Wooler Golf Club, Northumberland.
Founded in 1893 the course was situated on Wooler Common about three quarters of a mile from the town at an elevation of nearly 600ft above sea level. Originally a nine hole course it was designed by Mr George Rochester the professional at Alnmouth Golf Club. The clubhouse stood on what was an ancient British Camp and had extensive views of the surrounding country. The course in the early days was sufficient for the needs of local players, but as visitors came to play, it was felt that an 18 hole course was essential and so, in 1922, steps were taken to extend the course to that length. In June 1923 Mr Noel Villiers, the then President, a long standing member of the Wooler Golf Club drove the first ball on the new course and declared the course open. The station was 1 mile from the course. Local hotels were the Cottage, Black Bull and the Ryecroft.
It was reported on Saturday April 1st 1893 that the golf committee had staked out the course on Wooler Common, they were about to consult a professional to examine the course and advice on the layout. An estimate of the cost had been submitted, and the committee had been authorised to proceed with the work. It was hoped to have the course ready for play this season.
There was a further meeting at the Wooler Mechanics Institute on Monday 10th July 1893 to discuss the forming of the club, in the chair was Mr Philip S Maclagan, solicitor. There were already 24 members and it was expected that membership would increase quickly. The election of officers took place as follows; Patron, the Right Hon. Earl Tankerville, Chillingham Castle; president, Mr Alderman George Rea, Middleton House; captain, A H Leather, Fowberry Tower; secretary, G G Rea, Doddington; treasurer, H G Stewart, British Linen Bank, Wooler; committee, R J Roddam, Roddam Hall; G Laing, Flodden; G E Carr, Ewart; J Marshall, Chatton Park; Rev Canon Wilsden; Dr Dey, Wooler.
The annual meeting was held in the clubhouse on Friday 20th May 1898, Mr C G Butler presiding. The treasurer’s balance sheet was showing an adverse balance o £1/11s/1d this was mainly due to the expense in alterations to the clubhouse. The following officers were elected; President, C G Butler; captain, G G Rea; treasurer, J H S Main; secretary, P S Maclagan. Dr Walker and R F Henderson were due to retire from the committee, both were re-elected. In the morning the monthly medal had been played, result as follows; Dr Dey (gold medal), 85 scratch; G Butler (silver), 96-9-87; J W Louttit beat Dr McLachlan in aplay-off for the bronze.
Below is the result of a match played at Wooler against Berwick on Thursday 16th June 1898.
|H Parker||0||W Flett||6|
|Dr Dey||2||R B Riddell||0|
|R F Henderson||0||W G McCreath||4|
|G G Butler||6||W M Miller||0|
|C E Wilkinson||2||A J Dodds||0|
|F Henderson||0||C McCreath||1|
|J W Brand||0||W Dunn||5|
|P S Maclagan||0||Mr Adam Darling||4|
|Rev J MacLeish||0||W J Dixon||2|
|R Stawart||1||T Darling||0|
While playing in the Captains Prize against Mr R W Brand in September 1903 Dr McLachan set a new course record at the Wooler Club. His score was as follows; 4,3,4,3,4,5,5,4,3 = 35; 3,3,4,4,4,3,6,5,3 = 35 total 70. Mr Frazer held the previous record with a score of 71.
In August 1904 Wooler visited Berwick (Goswick) and were on the wrong end of a thrashing.
|R R Riddell||1||Marcus Rae||0|
|W A Caverhill||1||D Kennedy||0|
|J Mitchell||1||Dr Dey||0|
|W R Blair||1||R F Henderson||0|
|J S Tiffen||0||Rev Mr Watson||1|
|A D Darling||1||J Redpath||0|
|W H Lyall||1||Rev Mr McLellan||0|
|F Henderson||1||W A Henderson||0|
|D W Darling||1||Mr Mursell||0|
|Rev J Irvine||1||N A Smith||0|
|W J Dixon||1||A Strother||0|
The following is an extract from the1905 Nisbet's Golf Yearbook; Membership of 50 with 12 ladies and 6 boys; Hon. Secretary - Robert F Henderson, Wooler, R.S.O; Captain - Rev James Mc Leish; Entrance Fee 10s and Subs 5s, ladies and boys 5s; Professional - Fred Chambers; Amateur record - R E Fraser (32 and 35), 67; Visitor' fees 1s a day, 2s/6d a week and 5s a month. "The holes are not very long, as six of them can be reached with the drive, and the bogey score of 78 is fairly liberal. The course is situated amongst the hills to the west of Wooler, and there are splendid views and bracing air. The course is never congested with players, and there is a comfortable clubhouse."
We would like to thank the great granddaughter of Mr Robert Forster Henderson for allowing us to use the following information from the family archive. Mr Henderson was a founder member and a former captain of Wooler Golf Club.
The exact date of the above function is still to be found but from the look of the dress it was in the 1930s. Dr Fulton at the time was leaving to take over a practise at Sutton-on-Sea. He had been President of the Wooler club for 14 years. He was still at the Wooler club in 1935.
Following is an extract from a report that appeared in the Berwickshire News and General Advertiser on Tuesday 7th June 1910. “The little clubhouse is built upon the site of an old Roman encampment, and from it the player can see the whole of the round laid out before him, with the exception of one hole, the sixth. It is from the fifth tee that the most magnificent views of the surrounding panorama of hill and dale are seen. The course which is full of natural hazards, has been inspected by J S Caird of the Newcastle City Club, and following his advice the greens and tees are to be improved, three new greens being marked out for construction. Bunkers are also to be placed in suitable places. The Golf House has been enlarged and now comprises of separate room for ladies, and improved accommodation for gentlemen. This work has been done at considerable expense. Terms for visitors are; 1/- a day, 2/6 a week and 8/6 a month, with full use of the clubhouse. No Sunday play.”
Thanks to Peter Tweddell who sent us the images below. Peter's grandfather George Tweddell, a member of Wooler Golf Club, appears on one of the pictures below. George and his wife were members at Wooler in the early part of the last century.
Peter informs us that the other action picture is of another Wooler member, Arthur Greathead, who lived in Ramseys Lane, Wooler. The exact date of the pictures is unknown.
Result of the Collingwood Cup (winners of the six monthly medals) played on Thursday 18th July 1912; R F Henderson, 84-8-76; G Robson, 91-12-79; W A Henderson, 108-18-85; R Padley, 110-23-87; W Gibson, 127-25-102. J Redpath, the holder, also qualified, but did not play in the final.
Result of the ladies’ monthly competition played in July 1912; Miss Young, 124-25-99; Miss Douglas, 121-20-101; Mrs C W Redpath, 126-25-101; Mrs Young, 132-27-105; Miss Shield, 118-12-106; Miss Brand, 140-22-118; Mrs Gibson, 145-27-118; Mrs J Brand, 153-25-118; Mrs Leach, 156-27-129; Miss Moodie, 157-27-130.
The first of four qualifying rounds for the Lady Armstrong’s Cup was played in July 1912; L C Davy, 104-24-80; H Crawshall, 105-16-89; R Donkin jnr, 101-12-89; G C Davy, 117-28-89; E A Robson, 103-12-91; W G Smith, 115-24-91; J H Clark jnr, 116-22-94; Thomas Bell, 120-24-96; J Brown, 127-28-99; J F Ridley, 121-22-99; C H Cooke, 130-28-102; N Snaith, 136-28-108.
In 1914 the secretary was J W Brand junior and the professional A Waugh. A 9 hole course at this time with a membership of 50 gents and 50 ladies. The entry fee was 10/- and the subs for gents 15/- and Ladies 5/-. Visitors’ fees 1/- a day, 2/6 a week and 8/6 a month. Sunday play was not allowed.
Result of a bogey competition played in January 1914; R F Henderson (6) 4up; W Hall (23) 3up; S Morton (25) 2up.
The final of the Collingwood Cup was played in June 1920, result; R Redpath, 91-14-77; D M Campbell, 87-7-80.
Result of the President's Cup played in May 1922; G Tully, 79 scratch; J Redpath, 95-12-83; C W Redpath, 96-12-84; W Hall, 97-12-85; D M Campbell, 94-8-86; R Redpath, 94-8-86; E Douglas, 106-19-87; A J Padley, 103-14-89; T Martin, 106-16-90; R F Pascoe,108-18-90; T Brand, 105-14-91; A Greathead, 105-13-92; R F Henderson, 106-14-92; W Lumsden, 106-14-92.
In 1923 the Secretary was D M Campbell, Brizlee, Wooler and the professional and greenkeeper A Waugh. Now an 18 hole course with a membership of 184. Visitors fees for gents were 2/- a day, 7/6 a week, 12/6 a fortnight and 20/- a month. Ladies 1/6, 5/-, 7/6, 10/- respectively. Still no Sunday play.
Dr Ronald T Fulton presided at an extra-ordinary general meeting of the members in July 1935 in the Cheviot Hall. The meeting was called to consider the financial position of the club. Mr Blenkinsopp, the treasurer, explained the situation. At the end of 1934 the club were indebted to the bank for a sum of over £35. The Committee had got the course into the best condition it had ever been, but still there was a steady decrease in the number of visitors, and the membership had also showed a falling off. The question of reverting back to a nine-hole course was suggested, and other economies proposed. It was evident that something drastic would have to be done if the club was to carry on successfully, the expense of maintaining the 18-hole course in a satisfactory condition was becoming more difficult every year. This would be much regretted, it had now the reputation of being one of the finest inland courses in the district.
Mr R W Pyle, club captain, presided at the annual meeting in June 1939, it was stated that the reversion to a nine-hole course had been a great success. The following officials were elected; President - Mr A Hall Watt; vice-presidents - J W Sale, S Strorey, M.P., Capt. A W Milburn, J W Deuchar, Noel Villiers, James Redpath, G R M Dodds, C W Redpath, Dr A Dey, B S Sutherland, Dr A N Bousfield, R W Pyle; captain - J S Cowans; secretary - John Porter; treasurer - T Blenkisopp; match secretary - T Lillie; committee - Miss R Grey, Miss Hall, R Dawson, R Cowans, A Greathead, J C Henderson, T Adamson and W Hall. The following prizes were presented; Villiers Cup - Charles Wanless; Challenge Cup - A Greathead; President's Prize - J C Henderson; Captain's Prize - A Greathead.
From 1940 to 1949 the secretary was J Porter, Meadow View, Wooler and the greenkeeper G Scott. It had now been reduced to a 9-hole course with a SSS of 66 and a Par of 68 with a membership of 120. Amateur course record holder was S Lillie with a score of 63.
In July 1951 a combined team of Hirsel and Wooler played a match against Goswick Golf Club.
|Goswick Golf Club||Hirsel and Wooler|
|A R B Wood & J Wigg||1||W Ford & T Lillie||0|
|P G Geggie & R Renwick||0||J Lillie & H Bain||1|
|D McArthur & A Stanley||1||W Jackson & W Robertson||0|
|J Cormack & Major Hawthorne||0||R Redpath & G Turnbull||1|
|A Veitch & W A L McReath||0||A Greathead & G Gilchrist||1|
|A Christieson & S Davidson||0||G Machie & O Stovert||1|
|F Moore & W Baker||0||R McLure & W Bluett||1|
|P P Mosgrave & I T Smith||0||D Scott & D Burnham||1|
In the club's last year in 1951 the green-keeper G Nesbitt. Visitors Gents 2/- a day, 10/- a week, 25/- a month. Ladies 2/-, 7/6, 20/-Sunday play from 1pm 3/-. All other information as before.
The following is an hole by hole description of the eighteen hole course from one of my old local guide books (as are the pictures above).
First. “Waud House”. This hole calls for a good drive to the left of the green. Slice, and your ball will reach the Pin Well Valley, thick with bracken, and probably end up in a torn up card!
Second. “Humbledon”. Plenty of “loft” required as a hill rises for 110 yards, bunkered right and left and whins at the back of the green.
Third. “Common Road”. A full iron, but usually played with wood. Distance very deceptive and a player often finds his ball short of the green. A rough grassy dip in front of the tee punishes a topped shot.
Fourth. “Brady”. The tee on the edge of a quarry, and looks rather terrifying. A perfect drive reaches the second plateau, and a deadly pitch will give the player a perfect 4. The green is banked up at the back. The topped drive gets justly punished in the quarry and the moderate tee shot finds “Bradys Hole” There is a superstition that “Brady” a well known local player in the 90s may sometimes be seen in the shades of evening hacking his ball out of this bunker.
Fifth. “The Spring Hole”. A good drive can can reach this green with a following wind. Safer to play to the right of the guide post as the spring supplying water to the clubhouse is in the middle of the fairway.
Sixth. “Bells Valley”. A tee shot well placed will open up this hole, and the second shot calls for a firm iron to carry the mound in front of the green near the wall. The fairway to this green and also to the seventeenth, which are parallel, was formerly very rough, but has been greatly improved recently and bids fair to be one of the best on the course. Altogether a nice par 5.
Seventh “The Dyke”. A good straight drive over the guide post will land your ball on the green. A capital one shot hole with very little margin for an indifferent shot as the whins are very thick on the left of the fairway and rough grass for a sliced shot. “Keep Straight” is the watchword at this hole.
Eighth. “Skirlie”. Just an easy drive and pitch. A pulled shot may land you in whins below the ninth tee.
Ninth. “Short Whin”. Difficult to find the green from the tee if the prevailing westerly wind, blowing across the course is at all strong. Whins behind the green, and a good iron shot at all times.
Tenth. “Yearle”. A good drive and pitch required to find the green. The pulled shot is penalised by whins and bracken on the left and a bunker on the right to trap the slicer. The green is rather small and slopes away at the back, making it difficult for the second shot to stop where one would like it.
Eleventh. “The Basin”. A formidable wall about 125 yards in front of the tee traps the bad drive. A very difficult hole in a west wind. A pulled shot encounters trouble in the bracken to the left of the green, which is cut out of a slope in the shape of a basin. Pitch the second shot just sufficiently to run down the slope to the green and you may have a “birdie”.
Twelfth. “Petersfield”. A good drive down a gentle slope will reach the green, but the tee shot must be true as the whins on the left of the fairway nearing the green are very thick.
Thirteenth. “Fox Holes”. Up a gradual slope with plenty of whins and bracken to trap the pulled shot. A good pitch is required over a whin covered rise in front of the green and the wall behind the green may easily put a couple of strokes on your card if your second is to strong..
Fourteenth. “Wall Hole”. A pulled drive is fatal here as the wall runs parallel with the fairway and on the other side of the wall is a fox covert. A slice will land your ball on the eighth fairway. The green is nicely guarded with whins all round.
Fifteenth. “Hut Hole”. The flag can be seen topping a gentle rise in front of the green. A well placed niblick shot on this rise to kick towards the green and you may find your ball beside the pin for a 2.
Sixteenth. “The Frying Pan”. A tricky one shot hole. The tee is placed 70 or 80 feet above the level of the green which lies immediately behind a stone wall, surrounded by gorse. Fives are more common than threes. The trickiest hole in Northumberland and a real test of niblick skill.
Seventeenth. “Camp View”. A difficult hole at any time, but especially so against a west wind, and a sinking sun in the evening. Play for left of guide post where the fairway is level. A topped drive is fatal as the ground rises steeply for the first 130 yards with lots of whins and bracken on the left. The hole must be well played to get a “birdie”.
Eighteenth. “The Kettles”. The longest hole on the course and downhill all the way to the green, which is placed at the bottom of the old British Camp, “The Kettles” on which the clubhouse is built. The lies are “hanging” except on two plateaus, and the knowing and skilful players generally try to get their shot to the green from one of those to get a good par 5. A “birdie” is a thing to sigh for.
Thanks to Mr E Tait for the following information “The course adjoined the small border town of Wooler in North Northumberland. I have no information as to when the course actually started but possibly before or just after the WWI. It was an 18 hole course and was known as the Wooler Golf Course. It flourished during the 1920s/30s. In 1947 I was a member of a committee which reopened the course on its original site. However after a few years (not sure when) it again closed. Later another course was opened about five miles to the east of Wooler at a place called Doddington and is still in existence.
The original course occupied a large expanse of land called Wooler Common and shared its occupation with Scottish Blackface sheep which the owner kept on the land. As well as being an extraordinarily picturesque setting for a golf course, it had one feature which was possibly unique in the world of golfing; the clubhouse occupied a delightful, partially preserved, ancient site presumed to be Roman and which is still marked on OS map as a CAMP. There are in fact three such sites marked bit I only ever found one.
What was the actual golf course like ? Firstly, nothing like the flat manicured parks now being built to cater for the modern pampered Tour Pros. It seems that whoever built this course took their inspiration from the Scottish links courses; that is, to use land which was of little value to anything else. Not having links land available, they settled for what they had, which was rough moor-land suitable for only rearing sheep, but never-the-less incredibly attractive to walk over. In this respect their choice was a happy one, while at the same time proving conclusively that sheep and golfers can exist harmoniously on the same piece of land.
The actual site was one of the lower foothills of the Cheviot range; an expanse of rough moor-land occasionally strewn with outcrops of rock and well littered with the omnipresent gorse. nowhere was it flat. The natural hazards of the terrain meant that no sand bunkers were necessary. Originally the rough grass had been cut back to make the fairways. The sheep - who naturally prefer short grass - showed their appreciation by keeping these areas closely cropped, so much so that the fairways only required one mechanical cutting each summer. It was my father’s job to clean up the sheep deposits off the greens daily”
The current Wooler Golf Club was founded 1976.