Early Years of the Club
Queen Victoria was on the throne and Gladstone was Prime Minister, when the first steps were taken to form Weston-super-Mare Golf Club. The first recorded evidence of the formation is in the proceedings of a public meeting held at the Grand Atlantic Hotel on 4th July 1892. At that meeting the Chairman, who was Sir Richard Paget (Member of Parliament for the Wells Division), said in his opening remarks that he had no doubt that a Golf Club would be of general advantage to Weston - at Burnham-on-Sea such a Club had been eminently successful. He advised that land owned by Mr R B Graves-Knyfton had been inspected and would prove admirably suited for the links. The report written by Tom Dunne, a man of great experience in laying out links, who had planned some 30 links in various parts of the country during the previous 6 months (among the Courses he was responsible for were Ganton, Saunton and Deal), quotes "that on the land situated between the Royal Sanatorium and Slimridge Farm, a Golf Link may be formed second to none in the world. There are a number of natural hazards and the turf throughout is of excellent quality. The Ladies links will, when several hazards have been made, form a good Course also.
Sir Richard Paget was elected to be the first President of the Club but he took no part in the Club's affairs. Dr C P Crouch was elected Honorary Secretary to the new Club, assisted by Mr W S Bennett, who was elected Treasurer. The first Committee was subsequently elected and sixteen gentlemen who agreed to act as guarantors, were appointed Vice Presidents.
It was decided that the annual subscription should be one guinea without entrance fee, but that after the first 150 members had joined, the entrance fee of one guinea would be charged. The Ladies were expected to pay an annual subscription of fifteen shillings. In those days the estimated cost for a set of clubs was 22 shillings for Men and 9 shillings Ladies.
At this time, very little was known about the game of golf in the district, but at a meeting of the Committee on 25 July 1892, it was reported that 140 Ladies and Gentlemen had joined the Club attracting an annual income of £100.
The question of providing a separate links for the ladies presented unexpected difficulties, and a proposal to allow the ladies to play over the men's Course was heavily defeated. It was unanimously agreed that they should have a links "perfectly separate from the men's". A ladies links was therefore prepared on the ground which today occupies the 12th and 18th holes.
The problem of providing Club premises was solved when a suitable house was found at 24 Moorland Road, at a rental of £20 per year. Of this sum, £12 was to be paid by the Pro for the top floor and his wife would provide teas and refreshments for the members.
The first golf was played on the Course on 1st August 1892. As it was regarded that most members would be away on holidays in August and September, the official opening was delayed until 24th September 1892.
Even before the official opening of the Club, the Committee was encountering the problem of expense and there was much discussion of "upkeep costs" and whether it would be beneficial to reduce the expenses by converting to nine holes giving much better sport than the old 18. At the same time, visitors' fees were fixed at 1shilling per day.
The first local rule appeared in the local Mercury, when advertising for young caddies:
"That in the case of thistles obstructing the iron, such thistles may be cut down, providing the ball is not moved." This was quite a concession in those days, as the most sacrosanct of the rules of golf were that "The ball shall be played as it lies."
Problems experienced by the Committee in the beginning were very little different from today's challenges; one of the greatest was the encroachment of sand on the greens and teeing areas. However, the Committee at the time reported with supreme optimism that they were fairly confident of remedying this evil!
In spite of very heavy initial expenses in the first year, the first Balance Sheet showed a small deficit of £8 3s 4d owing to the Treasurer - poor Treasurer! It would seem he had to act as banker to the Club! By the time of the second Annual General Meeting, the Treasurer had recovered his money and the Club reported a surplus of £7 2s.
By far the most important happening for the Club, was in 1896 when it was agreed to convert the present nine hole Course into an eighteen hole Course and to borrow the sum of £100 for this purpose. This resolution was accompanied by another which empowered the Committee to obtain a Lease of the links under the most suitable terms, which was eventually successful on a five year Lease. Previously the land had been rented from tenant farmers. From 1900 onwards there were continuous negotiations for a new and longer Lease to give the Club some security and despite considerable difficulties initially, a Lease was finally granted in 1902 for a 21 year period, with an annual rent of £124.
About this time the desire for a proper Clubhouse increased and with the pressure of a growing membership and the security offered by the 21 year lease, a decision was made to build a Clubhouse on the Course. The building was erected at the north-west corner of the links on the site which had been the 18th Green. The official opening of the Clubhouse was held Thursday 13 April 1905 and a special competition
with neighbouring Clubs marked the occasion perfectly.
The Club was to be congratulated by the local and golfing press on its achievement in providing such an amenity for its members and in every respect was admired.
Late 1905 the Club took another significant step in appointing a full time paid Secretary, Mr Bob Riddell. This was significant in that this was the first time a paid Secretary had been appointed to any golf club in England, and Mr Riddell remained in office for forty years. To this day, his lengthy service record has not been beaten.
During the following years many changes took place to the layout ofthe original Course and in 1922 the Course was altered and modernised
at a cost of £1,000 by Dr Alister MacKenzie, one of the great Golf Course
architects, and is very much the Course we know today. MacKenzie famously
designed Fulford, Moortown and Royal St Georges in the UK and Pebble beach
and Augusta National in the US. He was born in Yorkshire
in 1870 and died in California
The MacKenzie features for an ideal Golf Course:
Should be arranged in two loops of 9 holes to create different wind conditions throughout the round
Should have a mix of long par fours, drive and pitch holes and at least four par threes to create variety in the type of shots during any round
The Greens and Fairways should be undulating, without steep hills for the golfer to climb
There should be a minimum of blind approach shots
The emphasis should be placed on natural beauty, not on artificial features
There is always an alternative route for the weaker player, yet a sufficient test for the plus-handicap player
There should be a complete absence of the annoyance caused by searching for lost balls
MacKenzie tried to create excitement in a round, but he always provided options for every class of golfer and always gave you a chance to recover after a missed shot. He welcomed those who embraced golf with a spirit of adventure.
The excerpt regarding the history of the Club is taken from the Centenary Book written and compiled by the late Maurie Exton. Books are available for purchase upon request.
The upper part of the shield is divided vertically into two. The left hand section shows a white or silver castle, with three towers on a black field, based on the expression used of Weston-super-Mare "fair white city by the Severn Sea".
The right-hand section shows "the sun in its splendour". The red sun setting against a golden or yellow field refers to the exceptionally beautiful sunsets over the sea.
In the lower part of the shield is an ancient galley coloured red on a white field alluding to the maritime trading in bygone days of the old port of Hubba's Pill (now Uphill).
The crest which typifies a seaside resort, consists of a lighthouse standing upon a rock with a seagull in the natural colours, flying in front of it. This refers also to a distinguishing characteristic of Flat Holm, one of the two small islands which form a prominent feature of Weston Bay.
The supporters on either side of the shield are, on the left a blue lion with its head turned facing the viewer, and with a golden collar around its neck, from which depends by a golden chain, a red shield charged with a white or silver chevron between three golden clarions - the Arms of the Arthur family.
The supporter on the right hand side is a white or silver wolf with a red collar from which hangs by a golden chain a black shield, charged with a bar with ermine spots of black - the Arms of the Winter family. The lion is from the crest of the Symth family, and the wolf from the crest of the Piggott family, representing the association of the Smyth-Piggott family as lords of the manor since 1696. The Arthur and Winter shields denote prior lords from 1216.