The beginning of golf in Lincolnshire dates from the early eighteen nineties. This was when the Great Golf Revival as it was known, swept south over the Scottish border and resulted in the formation of scores of new clubs in England and in the Colonies.
The first club to be formed in Lincolnshire was the Belton Park Club at Grantham in 1890. In the same year Burghley Park at Stamford was established, and a few months later in February 1891, Lincoln Golf Club was founded. Other clubs were also established in the county during the last years of the century, and by the early years of the next, Lincoln Golf Club had become the most influential in Lincolnshire.
The game of golf was already being played in Lincoln before the formal setting up of clubs. A course on South Park was in use, and there was golf on a primitive course of a few holes off Nettleham Road near to the Cathedral area of the city.
Several of Lincoln’s leading citizens were not all satisfied with the existing golfing facilities and they decided to take positive action.
They called an inaugural meeting on Thursday 12th February 1891 at the offices of Lincoln solicitors, Messrs. Danby. The leading organisers at that meeting included Alexander Leslie Melville, N.Waldo Sibthorp, Robert Swan, Revd W. Usher and A. Shuttleworth. They unanimously agreed to form a Lincoln Golf Club with an entrance fee of one guinea and an annual subscription also of one guinea. Those present were told that, following informal discussions with the Carholme Race Course Committee, it was clear that an area of land adjacent to the race course could be leased for use as a golf course.
Alfred Shuttleworth was elected President and Alexander Leslie Melville, Chairman of meetings, With W.B. Danby as temporary Secretary. The Secretary was asked to write immediately to Mr. William Park Junior of Mussleburgh requesting him to lay out the links at West Common in Lincoln.
William Park a professional champion golfer, must have worked extremely quickly as by 7th March 1891, the Lincolnshire Chronicle newspaper reported “a golf club has been formed for the city and neighbourhood and was formally opened on Thursday afternoon last. The links are on the West Common and consist of nine holes. Mr. Park, late champion reported to the Committee that the ground will be second to none in England. Some forty members joined the club.”
Negotiations were concluded with the Carholme Committee, and a rental of £100 per annum was agreed for the lease of the land adjacent to the grandstand. So the few golfing enthusiasts in Lincoln achieved a course remarkably speedily and were able to show off their creation to their friends in nearby counties. Hollinwell and Buxton High Peak courses were already established and Lindrick was at the planning stage.
The remainder of 1891 was largely a learning process for all concerned. No one in Lincoln had run a golf course before. Golf course management and development were new skills to be acquired by trial and error, and staff changes were frequent. A club room was in use in the grandstand and by the end of the first year, the nine holes were becoming established.
The first Annual General Meeting of the club was held in Bank Street Lincoln on 4th February 1892. Fourteen members were present and the Treasurer was pleased to be able to report a balance in hand of £34 1s 7d. It was agreed that a Constitution and Club rules should be drawn up but unfortunately no copies of these early documents have been found.
The Royal & Ancient rules governed play, but unusual conditions made the introduction of local rules essential. There was much “offensive matter” on the common from the grazing animals and the Carholme Road was a part of the course with its horse drawn traffic frequently interfering with play. Race meetings and agricultural shows sometimes meant that holes had to be realigned, and the very fact that the public had access to the area often made play most frustrating.
These were merely difficulties to be overcome, and indeed, helped to bind the club together and give it corporate strength. On the 27th May 1891 it was agreed “that each Thursday afternoon between the hours of 2 and 7 pm be considered the ‘Club Day’ and that members be requested to make a special effort to put in an appearance on the links sometime during the course of the afternoon.”
On page 34 of the first Minute Book it is recorded “Resolved that the uniform of the Club be a Red Coat with London Green collar and brass buttons engraved with the Arms of the City and the words LINCOLN GOLF CLUB 1891.” It is interesting to note that red jackets are still worn by past Presidents of the Lincolnshire Golf Union at their annual dinner at Woodhall.
Club facilities were naturally limited during those early days. However, a member Mr. C Brook arranged the rental of a room in the grandstand for 2/6d. per week and six lockers were eventually provided.
The club was very much a masculine enterprise during the first three years apart from a Mrs. Bean who looked after the club room in the grandstand. Then, following a committee meeting held on 28th June 1894, a minute reads “that the Ladies Golf Club be at liberty to engage him (Ayton – on the green’s staff) for two mornings each week on payment of 2/6d. per morning.” This suggests that there was a Ladies Golf Club in existence somewhere other than on the Carholme.
Two more references are made to the Ladies Golf Club and links regarding the hire of Lincoln Golf Club staff early in 1895. The first two steps towards a closer liaison with the lady golfers occurs in a letter from Lt. Col. Finch-Noyes which was read at a committee meeting on 5th February 1895. He proposed that “a member should be allowed to invite a lady member of the Ladies Golf Club to play with him on the Gentleman’s Golf Course except on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, or at other times as the committee should think fit.” The committee decided that they had no power to deal with such a proposition involving such a an important alteration to the Constitution of the Club without first having consulted all the members.
In April that year, Mr R. Swan as President of the Ladies Club, was asked to consult with the ladies to see if they had the desire to become members of the club. This resulted in a Special General Meeting, attended by thirteen members, at which it was agreed that “Ladies should be admitted whether from the town, county or Ladies Golf Club, at a special subscription rate and subject to certain conditions regarding playing times.” So the Club’s four year life as a bastion of male only membership came to an end.
Members were still dissatisfied with the Club’s facilities, there being just the one room available in the grandstand. In March 1896 the Captain, Revd. W.N. Usher, reported to the committee that negotiations were in hand with Mr. Smith, a grocer, who owned a field at the south east corner of the West Common. This was considered to be the best site for a ‘Golf Pavilion’. After protracted negotiations, two cottages were built for leasing to the club. One of these was adapted so as to provide proper facilities for a club house, and the first formal meeting took place there on 6th February 1897 when the AGM was held.
The erection of the Clubhouse and cottage for staff satisfied the immediate needs of the Club. However the accommodation was rented, and the course was on common land, open to all. The enthusiasm and aspirations of the Club’s “founding fathers” were such that they would not tolerate these arrangements for long. They were also most concerned regarding the greatly increased number of smallpox cases in the Lincoln area. A new isolation camp was to be established on the West Common near to the course, and this news alarmed members considerably.
At a meeting held on the 16th February 1899, the question of a private course was discussed. A sub-committee consisting of the Captain, W.T. Warrener, W.J. Cannon, C Pym, and the Secretary H.H. Dunn was formed to examine the possibility of acquiring land in the Boultham area of the city, and also to discuss with South Park Golf Club their ideas on finding suitable land near Lincoln for a private course.
The initial attempts to acquire new land were unsuccessful, and no real progress was made until January 1903. At the AGM, Mr Warrener reported that the possibility now existed of obtaining land for a course at either Hykeham or at Torksey. A new sub-committee was formed with instructions to make further enquiries without delay. They reported back at a Special General Meeting on 18th March with encouraging news and were asked to submit a full report at another Special General Meeting to be held in July.
The meeting was held at the Albion Hotel in Lincoln on 3rd July when this report was given:
“As the members are aware, there has long been a great desire among Lincoln golfers to find a new home for the game where it might be pursued under more favourable conditions than on either of the Lincoln Commons. A number of attempts have been made to find suitable ground. The principle reason for the amalgamation of the two Lincoln clubs was the desire to be in a stronger financial position to make the new course a possibility in the near future.”
“The latest effort in the direction of seeking for better golfing country was initiated at the last general meeting when a sub-committee was appointed to report on possible sites at Hykeham and Torksey. The ground at Hykeham was found to be unsuitable, but that at Torksey proved to be well worthy of consideration. The committee first visited Mr. Gourley's land on the south side of the railway at Torksey and found it fairly adequate but particularly liable to flood in wet season. The land on the north side of the station was next examined and was found to possess such advantages as to warrant the sub-committee most strongly to recommend it as an exceptional site for a new course for the club.”
“The area in question extends to 57 acres amply sufficient for a good long 9 hole course to which the shape of the ground lends itself particularly well. The turf is of a fine seaside like character, over undulating natural golfing country. The subsoil throughout is a light fine sand and there are a number of large natural sand bunkers as well as hedges and other hazards.”
“In the event of an 18 hole course being decided upon, equally suitable ground adjoins the selected area on two or three sides. The committee have gone into the question of renting the ground and have an offer from the landlord for a 21 year lease while provision will be made for a site for a clubhouse.
“The estimated cost of making a first rate 9 hole course and building a club house is about £1,200 (around £50,000 at 1990 prices). The committee believes that if work were commenced this autumn, it would be possible to begin play on the course next year.”
Announcing that the President Alfred Shuttleworth had promised to defray half the cost of making the links and building the club house, the Captain proposed:
“That at this Special Meeting of Lincoln Golf Club, it be resolved that the present links be abandoned and that a new course with club house be made at Torksey.”
This resolution, vital to the future of the club, was passed unanimously.
Reprinted with the kind permission of Paul Pumfrey,OBE DL.
Paul was Captain of Lincoln Golf Club in 1972, President in 1981 to 1983 and wrote the centenary book of Lincoln Golf Club 1891-1991.