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Ilkley Golf Club, Rombalds Moor. (1890 - 1902)

Founded in 1890.

Ilkley Golf Club played their first golf on a 9-hole course on Rombalds Moor. The bogey score for the course was 40, the hazards were mainly natural and consisted of stone walls, ravines, streams, bracken etc. 

Ilkley Golf Club continued to play at Rombalds Moor  until the early 1900s when the club made a permanent move to its current location beside the River Wharfe. The new course had opened in 1898 but it's likely that the club continued to play on both courses for a short time. 

Early professionals at the Ilkley Golf Club; George Kay, 1890-1892; T P Waggott, 1892/93; Tom Vardon, 1893-1900; Douglas McEwan, 1900-1903. 

The following is taken from the Leeds Mercury 6th December 1890. It gives an excellent insight into the reporting style of the time, and into the newly introduced game of golf in the early 1890s.

Golf, like many other Scottish institutions, seems to have taken a firm hold in this country, and the Ilkley Club is only one of many similar bodies which have been formed in the last year or two in England. It was, I believe, in June last that this club first saw light, and the progress it has made is sufficiently shown by the fact that its members now number over 100. Yesterday I visited Ilkley for the purpose of gaining what information I could about the club and the game. On reaching Ilkley I was informed that the links lay just above Wells House, and on getting there I observed a boy knocking a golf ball about with a golf club on the tennis lawn of that establishment. He told me that those were the headquarters of the Golf Club, and that the professional was on the links just up the road. Thither I accordingly went, and though I saw no professional, there were unmistakable signs of the links, in the shape of a flagstaff stuck into a hole in the centre of a smooth piece of grass, which was strangely in contrast with the surrounding moorland, and close by, on a somewhat similar stretch of turf, a red box containing a small quantity of clay. Thirsting to understand the meaning of these enigmatical signs, I asked some men working near for the professional, and was told to go further on. Following there directions, I passed several similarly adorned and leveled spots, until I came to a stile over a wall, by which was placed a board warning trespassers off the ground of the Golf Club. Spite of this, or rather because of it, I passed over and was rewarded by seeing ahead of me a man with several golf clubs in his hand, which he occasionally laid down, and, selecting one from the number, with it smote a small white ball towards one of the mysterious flagstaffs. I caught him up at last, and, on explaining the object of my visit, was very courteously received, and what follows is culled from the information I obtained from George Kay, the Ilkley club professional. Kay is a thorough Scotchman, and an enthusiast of the game. I followed him while he played two holes, and then we walked down together to the clubhouse, discoursing all the while on the game.

The basics of the game from tee to green, and the rules of the time, are then covered at length. The article then goes on to describe the layout of the original course, as follows; At present the Ilkley course consists of nine holes, and the distance between each vary considerably. Thus from the first teeing ground to the first hole is 340 yards, from just above the Wells House, in a westerly direction, across the Keighley Road. The second distance is 375 yards in the course of which the wall has to be crossed. The third is 300 yards in the same direction, while the fourth turns up the hill, and is only 115 yards. The fifth is 175 yards in the reverse direction of the first three; the sixth 220 yards the same way. The seventh distance at present goes back 215 yards, and then the wall is re-crossed for the eighth 380 yards while the ninth, and last, is no less than 345? Yards. The present seventh and eighth are temporary, they will ultimately be more up the hill. The course lies along moorland for the most part, and it is advisable to wear strong boots, as bits of marsh are constantly encountered, though much has been done in draining. Indeed, considering the short time, the work already done is marvelous. The balls cost one shilling (5p) each. The number of clubs used depends on the kind of ground. Thus, at Ilkley, the niblick for sand bunkers would not be required. The clubs cost about 5s/6d (28p), at present many members confine themselves to four; the driver, the brassie, the mashie and the putter; but it is advisable to also have the cleek and iron. The amount paid to cadiies is 6d for nine holes. Today a handicap competition is to be played, and a good turnout is expected. The club has the disadvantage of having hardly any old players of the game. This means that all the teaching must be done by the professional; and it is, of course, impossible for him to be everywhere at once. He also led me to believe that, members occasionally preferred following their own sweet wills to obeying his instructions; but, he added, “they generally find out that it would have been better to take my advice” There is a ggod golf club at Middlesbrough; but I believe that the Ilkley one is the only one in this part of the county. Considering the progress it has made, it is hoped that others may be formed.

The first monthly medal for the Ilkley Club took place on the last Saturday in February 1891. Forty players entered, the winner was Alfred Potter with a score of 111. The club had 125 subscribing members, with a considerable increase expected. A number of competition s had already been arranged for the coming season.


Ilkley Golf Club, Rombalds Moor. At the earlier course in 1892.

From The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News January 30th 1892. Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.


The above caption reads; (1) The links from the fourth hole; (2) Mr Percy N Lee, Hon. Sec; (3) The Club-room; (4) The seventh teeing ground; (5) The secretary in a “bunker” at the Brook.  

On April 17th 1895 Tom Vardon, the Ilkley professional, playing with Mr Hollis, set a new course record of 71. Scores as follows; Out 5,5,4,4,5,3,2,4,5 =37, In 4,4,3,5,4,3,4,3,4 =34.

Result of the monthly medal played on 27th April 1895; W H Scott, 91-14-77; W M Barwick, 89-10-79; S M Yoxall, 87-8-79; J Cooper Shaw, 86-5-81; G H Briggs, 100-18-82; H Russell Smith, 94-10-84; H B Macarthy, 90-5-85; P N Lee, 92-5-87; Rev G S Frodsham, 100-10-90; J Hollis, 110-10-91; J C Sykes, 115-22-93.

The ladies’ monthly medal was played on Thursday 8th September 1898 and was won by Miss Pfungst with a net score of 79, Mrs Carpenter was runner-up with net 86. 

The new course of the Ilkley Golf Club was opened with a 36-hole match between Harry and Tom Vardon in November 1898.

Report on the annual meeting in July 1899.


Ilkley Golf Club, Rombalds Moor. Report on the annual meeting in July 1899.

Leeds Mercury Monday 31st July 1899. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


At the New Inn, Ilkley, in October 1900 T Vardon the professional of the Ilkley club, was presented with a silver cigarette case by "several friends." Vardon was moving to take the professional job at Sandwich, Kent. 

The Christmas Cup competition in 1900 was won by R L Barwick, 88-15-73.

Ilkley Moor Golf Club eventually moved on to Rombalds Moor in the early 1900s.

Below is a report on the club and new course in 1902.


Ilkley Golf Club, Rombalds Moor. Report on the club and new course in January 1902.


Ilkley Golf Club, Rombalds Moor. Report on the club and new course in January 1902.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News Saturday 18th January 1902. Image © Illustrated London News Group.