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Walsall Golf Club, Gorway. (1907 - 1930)

The club was founded in 1907.

The following is an extract from a report that appeared in the Walsall Advertiser on Saturday 27th April 1907. “The Walsall Golf Club is the title of the newest local institution for the promotion of healthy outdoor activities. The wonder is felt that this game, the sport of Prime Ministers and peasants, has not earlier found a home in this large county borough. But from information we have gleaned this week the club is effectively established, and the following gentlemen form the provisional committee; Revs A Paice and J W Dixon, F T Cozens, A W Greatrex, John Hemming, Howard Smith, Dr F Sydenham, John Wylie, H C Windle and W H South.

The original course was located at Gorway, Walsall. It opened as a 9-hole course, it was extended to 14-holes a year later.

Following WW1 the club employed Dr MacKenzie to design a new 18-hole course on the site. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, the club were informed by the local authority that it intended to construct a new ring road that would cut through the course. Following negotiations the local council offered to pay for a new course and clubhouse and this was to be constructed on the other side of the ring road.

Below is the result of a match played at Whittington Barracks on Saturday 15th October 1910. 

Whittington Barracks Golf Club   Walsall Golf Club  
A H Barnes (3&2) 1 M Micklin 0
G R Couch (3&2) 1 J Hawley 0
H S Cooper (5&3) 1 R Smith 0
E O Jarvis (7&5) 1 W Wistance 0
J Richardson 0 G Micklin (1up) 1
H H Brown 0 W Pritchard 1
Captain Stoney (6&5) 1 F L Overend 0
Captain Bonner (8&7) 1 J Farrington 0
G Birch 0 E Richman (2&1) 1
G S Bidwell 0 J Pollock 1
Lieutenant Thompson 0 F Vincent (5&3) 1
O H Sharrott (half) 0 T Bayliss (half) 0
  6   5

It was reported in the Ross-shire Journal on Friday 3rd March 1911 that J Robertson, who had been professional at Walsall Golf Club for three years, was leaving to take up a similar position at the Beauly Golf Club in the Highlands of Scotland. He was to start his duties on March 6th.

Below are competition results from June 1911.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. Competition results from June 1911.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. Competition results from June 1911.

From the Walsall Advertiser Saturday 1st July 1911. Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

 

The club championship was played on Saturday 15th June 1912, result; W H Vincent, 80-82=162; A Farrington, 83-85=168; J Pritchard, 85-87=172; L E Middleton, 85-88=173; G Nicklin, 87-87=174; F L Overend, 88-94=182. A mixed foursome was played on Thursday 20th June, result; Miss D Richards & F Stubbs , 102-29½-72½; Miss J Cozens & M H Nicklin, 89-15-74; Mrs Wells & J Tindall Bunch, 98-21-77; Miss A Lord & W H Vincent, 97-19½-77½; Miss Elliott & J A Scott, 100-25-81; Miss K Nicklin & J Pritchard, 108-23-85. 

In 1913 the secretary J Tindall Bunch, Imperial Buildings, Bridge Street, Walsall. Professional John Higgins. Entry fee at discretion of the committee, ladies £2/2/0, subs £3/3/0, ladies £1/10/0. A 15 hole course the first 3 holes were played twice. Visitors’ fees 1/- a day, 5/- a week, 10/- a month, Saturday and Competition days 2/6. Sunday play was not allowed.

Below is the result of a club match played at Whittington in March 1913. 

Whittington Barracks Golf Club   Walsall Golf Club  
A H Barnes 0 A Farrington (1up) 1
G R Couch (5&4) 1 G H Gilbert 0
Captain Dunlop (4&3) 1 W H Vincent 0
H S Cooper (2&1) 1 L Cozens 0
C B Adams (7&5) 1 W Winstance 0
J L Ritchie 0 G Hawley (2&1) 1
Rev E R Day 0 G Nicklin (6&4) 1
O H Sharrott 0 L B Pollock (6&5) 1
  4   4

Below is the result of a match against Perry Hall Golf Club (now defunct) played in May 1913.

Walsall Golf Club   Perry Hall Golf Club  
W H Vincent 0 R M Hills 1
G Nicklin 0 D Hills 1
F W Blackburn 0 D R Taunton 1
A G Frith  0 A Turnell 1
J A Scott 0 F H Davies 1
J T Bunch 0 H C Quirke 1
J Sandison 1 E Wood-White 0
H W Shipley 1 M H Hills 0
T E Thompson 1 L Holland 0
E J Parkes 1 A Avent 0
B Gilbert, jun. 1 F Taylor 0
  5   6

Below is the return match at Perry Hall in July 1913.

Perry Hall Golf Club   Walsall Golf Club  
S W Forbes (half) 0 M H Nicklin (half) 0
R M Hills 0 J R Boak 1
H Johnson 1 G Nicklin 0
D Hills 1 F W Blackburn 0
H C Quirke 0 R B Pollock 1
F H Davies 1 A G Frith 0
P Waltho 0 S Mith 1
M H Hills 1 J Pritchard 0
L Holland 0 B Gilbert, jun. 1
C M Clive 1 F Bayliss 0
E A Edwards 0 F E Thompson 1
  5   5

Result of the 1914 February Monthly medal; Division 1 – W A Winstance, 87-9-78; F L Overend, 100-13-87; Division 2 – B H Make peace, 87-16-71; F W Sydenham, 95-17-78.  

Below is the result of a match played at Walsall against Shifnal in May 1914. 

Walsall Golf Club   Shifnal Golf Club  
G B Gooding 1 A Lander 0
J R Boak 1 J R Phillips 0
B Gilbert junior 1 H Edge 0
G Nicklin 1 G P H Godfrey 0
H W Shipley 1 G F Gader 0
W H Fox 1 L Owen 0
J T Bunch 1 G Greene 0
J Pritchard 1 F Thompson 0
  8   0

Below is the result of a ladies' match played at Walsall against Dudley in May 1914.

Walsall Ladies' Golf Club   Dudley Ladies' Golf Club  
Miss L Richards 1 Mrs Pearson 0
Miss D W Smith 1 Mrs Grainger 0
Miss Isobel Cozens 0 Miss M Thompson 1
Miss E W Smith 1 Mrs Newey 0
Miss F Lord 0 Miss F Thompson 1
Mrs F J Cotterell (half) 0 Miss Nicholls (half) 0
Miss Lord (half) 0 Mrs Helliwell (half) 0
  3   2

Below is a result of a match played in May 1914 against Perry Hall Golf Club.

Walsall Golf Club   Perry Hall Golf Club  
G B Gooding 1 B Hills 0
N H Nicklin 1 W Johnston 0
J R Boak (halved) 0 D B Taunton (halved) 0
G Nicklin 1 N Coenig 0
B Gilbert, jun. 1 A Turner 0
J A Scott 1 Dr. Quirke 0
F W Blackburn 0 Dr. F Davies 1
H W Shipley 1 Dr. E Wood 0
J Pritchard 1 W H Hills 0
F H Cotterell 1 L Holland 0
F W Sydenham 0 Rev. Chatworthy 1
J E Stretton 0 P Waltho 1
  8   3

Following information courtesy of "The PGA Remembers" project - John Higgins; Elected PGA Member 1911. Midland Section; Walsall Golf Club, Staffordshire 1912-1917; Regiment - Lance Corporal 8th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Service Number 38504; Died - Killed in action 28th October 1918  Age 28; Buried - Tezze British Cemetery. Ref: Plot 3. Row A. Grave 3; Notes - Originally from Bridge-of-Weir, Scotland John Higgins was appointed professional at Walsall Golf Club in 1912. He got married and enlisted in the Yorkshire Light Infantry about the same time. Lance Corporal Higgins fell in action in October 1918.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. Professional John Higgins killed in action October 28th 1918.

Birmingham Mail Saturday 30th November 1918. Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

 

In November 1918 Mr J Kenyon-Jones, club captain, presented a picture of the Walsall Golf House to the club, he also intended to present a trophy for competition.

I would like to thank Neil Crafter of the Alister MacKenzie Society UK for allowing us to use his article regarding the involvement of Dr MacKenzie at both courses, below.

"Just prior to the outbreak of World War I, plans were in hand to expand the course to 18-holes, but the war forced these plans to be abandoned. As happened at many British courses, five holes were given over for agricultural purposes during the war, and following the armistice, plans were afoot to bring back these five disused holes and to finally implement the expansion plans.

In November of 1919, the club determined that, “the Greens Committee be empowered to call in Dr MacKenzie or any other expert they thought fit to give a report and plan for a new course and the alterations to the Club House should be included in the scheme.” MacKenzie was the architect they selected, from the newly formed Colt, MacKenzie and Alison partnership, and he visited Walsall late in 1919 to inspect the course and the new land. By January 1920 the committee had his report and plan in hand for consideration at their monthly meeting:

“The Secretary gave a resume of what the alterations meant: Taking over the 2 ploughed fields from Mr Taylor, also field beyond the old 9th and 10th. Cutting down hedges. Altering No.2 green. Laying 9 new Greens. Seeding down fairway in front of Greens No.8, 12, 13, 16. Treatment of field beyond old 9th and 10th. Purchase of a Mole drainer and turf cutter combined.”

The club agreed to MacKenzie’s estimate of the cost of the new scheme at £2,000, and in February he wrote to the club suggesting they engage the firm’s preferred contractors Franks Harris Bros. to construct the course, who would supply “all the necessary tools etc., at a charge of 10% of the cost.” The club then engaged Franks Harris to undertake the work, which proceeded slowly due to the difficult nature of the clay soil and the need to install many yards of drainage pipe. Work continued into 1921, and finally the course was officially opened for play on 10 May that year. The club’s 1925 official handbook described the new course:

“The Links are undulating and form a large circle; this formation gives, as regards the wind, a variety of play which is a welcome change from the play on some of the in-and-out courses,”while “every hole has some characteristic distinction.”

While the club would have been forgiven for believing that the turmoil of the war and the extension of its course to 18-holes was behind them, more was to come early in 1923 in the form of a threat to the course from a ring road that the Walsall Town Council was planning. Part of the route for the new road would take it through the middle of the golf course, which the council was willing to compulsorily acquire. It took some years of negotiation for a deal to be struck between the club and the council, and when the arrangements were finally settled on 4 October 1927, the Council had agreed to pay for a new course to be constructed close-by, leasing the land to the club on favourable terms and providing £2,750 for the cost of erecting a new clubhouse. While the new course was being constructed, the existing course would remain in play for the use of members.

Clearly satisfied with the course that MacKenzie had laid out for them just after the war, the club again arranged for him to design their new course, this time with a difference, as the Council were to be paying his fees. A small article in the ‘Staffordshire Advertiser’ on 10 December 1927 noted that work had commenced:

“this week on the new golf course which is to be laid out by the Town Council to compensate the local golf club for the loss of their existing course, which has been acquired by the Corporation in connection with the making of the final section of the Great Ring Road….The old course had to be acquired as the making of the new road necessitates cutting through the present Walsall golf course. We learn that Dr Mackenzie, of Leeds, the well-known golf architect has been engaged to design a new 18-hole course, complete with bunkers and greens, and a new golf club house is also to be built.”

It is known that MacKenzie visited Walsall on 5 January 1928, shortly before leaving for a two-month working trip to the United States, and he likely visited Walsall late in 1927 prior to this visit. MacKenzie’s routing for the new course contained a small link with his old course, as two of the existing holes were able to be retained in the new layout, necessitating fully 16 new holes. The club stuck closely to MacKenzie’s plan, even asking the Borough Surveyor to personally stake out the position and length of the holes according to the plan.

In January 1929, MacKenzie again visited Walsall to check on construction of the new course, and reported back to the club that he was “satisfied with its state and the progress of the work.” Most of the work was complete by July, while the club was split over whether to begin playing over the newly completed holes as they became ready, or wait until all the holes were ready. Fourteen holes were still in play on the old course before roadworks were commenced, with turf from the disused holes being cut and relaid on some of the new holes.

The club decided in October 1929 to write to MacKenzie and ask him to visit the course again and inspect the newly completed 1st and 18th holes, but as MacKenzie was effectively living in America by this time and was about to embark on a long trip to Argentina, he did not return to England until late April 1930. By this time golf had been played over the new Walsall course for a month, as its official opening had already taken place on 25 March. Shortly after his return from South America, MacKenzie was finally able to visit Walsall to see the completed course on 3 June 1930 and reported that he was well satisfied with it.

However, it would seem that there was some dispute between MacKenzie and the Town Council that prevented full payment of his fees. After MacKenzie's death in 1934, his estate claimed some $505.50 owing from the County Borough of Walsall in unpaid fees, which was eventually paid."

Result of the Rose Bowls competition played in June 1920; Miss D Smith and W H Vincent, 2down; Mrs F J Cotterell and A G Frith, 4down; Miss G W Smith and R J Smith, 4down; Mrs R Bunch and F E Thompson, 6down; Mrs Wells and B Gilbert, 7down; Mrs F E Thompson and J R Boak, 8down; Mrs B Fenton and B Fenton, 9down.

In June 1925 the winner of the captain's prize was J E Marshall (10,) 2up; runner-up F W Blackburn (6,) all square. 

Result of the ladies' monthly medal for August 1925; Division 1 - Mrs J E Pardew, 84-14-70; Division 2 - Mrs R Jefferies, 106-34-72.

Result of the four ball foursomes played at the autumn meeting in September 1925; F W Blackburn and W W Skipley, 6up; J R Boak and R Jeffries, and W W Huntley and C B Pugh, 5up; A Schofield and J A Hewson, and J F Cooke and A F Leighton, 4up; J T Bunch and W G Francombe, 3up; W H Atkins and P Cozens, 2up; G Allen and G Orton, 1up.

Archie Compston on view at Walsall in May 1926.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. Archie Compston plays in an exhibition match in May 1926.

Birmingham Daily Gazette Monday 31st May 1926. With thanks to Trinity Mirror. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

 

Dr Alister MacKenzie to layout the new course.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. Report on the new course in December 1927.

Staffordshire Advertiser Saturday 10th December 1927.

 

In June 1929 Dr. Annie Anderson holed in one at the  twelfth.

The new course designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie opened in 1930.

The former course can bee seen on the 1926 Britain from Above image below.

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway, Walsall. The former Walsall golf course on "Britain from Above."

 

 

Walsall Golf Club, Gorway. Location of the former Walsall course.

Map showing the former Walsall course. The portion to the East, alongside Birmingham Road, was probably the original six hole course. Grid reference SP02380,97160, co-ordinates 402380,297160.