Aldershot Command Golf Club, Hants.
The club first appeared in 1883, it had six different names, including the current Army Golf Club. I could only use one title heading and I decided to use the much remembered and long lasting Aldershot Command, the club had been known as Aldershot Command Golf Club from 1907 to 1974. Below is a table showing the club names and locations.
|1883||Aldershot Divisional Golf Club||Rushmoor Bottom|
|1895||Aldershot Divisional Golf Club||Smallshot Hill|
|1897||Aldershot District Golf Club||Smallshot Hill|
|1903||Aldershot Military Golf Club||Smallshot Hill|
|1904||First Army Corps Golf Club||Cove Common|
|1907||Aldershot Command Golf Club||Cove Common and Laffan's Plain|
|1974||Army Golf Club||Laffan's Road, Aldershot|
As can be seen above the first course was at Rushmoor Bottom followed by Smallshot Hill it then moved on to Cove Common and Laffan’s Plain until 1974. The club had moved to Cove Common at the turn of the 20th century. The club underwent many moves and changes of location around Cove Common, Laffans Plain and the Danger Hill area, these courses can be seen on the maps below. The area that much of the Cove Common course was situated on was eventually used as part of the Royal Aircraft Establishment Airfield. The current Army club lies mostly to the south of Danger Hill, but it does take in some of the land used by a some of the former courses.
Below are the Club Officers, with curious gaps in the captain’s column particularly between 1908 and 1929 and 1938 and 1962.
|1883||Major F W Bennett||1905||Major Gen The Hon A H Paget|
|1884||Major R H Bagot||1908||Major Gen T E Stephenson C.B|
|1887||Major F W Bennett||1929||Major F G Hyland|
|1897||Rev W Stevenson-Jeffrey||1931||Lieut Col C E Colbeck|
|1903||Major R A Henderson||1933||Major W A M Stawell|
|1905||Colonel J C Oughterson||1935||Major R D Keane|
|1908||Captain T G C Bliss||1936||Colonel F H Witts|
|1909||Captain E F Rowe||1938||Colonel F S Clover|
|1913||Major Seymour F Clarke||1962||Squadron Leader L Moore|
|1915||Mr A W Baker||1963||Wing Commander J S Palmer|
|1920||Mr W S Hyder||1964||Mr C Dyer|
|1922||Mr R J McAlister||1965||Mr G C Turnbull|
|1923||Lieutenant A Farbrother||1966||Mr W Thayer|
|1924||Captain W Pearson(s)||1967||Mr G C Turnbull|
|1930||Major J Donald M.C||1968||Captain J Hewlett|
|1936||Miss A J Parsons||1970||Mr J Pitman|
|1961||Mr T E Packham||1971||Mr J Allen|
|1964||Major J H J Williams||1972||Mr H A Collinge|
|1965||Major R Parrott||1973||Major G K Murphy|
|1969||Major G K Murphy||1974||Mr M C Jones|
|1970||Captain D Lacey|
|1971||Major T Hale|
|1911||Lady Olive Smith-Dorien||1903||Major Gen The Hon A H Paget|
|1912||Lady Haig||1907||Lieut Gen Sir John French|
|1923||Mrs P Wilson||1909||Lieut Gen Sir Horace L Smith-Dorrien|
|1926||Miss B Logan||1914||Lieut Gen Sir Douglas Haig|
|1928||Mrs King||1965||Major Gen P H Man|
|1930||Mrs Colbeck||1966||Major Gen C H Stainforth|
|1934||Mrs McLeod||1969||Lieut Gen R B Penfold|
|1936||Mrs Williamson||1972||Lieut Gen Sir Alan Taylor|
|1949||Mrs P Wren|
|1957||Miss H Beeching|
|1962||Mrs N S Faragher|
|1963||Mrs E Thew|
|1964||Mrs B Knight|
|1965||Sgt N L Faragher||Professionals|
|1965||Mrs H I Sandham||1905||James Merrilees|
|1965||Mrs E Marshall||1912||Douglas Rolland|
|1967||Major E Coombes||1915||Jesse Poulter|
|1971||Mrs S Kitto||1964/5||Roger Begbie|
|1972||Mrs M Waters||1970-72||Rod Wiseman|
|1973||S Sgt N L Faragher||1973||Arthur Row|
From 1897 to 1902 the secretary was the Rev W Stephenson Jeffery, 4 Chuchill Terrace, Aldershot.
From 1906 to 1908 the secretary was J C Ougherson, Broadhurst, South Farnborough, there was no entry fee and subs were £1 for half a year. Visitors’ fees were 1/6 a day.
By 1911 the 18 hole course measured over 6,000 yards. The professional course record was stated to be held jointly by J Merilees and James Braid with a score of 73, E J North held the amateur course record of 75. There was a membership of 250 with 50 ladies.
By 1913 the amateur course record was held by Captain E P Blencowe 73. Sunday play was allowed with caddies.
The first course layout at Rushmoor Bottom was overseen by the club secretary Captain Bennett in 1883. The clubhouse was the Royal Aldershot Officers’ Club.
The second course at Smallshot Hill was laid out near the old race course in 1895 with a clubhouse on Farnborough Road
By the early 1900s the club had moved to Cove Common. Initially a 9 hole course it was extended to 18 holes in 1904/5. At about the same time James Merrilees had joined the club as professional from North Berwick, he set the course record of 66 in 1906. In August 1908 major alterations to the course were proposed, this would increase the length to over 6,000 yards, in fact the exact measurement was 6,010 yards, this extra 30 feet must have had a great psychological importance.
In May 1909 it was announced that James Braid was to be invited to play in two exhibition matches on the new extended course. In early 1909 Mr E G H North had set a new amateur course record of 85. Later in the summer of 1909 James Braid played alongside home professional James Merrilees in a match against Robson and Forrest. F Robson had recently been beaten in the final of the News of the World tournament by the great J H Taylor, Charles Forrest was the professional at East Berkshire, Braid and Merrilees won the morning match with a better ball score of 68. In the afternoon a large crowd gathered to watch the Braid versus Robson game, it was during this match that James Braid set the new course record of 72.
James Merrilees left the club in 1912 and was replaced by Douglas Rolland a Scotsman from Elie in Fife, unfortunately Douglas Rolland died in 1914. Jesse Poulter took up the position of professional after being invalided out of the Army in 1915, he had previously been caddie and assistant professional at the club and this was to be the start of a long and distinguished career for him at the Aldershot Command Club.
Following WW1 the club moved to a new clubhouse near the Cockadobby tumulus on Farnborough Road. It was soon on the move again when it moved to its fourth clubhouse in the mid 1920s this was situated in Shoe Lane. During the 1920s and 1930s the club settled down and members were enjoying their golf on the 18 hole Cove Common course The biggest problem seemed to be the clubhouse, although it was suitable for the normal after game drinks there were often issues regarding the size of the clubhouse for hosting larger social functions.
Below is the result of a return match for the Stoneham Cup played at Hayling on Wednesday 21st March 1938. Hayling Island Ladies’ won by 6 matches to 1.
|Hayling Island||Aldershot Command|
|Mrs Arnold (9)||1||Mrs Hawes (13)||0|
|Mrs Wadham (9)||1||Mrs Hamilton (16)||0|
|Mrs Benson (13)||1||Mrs Wren (16)||0|
|Mrs Lawson (13)||1||Mrs Seely (21)||0|
|Mrs Williams (14)||1||Mrs Bell (22)||0|
|Miss W-Vaughan (15)||1||Mrs Galloway (28)||0|
|Mrs Blake (16)||0||Mrs Hogg (29)||1|
In 1939 things were about to change, WW2 was about to break out. The now 6,200 yard par 74 course that had developed so successfully since the move from Smallsott Hill all those years ago was under threat. There was a proposal to extend the nearby RAF aerodrome which would have a devastating effect on the Aldershot Command Golf Club and Course. The club lost nearly 50 acres of its manicured greens and fairways to the Air Ministry in 1940 with a further 30 acres being requisitioned in 1942. It left the club with just 35 acres of its much loved course.
In 1941 the much reduced fourth course came into being, just 2,210 yards with a par of 33.
Following WW2 plans were being put in to place to revitalize the club. Jesse Poulter was still the professional he was also given the additional duties of head greenkeeper. In 1946 Captain Lawrence J Torrie a former serviceman and now a well respected golf course architect offered his services to carry out alterations to the course, which he did at no cost to the club. In 1947 an exhibition match was held between leading members of the club to celebrate the opening of the much praised Torrie 9 hole course. Nine hole courses were almost the norm at this time and this had little bearing on the status of clubs, but there was always a longing for a full 18 hole course at Aldershot.
In 1953 further extensions of the 1947 Torrie course were put forward. This was to be do done in a rather curious three holes at a time until the full 18 hole course was completed.
In 1961 Jessie Parsons the long serving secretary retired after 25 years loyal service to the club although she did seem to leave under rather acrimonious circumstances. Jesse Poulter the professional who had been involved with the club since 1904 had to retire in 1962 due to ill health, he died in October 1964.
The ongoing saga of the course extension, as explained earlier, was still in progress and in 1962 the 12 hole course was opened, it was extended to 14 holes in 1965. The club finally reached its target of 18 holes in 1967, the clubs seventh course was completed. Although it was a very wet course the head greenkeeper Neville Roe worked wonders to produce first class greens, but he was always fighting against the very soggy conditions on other parts of the course.
In 1964 Roger Begbie was appointed professional and greenkeper, his wife carried out the duties of Steward a role she wasn’t suited to, they both resigned in March 1965.
In 1969 a serious fire damaged the 46 year old clubhouse although it did go on to serve the purpose for another couple or so years.
In 1972 it was announced that a new clubhouse was to be built around Berkshire Copse, the construction of the fifth clubhouse started in 1973. In 1974 the Army Golf Club came in to being and by spring 1975 the completely re-designed eighth and current course was in play.
This is only a brief snippet of a very interesting history and I would like to express my gratitude to the Army Club, particularly Lance, for his help in compiling the above information. A full account of the clubs history can be found in “On Laffan’s Plain” by N S Nash.
The Google Map below pinpoints the location of the former course at Rushmoor Bottom.