Heritage

Golf had been played around Wetherby long before our founding fathers leased part of the original steeplechase course from Lord Leconfield. The last race meeting traditionally held on Easter Monday and Tuesday took place here in 1890.  Increased rent demands resulted in the organisers looking for an alternative so the steeplechase course moved to its present location at the side of the Wetherby to York Road in 1891.3The first meeting has been described as a  “makeshift affair”, but by 1901 a Committee which included the newspaper proprietor Henry Crossley Jnr. had put the affairs and running of local racing on a firm footing.  Crossley is mentioned because later it will be seen that this land owner, farmer and businessman in partnership with Joseph Hudson played a significant part in the future development of Wetherby Golf Club.Although the founders of the club borrowed heavily from Lord Leconfield or his Linton Estate to fund the building of the clubhouse, the construction of the course and later to pay the rent, they must also have put a substantial amount of their own money into the project.

It is recorded how the Committee members were asked on numerous occasions for cash injections to pay pressing creditors and for that matter pay the staff wages. Like the regulations during the second war at least half the course was ploughed up for growing crops.

The war years of 1914-18 was a huge drain on resources because so many young men were called to the colours with the result their subscriptions were suspended.

In 1919 Dr Alister MacKenzie made his second visit to the club.  The first was in 1914 when he was asked for his advice on bunkering and to submit a quotation for constructing the new holes on the course. Mackenzie a Scot, with a medical practice in Leeds had taken a great interest in golf course architecture and was a founder member of Alwoodley. Together with Harry Colt they re-designed Colt’s original layout and today it is known as the Mackenzie course.

Wetherby has always had that sneaking suspicion that we also could claim to be a Mackenzie Course.  He certainly had some input and drew up plans in 1919 to redesign the course following the ploughing up of holes six, nine, ten, eleven and twelve.

The Committee basically accepted the design, as he pointed out that it would occupy less acreage than the old course, be easier to maintain and less costly to construct.

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However there must have been considerable debate on the merits of the new compared to the pre-war 18-holes, because in a minute from the Green Committee in 1921 they said they were unanimous in reconstructing the old course. They considered Mackenzie’s’ new course plan would be too expensive, there was a sameness to the holes, and the holes were too crowded and dangerous.

They believed Wetherby needed a good open course to attract a better type of golfer if the club was to survive.

In September that year Dr. Mackenzie was called back to discuss the merits of the two proposals and it would seem his plans for the new course lost out.  He drew up plans for the ninth and tenth greens (now 16th & 4th) and these were constructed by Ernest Day having returned from war service.

The Club also bought one of the new triplex mowers on Mackenzie’s recommendation, as it would reduce the cost of mowing from seven shillings to1/6d per acre.

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So despite considerable research into the archives of the great Doctor, with the net encompassing Alwoodley to America and Royal Melbourne in Australia, it would seem we have tenuous links to be classed as a Mackenzie course.

At least we know that playing the now 4th and 16th, the Master and our longest serving greenkeeper and professional had left their mark for our pleasure.

To move to later times, the purchase of the land towards the river has always been a number one priority, but not in every ones eyes. Much debate took place on the two occasions when Hudson’s field was offered for sale, which would not only have provided the land but removed the agricultural access from Stammergate Lane.

It took the third offer (at £3,500 per acre and never to be offered again), which persuaded the members to raise the money and buy. At that time David Hudson had recently had the application for a housing development at Hill Top Farm rejected at a public enquiry and was pursuing a legal battle in the High Court to have the rejection overturned, which was successful.

 

PROFESSIONALS

Contrary to popular belief, Ernest Day was not the first professional appointed to the club.

It was reported in a Guide to Golf Courses in Yorkshire by Jum Stainton of the Sheffield Telegraph dated 1912 that J.W. Taylor had been engaged by the New Wetherby club.

Taylor was well known in Yorkshire as the Redcar professional and had represented the county many times. Among his other appointments he was said to have been at West Lancashire and the now defunct Headingley course. This must be the forerunner to the present Headingley course founded in 1892 and known at the time as Adel golf club.

It would appear J.W.Taylor (no relation to the more famous J.H. Taylor)was nearing the end of his playing career as it was reported he does not figure as much in tournaments as he did.

In another reference, Nisbet’s Golfers Handbook also dated 1912, J.W. Taylor is listed as the Wetherby professional, W.H.Platts, the Secretary, Members-300, entrance fee three guineas, subs three guineas, visitors 2s. 6p per day.

It was also recorded it was expected that Ladies would not play on Saturday afternoons. Sunday play was possible without caddies.

Taylor was not the professional at Wetherby for long as he was succeeded by Ernest Day in 1912.

Ernest was born in the tiny Somerset village of Berrow, adjacent to the championship Burnham & Berrow golf course. What is remarkable, according the Evening Post’scorrespondent Charles Scatchard, is this village produced over 50 professionals from the basic 300 natives.

Contemporaries of Ernest was his brother Arthur, the professional at Deepdale, Scarborough and later at Ganton and the Whitcombes, Charles, Reg and Ernest, all learning their golf over the Burnham * Berrow links.

When the 1914-18 war commenced, Ernest like all young men of his generation either volunteered for service or was later conscripted. He joined up in 1914, suffering an injury which virtually cost him his sight in one eye.

He wrote to the club from his army depot and asking for his job back, stating he had practiced his golf and could still see well enough to continue playing and teaching. He added that he was expecting to be demobilised under the Government,s 28 day hospital scheme.

The replay from the club was not encouraging. A fall off in subscriptions over four years, the ploughing up of some fairways and few new members had depleted the funds and it was felt Mr Day could not be re-employed.

He wrote again by reply saying if the club offered him a job he would combine the professional role with work on the course if a suitable wage could be agreed. This time the Committee relented and he was re-engaged at a wage of 30 shillings per week.

Among the many references to him in Committee minutes was one of a site meeting on the new 10th green in January 1922. The Green Committee said how “highly satisfied” they were on how Mr Day had constructed the green to the plan prepared by Mr Kitson from the sketch provided by Dr Alistair Mackenzie.

And so recommenced a working relationship that lasted for 42 years, until Ernest decided to retire at 65. In that time not only was he a model and respected professional but much of his work on the course re-designing and improving the original layout is still in place today.

His successor was H.H. (Bert) Hardman who joined the club at the strat of the 1954 season. Already a well-known professional golfer in the Leeds area, he started as an assistant to Ted Barnes at Roundhay before they both moved to the new Sand Moor course in 1923, staying there until the outbreak of war in 1939.

Later he had a spell as a professional in a Leeds Golf store before joining Howley Hall.

In the early 1930’s as an assistant he was runner-up to Ryder Cup man Sam King in the National Assistants Championship and achieved three second places in the Northern Assistants Championship.

When Bert Hardman retired he was succeeded by Alan Hirst in February 1968 at the age of only 22.

His professional career started at Moortown on leaving school under ted Large moving on to Temple Newsam with David Bulmer.

From there he obtained his first full professional position at only 20 years of age at South Leeds, making him the youngest club professional inthe PGA and within 2 years he commenced his 17 year association with Wetherby.

His appointment coincided with the acquisition of the railway embankment through the course and like Ernest Day became involved with the design and construction of the new tees for the short holes at the current 11th, 13th, the Quarry hole and the now redundant 16th.