a topped ball. A shelving ledge in the vicinity of the hole will also yield a fair hazard. Not quite so long, the second hole will require steady play. A long drive will carry the ball over a marshy hollow, and the hole, encircled by whins, is reached at the edge of the river. The third hole is at the roadside leading to Tosson , and is well placed to punish bad play. Going to the fourth, a marshy undulation has to be crossed, and the flag is seen near the artificial boundary ditch at the extreme margin of the haughs. The fifth is a short hole , and will be reached by a fine cleek shot, but as there is a good growth of whins about it, with the Coquet beyond, good line will have to be preserved, and the player who is to strong in his approach will find his ball either in a bunker or submerged in the Coquet. The course now shapes eastwards to the sixth hole which is placed on a ledge surrounded by grief. The long approach shot will have to be deftly played to avoid a bad, heavy lie in the channel caused by the overflow of the Coquet. The line of play at the seventh goes to the extreme south-west corner, where the hole is placed near the path which deviates at this point to Tosson. Turning homeward, the eighth is the longest hole on the course – about 450 yards. From the tee shot a long drive will carry the hollow, broken ground with water in the marsh. The second shot will reach the pond , which is almost in direct line for the hole, and will be a grand hazard, while equally so will be the whins and broken ground to the left exact careful play. A long approach third will reach the hole, which is placed on the river’s edge. The player now goes behind the eighth to the edge of the river to tee for the home hole. All the way the Coquet margins the line of play, the course will extend over some two and a half miles, and 85 for the nine holes will be a very fine score. Sound play through the green will invariably result in a good lie, but with bunkers, other hazards, whins, sand and occasionally water at every hole the course will punish the unskilful. Under Mr Radcliffe’s direction, and with the assistance of Mr Edward Cumming and Mr John Gallon, the holes were cut on the several proposed greens and for the first time the red and white pennants affixed to the flags indicated the locality of the greens. Mr Robert Donkin, jun, the hon secretary of the club, was called away on important business, and could not be present. Already the opinion is that Wolves Haugh will be a first-class inland venue. Gair, a well-known Musselborough golfer, has been engaged as professional for six months, and he will at once set to on the preparation of the greens. A club meeting was held at the County Hotel yesterday, Mr Watson Armstrong, presiding. On the motion of the chairman, seconded by the Rev A O Medd, Mr Radcliffe was elected honorary member of the club. Mr Watson Armstrong was elected president”

Report from the Newcastle Courant Saturday 23rd April 1892 “Coquetdale (Rothbury) Club. Since the opening day, and the exposition of the game then given by the gentlemen from Newcastle, the local aspirants to golfing fame have applied themselves assiduously to practice in the hope of at some distant being able to do a creditable performance. Taking advantage of the holiday on Easter Monday, the resident members beat up strongly upon Wolves Haugh, and with their numbers augmented by several visitors to Rothbury, the first handicap of the season was brought off in charming weather, and in the presence of a goodly number of spectators, including quite a contingent of the fair sex. The hon secretary was able to despatch seven couples upon their journey, and, from the scores, it was noticed that several had made considerable strides in improving their play since first handling the clubs a few weeks ago. Although the scores are large and not to be compared with those of the “experts” last week, they speak creditably for the players, who are as yet only novices at the game. The visitors to Rothbury have already taken advantage of the privilege of enjoying the game, and with the resident professional giving daily attention to the greens, it is hoped to attract players to the town, and to add to its popularity of a health resort”

Following are the scores.

R Donkin jun 123 5 118
J Schofield 153 25 128
G Rushfirth 164 35 129
R S Riddell 136 5 131
A F Riddell 137 5 132
W Heydon 136 scr 136
J Garland 175 35 140
J M Browell 181 35 146
T Mitcheson 157 10 147
W Dixon 191 35 156
L Davy 173 10 163
G Davy 183 10 173
J T Dixon 189 15 174
E Dove 180 5 175

The initial enthusiasm seemed short lived and little information could be found regarding the golfing activity on the course at Wolves Haugh during the 1890s and early 1900s.

In December 1906 a meeting was held in the Queen’s Head Hotel to “re-organise” a golf club for Rothbury. Dr Hedley presided. Amongst the locations suggested were Bellingham, Beggar’s Rig and Whitton Park. A committee of R Donkin jnr, J P Ridley and E H Stevens were to investigate the viability of a new course.

In 1907 it was reported that the Beggar’s Rig site was unsuitable. It was decided to lay out a course at Whitton.

Much more information became available from when the new course opened at Whitton in 1908.

The annual meeting was held at the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, in January 1908, the election of officials as follows; president, Lieutenant Colonel Orde, Nunnykirk Hall; captain, Dr Hedley; secretaries, J Cummings and J Brodie; committee, Mr Anderson, L C Davy, R Donkin jnr, J P Ridley, J Brown, E H Stevens, N Snaith, J H Clark jnr and the Rev W Gibson Smith; the vice presidents representatives were, Dr Bedford, Dr Lawson, E Garvie, Mr Lancelot Fenwick and Mr Arnott. Visitors’ charges were set at 1/- a day, 5/- a week and10/- a month, subs for residents remained at 10/6.

The formal opening of the new course took place on Easter Monday in April 1908. Dr Hedley introduced Lieut Col Orde who welcomed the large number of people who had attended the opening.

The annual meeting was held in the Jubilee Hall in January 1909. The financial situation was recorded as being satisfactory and it was intended to improve the greens and trees on the course. There were now 78 members, an increase of 18. Mr R Donkin jnr was thanked for meeting the expense of re-laying the turf on the sixth green and for presenting the roller. The president and captain were re-elected, Mr Joseph Brodie was the secretary and treasurer, the following vice-presidents were elected; Rev Canon Blackett Ord, James Arnott, Dr F Barrow, R Donkin, Dr Fenwick, W Dance, T T Hall (Snitter), E J Hart (Bamburgh), R Hutchinson, W Hutchinson, W B Reid, Dr Lawson, J B Lazenby, J F Phillips, W B Reid jnr, W Buchanan Riddell, W Turnbull, Mr Wilkinson (Lynn Holme) and Mr C Orde. The committee; L C Davey, J Brown, J Cummings, J H Clark jnr, J P Ridley, R H Stevens, R Donkin jnr, N Snaith and the Rev W Gibson Smith.

Below is the result of a club match played against Alnwick Golf Club at Whiiton in July 1909.

Rothbury   Alnwick  
A W Pride 1 R Middlemas 0
C E Walker 0 A Smart 1
Dr A S Hedley 0 Allan Robson 1
J Brodie 0 J E Archer 1
R Donkin jnr 0 J M Douglas 1
O M Phillips (half) 0 G W Simpson  (half) 0
J F Ridley 1 W Appleby 0
E A Robson 0 J Davison 1
E Hawthorn 1 L Newbiggin 0
  3   5

The annual meeting was held in the Jubilee Hall on Monday 9th January 1911, Dr Hedley, club captain, presided. The secretary, Mr E A Robson, Lloyds Bank, produced the balance sheet which showed a deficit of £23/10s/9d. Dr Hedley, who had been captain since the re-organisation, tendered his resignation, Mr R Donkin jnr was appointed in his place. Dr Hedley then presented the captain’s club medal to E A Robson, who had won it last October.

The annual meeting in 1915 was held in Newcastle House, R Donkin, captain, presided. Mr N Snaith, treasurer, presented the balance sheet which showed a deficit of £19. Mr Clark, secretary, reported that there were now 60 members, a decrease of 18 on the year. The course had been in good condition all season and two new greens had been laid. Owing to the war only one club match had been played, this was against Wooler, Rothbury won. Competition results; mixed foursome, for a case of silver spoons given by Mr Crawhall, won by Miss Livingstone and Mr Crawhall; Lady Armstrong Silver Cup won by R Donkin; Mr T D Stewart’s Silver Rose Bowl won by J H Clark. The Rev W Gibson Smith presented the prizes. On the motion of the captain, it was agreed that the secretary should convey a vote of condolence to Lord Armstrong, their president, in his bereavement by the death of Lady Armstrong, who had always taken a keen interest in the club. Lord Armstrong was re-elected president; Mr R Donkin, captain; Mr Crawhall, vice-captain; J H Clark, secretary; N Snaith, treasurer.

Following WW1 and to the outbreak of WW2 the club remained stable, membership levelled out at about 60. In the mid 1920s bogey for the course was 72. The club continued into 1941they had no greenkeeper at this time and most of the work was carried out by the secretary. During WW2 part of the course was taken over for agriculture, but the tenant Mr Proctor would not agree to a reduction in rent, so it was agreed to keep the course going with reduced subscriptions although, in effect, the club closed in 1941 until 1949. The course re-opened on the 28th May 1949, with Sir Angus Watson driving off the first ball, the club continued at the Whitton site for another couple of years.

At this point I would like to record my appreciation to the Rothbury Golf Club for their help and allowing me to use the following pictures from the Centenary Book 1891-1991.

 

 

Rothbury Golf Club, Northumberland. Foundations of the Whitton pavilion.

Foundations of the former club pavilion at Whitton.

 

Rothbury Golf Club, Northumberland. Sixth hole at Whitton.

The sixth hole at Whitton.

 

Rothbury Golf Club, Northumberland. Group picture 1925.

 

The Google Map below is pinpointed on the Silverton Lane course.

 

 

The Rothbury club moved to its present location in 1952.