Helsby Golf Club was formed in 1901. However, the course itself began in 1902 when the club moved onto 30 acres of land off Primrose Lane & Towers Lane, near to today’s 10th hole.
In 1915, with the lease on the original Towers Lane land running out, the club moved to the top of Helsby hill, adjacent to Harmer’s Lake.
In 1936, plans for a new course on Towers Lane were prepared by the champion golfer and renowned course architect James Braid. This new course occupied the land which is now the front 9 holes.
In 1964, additional land was purchased on the opposite side of Towers Lane. Plans were then drawn up for what is now the back 9 holes and Helsby Golf Club became a full 18 hole golf course in 1968.
The original clubhouse was on the opposite side of Towers Lane to today’s clubhouse, located close to what is now the 5th tee. However, it burned down in 1970 and, after what must have been a very challenging period without a clubhouse at all, the new one was built where it stands today.
Some say that when the old clubhouse burnt down, the only thing left was the frame of the old piano, which was buried next to the 2nd green – hence the hump now referred to as “the piano”. Whether entirely true or not, it’s still a nice story!
FORMATION OF THE CLUB
The founding of Helsby Golf Club originated from a meeting on 28th October 1901 at Heathercliffe, the home of Mr James Taylor. An option had been obtained over suitable land to form a nine-hole course at a nominal rent.
Those present agreed to proceed and at the end of the meeting it was noted that Helsby Golf Club was formed.
The original membership consisted of 18 Gents and 12 Ladies.
The annual subscription was set at one guinea for Gentlemen and half a guinea for Ladies.
The land for the original 9 hole course consisted of approximately 30 acres and was situated off Primrose Lane and bordered by Towers Lane, and the railway – the land that now constitutes the second 9 holes.
Right from the very founding of the Club, ladies have always been an integral part of Helsby Golf Club. From the first recorded minutes it seemed that ladies played in the same competitions as the men and from the same tees. The ladies handicaps in the early days were quite high and reference is made in one of the minutes to only permitting ladies with a handicap of 42 or less to play in competitions.
THE EARLY DAYS
March 1902, it was proposed to erect a movable pavilion. £1 debentures were issued hoping to raise £80.
July 1902, the first meeting was held in the new pavilion. Total cost of pavilion £87.6.21/2
September 1902, a meeting of all members was held to consider the state of the course as the grass had grown so long it was virtually impossible to play. They elected a Greens Committee.
The upkeep of the course was provided by the farmer who owned the land. He would cut the greens each Friday for the sum of 4 shillings and would periodically mow the fairways for the sum of £4 per year.
At the AGM in 1903, the accounts showed a balance of 7 pound 9 shillings. It was decided unanimously that this should be spent on ground improvements.
Visitor fees in 1904 were one shilling a day or five shillings a week.
A wine cellar was installed in the clubhouse at a cost of 21 shillings.
In 1905, an estimate to erect a cycle shed at a cost of £6.10.0 was rejected but a charge of 12/6 for enlarging the pavilion was accepted.
May 1905, a revised tender for the cycle shed of £4.15.0 was accepted and the cycle shed was completed in June.
Sept 1907, a letter was received from Reverend J Gallagher complaining that the sand in the tee boxes was too dry. The secretary was instructed to reply that steps were being taken to keep the sand moist during the hot weather.
Note: In these days tee pegs had not been invented and players had to tee up using a bit of sand. If it was very dry, you can imagine the problems they were having.
Nov 1909, a letter was received from Reverend J Gallagher resigning his membership. (Obviously the sand in the tee boxes was still too dry).
Jan 1910, the President proposed that considering the upset caused by the General Election (????) and the amount of sickness amongst members, the Annual Golf Dance be postponed till after Easter.
April 1910, at the AGM, a hearty vote of thanks was proposed to Mrs Martin for looking after the teas.
March 1911, Mrs Martin was elected as Captain of Helsby Golf Club.
Note: It is believed that Helsby Golf Club was the first Golf Club in the world to elect a lady as Captain of a mixed golf Club.
In 1914, the lease on the original land that formed Helsby Golf Club expired. The farmer required an increase in rental from £28 per year to £40 per year. Plus he required permission to run his cattle all over the course.
Note: Although earlier minutes do not specifically state that play was not allowed on Sundays, it is obvious from the remarks made at the AGM on 12th September 1914 that this was so, and this must have been another factor that was considered in the proposal to move the course and the pavilion to the top of Helsby Hill.
In fact, during the early days of the Club, only a limited number of members could play on Saturday afternoons. If you were not one of the elite and you wished to play on Saturday, your name went onto a waiting list. Only when a vacancy occurred would someone from the waiting list be allowed to play on Saturday. There is reference in one of the minutes suggesting that only gentlemen with a handicap of 14 or less should be allowed to play on a Saturday.
On the 12th September 1914, an Extraordinary General Meeting was called to consider the question of the ground. The President explained that the present lease had expired and the landlord would only renew the lease at a rental of £40 per annum. The club could obtain land on Helsby hill at a rental of £70 per annum on a ten year lease. He explained to members that with this land there was a house which could be let at about £15 per year, and the increased rental could be met by raising the subs to £2.0.0 . Sunday play would also be available and it was proposed that the club take this land for their links. This was put to the meeting and carried unanimously.
In October 1914, it was agreed that Sunday play should be allowed provided that no servant of the club be called upon and that no caddies be employed.
6th March 1915, the first meeting in the pavilion on the new course was held. It was proposed that members of the club who had joined the forces be allowed to retain their membership during the war without subscription and the club wish them the very best of luck and a safe return.
8th May 1915, an estimate for painting the pavilion both outside and inside was accepted at a cost of £6.0.0. It was passed that no shooting be allowed on the course as it was considered unsafe for members. Club accounts were £40 in the red.
11th August 1915, Mr Cooper – the tenant of the house on the new course – was offered the work of looking after the links two days a week at the price of 5/- per day including the mowing and rolling of the greens when necessary twice a week. The treasurer asked Mr Cooper for an annual rent of £15 for the house but, as Mr Cooper said he could not afford it, the committee agreed to reduce the rental to £13 per year.
24th Nov 1916, an offer to rent the course for sheep grazing was accepted at 25/- per month, to graze about 50 sheep.
28th April 1917, owing to financial problems the Greens Committee were requested not to spend any money beyond the employment of Mr Cooper and that for only one day per week. Mr Cooper subsequently asked for an increase in pay of 1/- per day which was granted.
22nd Nov 1917, payments of caddies were increased from 3d to 4d per round during the winter months.
16th Feb 1918, following requests from the Ministry of Agriculture it was decided to offer farmer Mr W Davies the use of a field adjoining the pavilion for the production of food, providing he erected fencing to keep the sheep off. Mr Davies declined the offer as the cost of manure and fencing was far too expensive.
20th March 1920, first matches agreed to take place with Runcorn Golf Club.
4th Dec 1920, the secretary attended a meeting for the founding of the Cheshire Union of Golf Clubs. Helsby were among 36 clubs joining the Union at an annual subscription of one guinea.
AGM of 1921 decided that juniors should not be allowed to play on Saturday afternoons.
8th Nov 1921, proposed and carried that in future where a ball is played out of bounds the penalty shall be loss of distance only. (Apparently they made their own rules).
21st Jan 1922, it was agreed the groundsmen be allowed to grow potatoes between the third green and the fourth tee.
3rd Feb 1923, at the AGM Mrs J Edmonson was elected Captain of Helsby Golf Club and was requested to continue with making teas.
14th Sep 1923, Mr Arrowsmith the owner of the land agreed to extend the lease to the club at an increased rent.
5th Feb 1927, Green Fees increased from 2/- per day to 2/6 per day.
1st Dec 1928, problems with rabbits overrunning the course (what’s new).
12th Dec 1928, resolved that any member may shoot rabbits over the course and that the groundsmen share them.
29th Mar 1930, Secretary to write to Mersey Power with regard to supplying electricity to the pavilion for electric lighting.
5th May 1930, for financial reasons, the committee resolved not to have electricity installed in the pavilion.
24th Jan 1931, the cost of a new fairway mower was put at £50. Each member was asked to contribute at least 10/- toward a fund to purchase the mower.
14th Feb 1931, the groundsmen’s wages for a 48 hour week agreed at £135 per year.(£2.12.0 per week) In the winter the groundsmen only worked 40 hours per week but the accumulated difference between 40 and 48 hrs had to be worked off in the growing season at the discretion of the greens committee.
It was resolved that all golf balls found on the course should be bought in by the club and exhibited for sale in the clubhouse.
The ladies section joined the LGU.
9th July 1933, Mersey Power offered to supply electricity to the clubhouse for £5 per year for two years. Committee deferred taking a decision.
31.Aug 1933, Mersey Power’s offer to install electricity was accepted. (Let there be light)
THE SAGA OF THE HORSE
11th June 1921, Mr Britland suggested buying a horse that would help with the various jobs round the course. The committee decided to leave the matter over for this season.
6th Aug 1921, the handicap committee rejected a request from the ladies to erect forwards tees so that the ladies could play from them.
8th Nov 1921, Mr Britland brought forward the question of buying a horse again. After further discussion it was decided to leave it over for consideration at a later date.
17th Nov 1921, Mr Britland informed the committee that he could buy a horse for about £10. It was decided that Mr Britland should find out what arrangements could be made for stabling and looking after the horse.
18th Nov 1921, it was agreed to purchase a horse at the cost of £10 and a harness for £6. The farmer Mr Ford was prepared to look after and stable the horse at a cost of 6/- per week.
7th Jan 1922, the question of damage being done to the course by the horse was discussed and it was agreed that it could not continue, and the horse would no longer be used on the course. Mr Britland was instructed to see Mr Ford and come to some arrangement with him.
END OF THE HILL COURSE
This is a summary of events that took place during 1936 and was the background for the Special Annual General Meeting called for on September 18th 1936.
The lease for the golf course on Helsby Hill was due to expire on 1st February 1937.
The original agreement leased the land from Mr Arrowsmith who had since died, and his estate had passed to Mr Lewis Brandeth & Miss Brandeth.
From April 1936, discussions took place with Mr Brandeth regarding the renewal of the lease. It was fairly obvious from the initial meetings that both parties to the agreement were in some sort of dispute. It was alleged by the landlord that the farmhouse which was the clubs responsibility was in a deplorable state. This the committee strongly denied stating that the house was in very good order apart from some work required to the outside. Other arguments centred on land which the landlord but not the club wished to include and the rental.
The landlord was prepared to give a 3 year lease at £100 per annum, subject to all other conditions as in the present lease.
The committee resolved the club would agree to a renewal of the lease at an annual rent of £90 for a period of 5 years, subject to the deletion of the clause relating to some land attached to the plan which the club did not require. Mr Brandeth was not prepared to make any alterations to the lease.
The club asked for a meeting with Mr Brandeth but he refused and a letter was received from him refusing the clubs offer and restating his own terms.
On September 17th, it was announced that 2 members of the committee had obtained an option from Mr T Noden on 50 acres of pasture land with an entrance on to the main road near Horns Mill at £2 per acre.
At the special general meeting, the chairman Mr Britland gave a full account of the negotiations with the landlord and the reasons why the terms offered were not acceptable to the club. Members fully supported the committee’s decision and it was unanimously carried that the meeting reject the terms.
It was agreed that if the landlord were not prepared to make the terms acceptable, the committee shall be empowered to take such action as it deems necessary to wind up the affairs of the club on its present site.
Following the general meeting, a further offer was received from the landlord offering an annual tenancy of £90. The committee decided the terms were not acceptable and to terminate the tenancy as from February 1st 1937. A letter was sent to Mr Brandeth regarding obtaining turf from the greens for the new course.
14th Oct 1936, Mr T Noden offered a ten year lease on the new site with an option to buy the land when the lease expired. It was resolved that the club should be transferred to the new site provided money could be found to carry the scheme through.
16th Oct 1936, at a special meeting the chairman explained that no satisfactory offer had been received from the landlord and the tenancy of the course would cease on February 1st 1937.
Mr Britland outlined a scheme for transferring the course to the new site. It was estimated that a sum of £513 would be required and suggested that this sum be borrowed from the members. Paper slips were handed out to enable members to indicate the amounts they were prepared to offer. When the slips were collected and totalled, the promises amounted to £519. This was greeted with considerable applause.
The task of transferring to the new course involved moving the clubhouse, mowers, rollers and all other machinery. Fences had to be repaired and some broken windows in the stable had to be made good. In a letter from Mr Brandeth, he stated “I can see no need for you to replace the bunkers and greens”. This sentence eventually led to a court case between the club and Mr Brandeth.
The club removed turf from four greens and stated that they would replace the turf with good field turf.
THE FIRST NINE HOLES
The 50 acres that were leased from Mr T Noden in 1936 is some of the land which comprises the present front nine. The clubhouse was rebuilt on a site which is presently occupied by the greens compound. This clubhouse was eventually destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve 1970.
Although there is no record in the minutes appointing James Braid to design the new course, it is recorded that Mr James Braids plan for the new course had been examined and accepted. Apparently a Mr Hardwick settled Mr Braids account and the committee thanked Mr Hardwick for his generosity.
During the early months of 1937 work continued on the course and working parties of members met each week to clear ditches, hedges and general tidying up.
5th May 1937, all handicaps were revised to a standard scratch of 78. Cheshire Union were requested to allot a new standard scratch.
Discussions were held on ways and means of getting cattle off the course, of providing a bar, and employing a steward or stewardess to collect green fees, and man a small shop selling sweets, cigarettes and golf requisites. The first competitions were held on the new course on Saturday 5th June.
24th June 1937, County court summons Brandeth v Britland & Huntington. It was reported that the club had lost the case over the removal of turf.
May 1938, the Ladies’ room in the clubhouse was extended at a cost of £54 and £10 was spent on new furnishings. Number of Ladies allowed to join without paying an entrance fee was increased from 60 to 75.
27th Oct 1939, the club accepted a gift of a rose bowl (The Briant Bowl) from Mrs Briant in memory of the first secretary of the club Dr AJ Briant.
17th Feb 1940, annual subscriptions increased from £2.5.0 to £2.10.0.
18th Jan 1941, letter received from Cheshire Agricultural Committee stating that all golf clubs were requested to consider ploughing up more land for food production.
It’s not possible to determine how much of HGC land was ploughed up. The ridges visible today on the 1st and 7th fairway are evidence of the plough and most of the 9th fairway was also ploughed up.
Problems arose with the farmer Mr T Noden with regard to his cattle. He had turned over a lot of his farmland for food production. Obviously he still required land for grazing and if necessary they would be put on what was left of the course. The farmer offered to share any profit from the cultivated land with the club.
29th April 1943, virtually impossible to get spare parts for broken machinery. Also very difficult to obtain any sort of labour. Unless working parties from the members undertook ground maintenance it would be impossible to play golf.
During the late forties the club had financial problems and even cancelled monthly medals to accommodate visiting societies. The situation got so bad that consideration was given to giving up part of the course. It was agreed to approach the landlord to ask whether a reduction in rent could be made if they reduced the course by 12 acres.
After examining this proposal however they concluded that the cost of fencing and alterations to the course the suggestion to reduce the course was impractical.
25th Feb 1954, first discussions regarding taking up the option to purchase the land on which the course was situated. Lease expired at the end of 1956.
Report from land valuer recommended the club exercise the option to purchase the land for £5000. The chairman commented that the club would have to purchase the land or cease to exist as a golf club. It was suggested that an approach should be made to B.I.I.C regarding the possibility of obtaining a loan from them.
29th Sep 1955, B.I.I.C agreed to assist with the purchase of the land and to bear the cost of taxes and stamp duties.
The situation was that the landlord was only prepared to lease the land for 5 years at an increased rental and the option to buy the land would be withdrawn under the new contract with no guarantee that the lease would be extended. With a membership of just over 70 men and 30 ladies there was no way that the club could afford to buy the land.
B.I.I.C agreed to loan £5000 to the club to enable them to buy the land with the proviso that they immediately sold the land back to B.I.I.C Terms of lease with B.I.I.C would be 10 years. The club would also have grazing rights on the course which would amount to about 7 shillings per week for each head of cattle.
26th Jan 1956, conveyance of the land from Mr T Noden to the golf club was signed on behalf of the club by Messrs R.W Bloomer, F.G Briant J.Hughes and E.J Harding.
The conveyance of the land to B.I.I.C was signed by the same signatories.
THE SECOND NINE HOLES
In 1964, the club first became aware of 40 acres of land on the other side of Primrose lane was being put up for sale. This land was where the original course was situated in 1902.
An extraordinary meeting was called to consider the purchase of the land by the club. The chairman explained that if additional land were purchased, heavy expenses would be involved. The meeting decided to give the Management committee authority to negotiate the purchase of the land.
There was a referendum to members asking whether or not they wished the club to be extended to 18 holes, and asking for loans free of interest to assist in the purchase of the land. The treasurer later reported as a result of the referendum loans totalling £4750 had been promised and the decision was taken to try and purchase the land with the help of a bank loan.
In August 1964, it was reported that representatives from the club attending the auction namely Mr B Beckett and Mr J V Fletcher had been successful in their bid and had obtained the land for the sum of £8050.
It was decided that the greens committee plus co-opted members would finalise plans for 9 holes on the new land.
In 1964, B.I.I.C informed the club that they would extend the lease on the first nine holes for a further 10 years until 1974.
In July 1966, the first 3 holes on the new land was opened for play.
In June 1967, a further 3 holes were brought into play.
In April 1968, the final 3 holes on the new land was opened for play and for the first time in their history Helsby Golf Club had an eighteen hole golf course.
On Christmas Eve 1970 the clubhouse was completely destroyed by fire. The fire was reported to the fire brigade and the police by the landlord of the “Brown Cow” (now the Helsby Arms) at 1.45am. It was stated that although the fire brigade were quickly on site their efforts to control the fire was hampered by an insufficient supply of water.
In Feb 1971, three huts were erected on land that was once the site of the old clubhouse.
The largest one of these was loaned to the club by Mr J.V.Fletcher and used as a temporary clubhouse. The other huts were used by the professional and for the storage of machinery.
During 1975, talks began with B.I.I.C regarding the purchase of the first nine holes. B.I.I.C board of directors eventually agreed to sell the land for £8550.
Once again the members were asked to provide interest free loans. Sufficient money was obtained from the members and with the help of a bank loan the land was purchased.
The club no longer relied on leased land and the whole course and clubhouse belonged to the members.