1912 – 1914
In November 1911 a decision was made by a few local gentlemen to form a golf club in Worksop. Previously, golfers had had to rely on the Duke of Portland’s private course at Welbeck, which had been in existence since 1902 or Lindrick Golf Club which had been opened a few years earlier in 1891 when it was called the Sheffield and District Golf Club. Some 36 acres of land, to the north of Mansfield Road between Lodge Farm Lane and the fork in the road leading to Mansfield on the left and Chesterfield on the right, were leased for 3 years from the owner Mr. A Rushworth of Harrogate with an option to lease a further 25 acres to make a full 18 holes. A 1877-yard 9-hole course, offering beautiful views over the countryside where three counties converge, was designed and laid out by the Committee with help from Mr A Murray, the groundsman at Welbeck. In the absence of the Duke of Portland, the opening ceremony was performed on Tuesday 1st May 1912 by Mr. C A Longbottom, Mr Longbottom was well supported by the Committee and members, who numbered 70 at this time, including a small number of ladies, who, it was reported, had taken to golf with great zest. Mr. Longbottom believed the new course “satisfied a long felt need in the town”.
1914 – 1924
After two years a decision was made to vacate the Mansfield Road site and construct a new links on land near St Cuthbert’s (Worksop) College. Tom Williamson, the professional at the Notts Golf Club (Hollinwell), was engaged to design a 2850-yard 9 hole golf course on 58.9 acres of land to the north of Windmill Lane. Williamson was a top golfer of his day, good enough to play with the great triumvirate of Vardon, Taylor and Braid in an exhibition match at Lindrick in 1905. He was made an honorary member of Worksop Golf Club in 1921 and remained so until his death in 1950. In his report Williamson wrote “the land was undulating and sporting with dry, sandy soil, that the air was fresh and pure and the view delightful”. The land was owned by the Duke of Newcastle of Clumber Park and the following is an extract from the Newcastle Manuscripts relating to its lease:
A further 9 holes were added and the resulting Par-70, 5295-yard 18 hole course was officially opened on 31st May 1924, again by Mr. C A Longbottom, who by now was Chairman of Directors, this time deputising for the President, the Duke of Newcastle. To commemorate the occasion a match was played between the Captain ( T E Baines)/ Vice Captain (C H Dimblebee) and the Chairman of Directors (C A Longbottom)/ professional (H J Large – pro from 1924-27). Afterwards the members played foursomes and, in the evening, the gentlemen played a singles match against the ladies. In the various speeches made, praise was given to the professional who had done so much work on the extra holes for which he was awarded a bonus of £10.00.
The golf correspondent of the Nottingham Guardian Journal was moved to write “The Worksop course, although not long, demands accurate hitting as many of the holes are bounded by out of bounds hedges. It is a most friendly club, officials make every effort to ensure that visitors have an enjoyable day both on and off the course and they are always happy to welcome Nottingham golfers.” A statement that still holds true over 90 years later. Membership in 1924 totalled 219, including 113 gentlemen and 73 ladies. In 1925 they paid a fee of 4 guineas and 2 guineas respectively. Country membership was permitted for those living 8-14 miles away and Special Country Membership for those living more than 14 miles from the clubhouse.
A new lease for the increased acreage, now totalling 83, was negotiated with the Duke of Newcastle on the same terms as the original lease although the lease was to be bought out on 3rd May 1948 for a price of £4,000 or £32 an acre. By any standards an inspired buy by the Directors and Committee of the day. The Duke of Newcastle was succeeded by his nephew the Earl of Lincoln as President of the club in 1927 in which capacity he served until 1963.
A new clubhouse, to replace the wooden pavilion first built in 1914, was officially opened by C A Longbottom on 26th March 1927 financed by a 15 year loan of £1250 from the Duke of Newcastle with the remaining £250-00 raised by donations (C A Longbottom started the ball rolling by giving £50).
In 1970 the first major alteration in 44 years was made to the course following the purchase of land for the nominal sum of £109 in 1968. The extra land increased the acreage to 162 and made it possible to construct 4 new holes – currently the 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th. These holes are surely amongst the most picturesque, interesting and difficult holes in the County. The overall yardage was increased from 5,295 to 6,651 yards and the par from 70 to 72.
In 1983, two new holes were created on land to the right of the 4th which had previously been out of bounds on that hole. These new holes are now the 5th and 6th. The 6th has proved a popular hole, a par 5 that can be reached in two shots by even moderate golfers with the prevailing west wind behind. Not so the 5th which was never popular. This short dog leg with a plateau green on which it was very difficult to stop the ball and frequently susceptible to flooding was not typical of Worksop greens. Plans were drawn up to build a new green and an area of gorse was cleared for this purpose but, in an unprecedented move, the membership called an Extraordinary General Meeting (the first and only one in the history of the club) at which the plan was rejected. Eventually, with input from golf architect Donald Steel and new club professional John King, a new plan was drawn up and implemented in 1995. Other significant alterations to the course at this time included the removal of the ‘hill’ on the 18th which previously had obscured the view of the green from the tee; another was the much needed re-make of the first tee at the expense of half the putting green, but the sacrifice was well worth it.
The miner’s strike of 1984 ultimately led to the closure of Manton Pit in 1994, the long time source of the water for irrigating the greens. A new source had to be found. The rock underlying the course is a natural aquifer from which all Worksop draws its water supply. This rock is called the Bunter Pebble Beds, dating back to the deserts of the Triassic Period some 180 million years ago. It is soft, red, porous sandstone which gives the course its naturally free draining properties, a real asset in allowing golf to be played 365 days a year – it also throws up pebbles in bunkers, but this disadvantage is far outweighed by the advantages. A bore hole to tap into the water table and a pump to bring it to the surface was quickly completed and now supplies all the irrigation water the course needs.
The final solution to the problem of the 5th green was made in 1995 when it was totally rebuilt using the free draining sandy soil for which Worksop is renowned. The natural slope into which it is built had always seemed to lend itself to a ‘McKenzie’ or terraced construction and when the green staff completed it the members found there to be 3 such levels. Bunkers were added left and right and the fairway bunker removed from the middle to the edge of the fairway.
Acknowledgements: A Fisher, John Fletcher M.B.E and David Caseldine
Reference: The History of Worksop Golf Club 1914-2014 (copies available on request)