Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club and Stinchcombe Hill Ladies’ Club
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
See the Differences between The Course in 1914 and The Course today. The 3rd was a short hole, just over the brow and would have been a blind (exciting) approach , the top end of the course was completely different, the 10th green is now under nettles and scrub the far side of the track by the mounting stone and the lower 14th green and 15th tee have been completely lost to the encroachment of trees.
A little of the History of Golf
Golf originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland, in an area close to the royal capital of Edinburgh. In those early days players would attempt to hit a pebble over sand dunes and around tracks using a bent stick or club.
During the 15th century, Scotland prepared to defend itself, yet again, against an invasion by the ‘Auld Enemy’. The nation’s enthusiastic pursuit of golf however, led many to neglect their military training, so much so that the Scottish parliament of King James II banned the sport in 1457. Although people largely ignored the ban, it was only in 1502 that the game gained the royal seal of approval when King James IV of Scotland (1473 -1513) became the world’s first golfing monarch.
The popularity of the game quickly spread throughout 16th century Europe thanks to this royal endorsement. King Charles I brought the game to England and Mary Queen of Scots introduced the game to France when she studied there; the term ‘caddie’ derives from the name for her French military aides, known as cadets.
The first Golf Clubs
Royal Blackheath was the first golf club formed outside Scotland was the formally instituted in 1608. The game being brought to London by James VI of Scotland. However the first real golf “club” was The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers which was formed in 1744 and played at Leith Links. They also established the first known “Rules of Golf”. The first ever 18-hole game was at St Andrews in 1764, establishing the now recognised standard for the game. The Course then was 10 holes, of which the middle 8 holes were played twice making a round of 18 holes. The first 18 hole course in the world, was not until 1857 at the St Andrews Old course.
The Open Competition
Royal Blackheath is also the home to the oldest “Open” competition in the world. The Club created the concept of an ‘Open’ competition with the introduction of its Boys Open Medal in 1847. The first official “Open” Championship tee shot was struck 13 years later in 1860 at the Prestwick Golf Club.
Golf spreads across the world
During the 19th century as the might of the British Empire expanded to encompass the globe, so golf followed closely behind. The first golf club outside Britain was the Bangalore, India (1820). Others quickly followed included the Royal Curragh, Ireland (1856), the Adelaide (1870), Royal Montreal (1873), Cape Town (1885), St Andrew’s of New York (1888) and Royal Hong Kong (1889).
And at home
Likewise, there was a large growth of the game in England towards the end of the 1800’s with many new courses opening up as the “Middle” class grew. Equipment became cheaper and in the 1880s the dimpled ball first appeared. In 1888 the Open Championship was held at St Andrews and the winner, Jack Burns, won £8.
Stinchcombe Hill was formed in 1889 is one of the oldest in Gloucestershire.
The Gloucestershire Golf Union was formed in 1906 when the following clubs attended a meeting:
- Cheltenham (Formed 1891)
- Minchinhampton, (Formed 1889)
- Gloucester, (Formed 1896)
- Rodway Hill, (Formed 1899)
- Stinchcombe Hill, (Formed 1889)
- Henbury, (Formed 1891)
- Sapperton Park (to become Cirencester), (Formed 1893)
- Clifton Downs, (Formed 1895)
- Wotton-under-Edge, (Formed 1903)
- Churchdown (Formed 1900)
- Cotswold Hills. (Formed 1902)
Stinchcombe starts with a Band of Enthusiasts
In the Autumn of 1889 a small band of some 50 enthusiasts led by W. Lloyd Brown and Miss G. Osborne resolved to introduce the Royal and ancient game to Stinchcombe Hill and Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club was duly constituted on 13th October 1889. . The original 50 members had helped to finance the club by taking out debentures on which they were paid interest annually and two of which were redeemed by ballot at every AGM.
However, they found that rank grass and indigenous shrubs presented not the least of many problems they had to tackle. The Hill consisted mainly of uncultivated scrub bush controlled only by the south westerly winds which blew across its slopes and the sheep which foraged for what food they could find. Only the southern end of the hill known as The Park was clear and it was here that the people of Dursley gathered from time-to-time for sporting and social events.
Early records show that in the spate of preparatory work, woman members were as enthusiastic as the men. Whether or not they felt they were suitably rewarded when the committee decreed that the women should have nine holes in entirely to themselves is not recorded. At any rate the course, which was initially nine holes. With separate tees for the men and ladies, was laid out by Arthur Hoare, and Herbert Goldingham who was the Founder Secretary of the Club and who continued in that post for almost 21 years. Arthur Hoare was to become the Club’s first Captain. It was opened for play on Wednesday, 27th November in 1889.
Even less than a year after starting the social impact of golf had made itself felt in the area. As this report shows from the Gloucestershire Chronicle on 31st May 1890 (click on image to enlarge)
STINCHCOMBE HILL GOLF CLUB. Although the game of golf has been only quite recently established on Stinchcombe Hill, it seems to have now become a considerable factor in the social life of the district which surrounds the hill. The recent open meeting was decided success, and attracted golfers from all parts. Thanks to the exertions of the committee a very creditable prize list had been formed, at the head of which was the handsome “Owlpen” Challenge Prize for the best gross score, kindly given by Col. and Mrs. Trent- Stoughton. The green was in excellent order, and thanks to the owners and tenants of the grazing rights on the bill a very fair golfing course is obtained.
The Early Years
During the early years the Club grew rapidly and by 1892 the membership had doubled from the original 50. Interestingly, it was split more or less 50/50, 52 men to 48 women. The course, which ran through the scrub, was pretty rough and four years after the formation of the club a greenkeeper was appointed. In 1898 the rifle rifle range on Stinchcombe Hill was closed and a full 18 hole course was laid in 1906 out instead of the original 9 hole.
An idea of the difficulty of the course, can be gained from reports in The Gazette and The Field, of horrendous medal scores. C.A. Gillanders held the Amateur course record at 85 and when international star, Horace Hutchinson, playing off a handicap of +6 visited the club just before the turn of the century, and he finished up with a net 90.
The image above shows the Natural Hazards between the 14th and 15th Holes. On today’s course the layout has changed and the drop down to the lower green no longer exists and is covered in trees. The image below shows the drop down to the lower 14th green from the tee.
As the game continued to grow in popularity and improvements were made to the course, Stinchcombe became a popular golf club. In the 1939 Jubilee Souvenir Program it quoted a 1910 article, “Fine views do not give definitive character to a game of golf. What the golfer generally considers first is the quality of the turf, and the quality of the turf at Stinchcombe is of a very high class indeed.“
Two early cuttings from a local paper
Sometimes early golfers had to contend with other hazards apart from the rough! From the Gloucestershire Chronicle 4th October 1890 (click on image to enlarge)
The autumn meeting of this Club was opened most auspiciously on the 23rd. As early golfers climbed the Hill their ears were greeted by sounds sweet to all true sportsmen though assuredly inappropriate to golf, and on gaining the table-land the lifting mist of revealed the green in possession of the Berkeley Hounds, and for the next-half hour golfers, whether on foot, mounted, or driving, joined in the fun. So little was known about golf here less than a year ago that a well-known hunting man was heard to give as his reason for not joining the newly-formed Club “that it was bound to come to grief, as one could never reckon on the ice in this part of England!” Mais Nous avons changé tout cela; the red jacket of the golfer has been found upon occasion to be equally good wearing the statelier pink, and many members of the neighbouring hunts have now become Masters of the art of placing their balls “far and sure.” The sportsmanlike recognition of a sister sport by the field was much appreciated by the Club who could not but admire the care with which the caution “Ware Golf!” was observed, not a single green having been damaged, although the doublings of the juvenile Pug in Vizard’s coverts led the merry chase several times up and down the whole length of the course, a state of things which will compare very favourably with what has occurred more than once at perhaps too popular meet in a neighbouring county.
Then of course there is always the English weather! From the Stroud News & Glos Advertiser 3rd July 1891 (click on the image to enlarge)
As our French neighbours have it, the English climate is always asserting itself, and July opened badly for golfers with torrents of rain; nothing daunted, however, several of the more energetic players made their way to Stinchcombe Hill to enter for the monthly handicap, and to do battle for the medals, but of these only five were found sufficiently amphibious to complete the whole round. Mr A. Hoare secured the senior prize, making the very creditable gross score of 94, which we hope is an indication that he has now completely recovered from the nasty accident which for the last few months have prevented his playing up to his usual form. Mr Lynch-Blosse carried off the junior trophy, but the ladies handicap did not fill, and the competition has accordingly been postponed till Wednesday, the 8th inst , by which time it is to be hoped in the interest of haymakers and golfers alike, the weather will have become more settled.
Dursley Golf Club
In April 1904 a Dursley Golf Club was started for the “working men” of the local area. They shared the course although Stinchcombe had priority for bookings. The Club know often as the “Artisans” after affiliating to the Artisan Golfers’ Association continued until the the recent renewal of the current lease
During the war years little happened, although the Australian Flying Corps stationed at AFC Leighterton, 8 miles away, were made honorary members of the Club.
After the war, investment was needed in the club and especially the course. Sir Stanley Tubbs who owned Tubbs, Lewis and Co at Kingswood, became a generous supporter of the Club and within 12 months the hole 18 holes was again open for play.
Threat to the Hill
At this time the club rented the land the course was on from three landowners and in the 1920s there was a threat of housing being built over the hill. Sir Stanley, who was now a former president of Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club, persuaded the owners to sell him the land in order to secure the long-term future of the Hill and the golf club. He completed the purchases at a cost of £1,217 in 1928, and on January 6, 1929, granted a 99 year lease to the golf club at an annual rental of £20; shortly afterwards setting up the charity known as the Stinchcombe Hill Recreation Ground Trust, to administer the hill.
The area covered by the Trust, not only includes the 135 acres of golf course, but a further 50 acres of woodlands given to the then Dursley Rural District Council, and also the Drakestone area, together with grassland tracts outside the course.
In giving the club their lease Sir Stanley was mindful of the needs of the local population (residents of the parishes of Dursley, Cam, Stinchcombe and North Nibley and neighbourhood), and specified that:
“There always were public rights of way across the Hill. These were preserved by the Benefaction and additional rights given to enable those, who wished to ride on horseback to ride round the perimeter of the Hill. In addition the Hill was preserved so that the inhabitants of the Parishes of Dursley, Cam, Stinchcombe, North Nibley and the neighbourhood could use it for fresh air and recreation, provided they did not impede or interfere with the playing of golf.”
By and large golfers and walkers respect Sir Stanley’s wishes, but where problems arise these generally centre on the mistaken belief that the land was given to the public to use at will.
Improvements in the course
In 1922 the club engaged renowned golf course architects Hawtree and Taylor to redesign the course. This was carried out by Fred Hawtree and was opened with an exhibition match by Sir Stanley Tubbs and James Braid . Part of the re-design was the addition of some 80 bunkers. Carried out by the then greenkeeper Shephard.
The 6th was completely re-modelled as was the 15th. New greens were installed at the 7th, 8th, 9th and 13th. In 1929 James Braid played an exhibition match with club Professional Monty Hearn and two other local professionals and was asked to suggest further alterations to the course.
In 1929 James Braid played an exhibition match with club Professional Monty Hearn and two other local professionals and was asked to suggest further alterations to the course. This became part of a five year plan with major alterations being made to the 7th, 8th 9th and 10th holes.
This remains, more or less, the current course.
To celebrate the new course Mrs Garon the German Champion and Miss Diana Fishwick the English Champion,(left) played exhibition rounds with the Duke of Beaufort and Lord Westmorland.
The new course had been redesigned largely at the expense of Major Alfred Clement Morel who lived at Stinchcombe Hill House, brought turf to re-lay the greens from his estate in Ireland.
During the second world war, trenches were dug criss-crossing the golf course to prevent enemy glider landings. Also, under the guidance of the Gloucestershire War Agricultural Executive Committee, the club embarked on a disastrous agricultural venture on 15 acres of the Hill. They were instructed to grow a linseed crop, which failed with disastrous results. Despite all this the club managed to stay open with the trenches being treated by players as GUR. (Ground Under Repair).
During the war in 1944, Henry Cotton played an exhibition match for the Red Cross and raised £750.
More Pictures from the past. Click on a picture to see the Gallery.