Gosforth, our proud History
It was on 15th December 1905 that the decidion was made to established Golf Club in Gosforth on three fields situated to the south east of the Three Mile Bridge on land belonging to Captain Laycock. Rental for the land was agreed at £45 a year for the first two years and £70 a year for the next three years. This rent included compensation to tenants for loss of crops.
The Professional at that time was from the City of Newcastle Golf Club - John Caird, who was commissioned to lay out a course. It was under his direction in 1906, that a 9-hole course (between the Bridle Path and the Ouseburn) was duly laid out in the area now occupied by the 5th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. Labour from Low Gosforth Home Farm formed the greens and fairways by cutting grass in what had been farm fields.
An old wood house was purchased for £40 from the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Company and erected adjacent to the Bridle Path to serve as a Club House. The course was opened to play on 17th March 1906 with a membership of 150 (100 gentlemen and 50 ladies).
The initial layout involved playing across the Ouseburn on many of the holes. In addition some of the holes crossed each other, which must have made playing the course quite exciting and rather dangerous. The first Gentlemanís Club Championship in 1907 was won by D.C. Allen with a score of 81.
As the membership increased it was decided to extend the course to 18 holes, and in 1908 three adjoining fields were acquired between Heathery Lane, Salterís Lane, the Bridle Path and the Ouseburn which enabled the course to be extended albeit without the land currently used for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes.
For the first 40-50 years the grass on the course was generally kept under control by grazing sheep with the greens being fenced off and mown by hand. The grazing rights were let by the Club each year and provided a valuable source of additional income. This practice continued until after the Second World War. The majority of the early bunkers were introduced onto the course during the period 1910 to 1912
A new Club House was built in 1913 from plans by the Newcastle City Architect, Mr. F H Holford, a Vice-President of the Club, at a cost of £1,099 plus £100 for heating and contingencies. On Tuesday 8th July 1913, shortly after the new Club House was completed, a policeman on his rounds found a bomb, with its fuse burnt out, near the building. There was no message with the bomb but it was assumed to have been planted by the suffragette movement, the Womenís Social and Political Union (WPSU) in support of Miss Sylvia Pankhurst who was sentenced on the previous day to three months in jail for inciting suffragettes to bomb Lloyd Georgeís home in Surrey.
At the time of the outbreak of WW1 the Club was thriving. The membership was full and the takings in the Club House were at record levels. This situation was to change rapidly. During the War, play was restricted to the home field, the rest of the course being used by the Military and for agricultural purposes under the auspices of the local War Agricultural Committee. The fields to the east of the Bridle Path were either put to hay or were used for grazing sheep and cattle. The result of this was that the Course and the fencing around the Course were badly damaged.
The War had a severe effect on the finances of the Club. Many of the members were called upon to serve their country and those that remained had little money to spend at the Club. Many members suspended their membership with effect from 1st January 1915, whilst away on active service. Bar and catering revenue dropped dramatically. War tax was added to costs in the Club but the Committee decided not to raise the prices of ale, stout etc., to cover the tax increase.
H Atkinson, F Embleton, S Marshall, G Marshall, N Mather, J W Merivale, B M S McKenzie, F D Young and D L Young were Members of the Club who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. They were never to return to Bridle Path to play golf Ė a memorial plaque was placed in the Clubhouse Lounge in their memory.
In 1915 all competitions were suspended with the exception of those in progress and occasional sweeps. A decision was taken by the Committee not to light the gas in the Club Rooms and to have a small light only in the Locker Rooms. Special arrangements were made for military personnel in the district with officers and soldiers being charged a visitor fee of 1/- per day, 2/6 per week, 5/- per month. In July 1915 it was agreed to insure the Club House etc against aircraft and bombardment for the amount of the fire policy. In October 1915 the Committee agreed to permit the Professional to go as a part time munitions worker, should the occasion arise.
In 1918 play was resumed over the whole course and as Members who had been on military service returned home, the finances of the Club started to improve. The Club continued to prosper and in 1923, by which time the membership had increased to 400, and a further 23 acres were taken over, a new lease was arranged and the course was again re-modelled. The re-modelled course re-opened on 24th May 1924.
During the Second World War part of the course was once again requisitioned and put to agricultural use. An anti-aircraft gun emplacement and search light batteries were set up on the 7th and 14th fairways. It was not unusual for German aircraft to drop bombs on Tyneside on their way home following a raid on the shipyards on the Clyde and one night the Luftwaffe tried to re-model the start of the 14th fairway by dropping a bomb on the course.
The course changed little between 1924 and the 1980s however since then there have been numerous improvements. Bunkers have been added, re-shaped and filled in; tees have been extended and re-levelled; many of the greens have been re-shaped and re-turfed; drains have been installed under the fairways and greens and a sprinkler system has been added. In the 1990ís a major programme of tree planting was carried out.
In July 1994, following a period of careful negotiations with representatives of the Laycock Estate, Club Chairman Sandy Rennie succeeded in obtaining agreement for the Club to purchase a new lease giving the Club security of tenure for a further 999 years.
The trees on the course are now well established and Gosforth Golf Club is one of the most interesting and challenging parkland courses in the North East.
Club House in October 1910
One of the Early Golfers at the Bridle Path Tees Off at the Original 4th Hole
Alan Thirlwell, English Amateur Champion 1954
Copyright Gosforth Golf Club.