The first 9 holes were officially opened for play on June 4th 1923. Play started from the present 1st tee, but only part of the fairway as we know it now had been seeded and the intended green been prepared. Play was therefore to a temporary green down to the right just short of the dyke; it was a year before the proper green was brought into play. A feature of this 1st was the deep dyke which at that time had not been culverted and which had a low hawthorn hedge on the tee side. Sleeper planks were used to bridge this dyke in which many balls were lost and abandoned as only the athletic could struggle down to the bottom. The water seemed to run faster then, and a ball would be projected downstream in no time.
The original 2nd green was not exactly in its present position but was sited on a plateau just to the right as one looks from the tee. The position has gone now as the sand foundations were worked away by the farmer who had retained the mineral rights.
The new 2nd green rather spoilt the 3rd hole which had been a useful dog-leg to the left. It was the practice for a few years to drive from the 3rd tee before completing the 2nd, for safety reasons. That infringed the Rules of Golf and a new 3rd tee had to be found. The old tee is still there just down to the left from the ladies? 2nd tee, and was sometimes brought into play as a 'joke' tee to the 2nd green. An excellent feature of the 3rd was a high ridge running diagonally across the fairway; players of short stature could not be seen and after one or two alarming incidents this obstacle was levelled down, again in the interests of safety
A completely re-built tee for the 4th jointly with a new one for the 6th, was completed in 2000. In the 90s, the previous rule about being out of bounds if your ball landed on the 5th fairway when playing down the 4th. was changed into being out of bounds over a line drawn between the poplars which divide the two fairways. In the early days, the pit to the right of the fairway really was a dreadful hazard; it was a sheer drop from the fairway into which all sorts of rubbish had been tipped and had been overgrown with briars and weeds. To avoid these area players tended to pull towards the 5th and much confusion was caused. By 1950 the pit had been cleaned up and seeded and all that is left is that splendid declivity to the right.
As described elsewhere the 5th hole was under cultivation during the War and this caused some of the features to disappear. Today if one looks closely, at about 120 yards from the tee there is a shallow gully running diagonally across the fairway from left to right. This used to be over 6ft. deep with a banking between it and the 8th. A long hitter could clear this area easily, but the shorter man had to drive well to the left making a dogleg of the hole.
There have been no changes of any significance in the 6th and 7th greens, apart from changes made in the sizes of the forward bunkers on the 6th during the 90s. Some enthusiasts would have had the 7th green moved to where the 8th competition tee used to be sited - down towards the bottom of the hill, and indeed that would have been possible until the kink was taken out of the road past St. Michael?s Church, the Corporation purchasing a crescent-shaped piece of our land to effect that change.
The 8th hole remained rather featureless until the tee was moved further down into the corner making the hole more of a dog leg. From the drive off the tee, a small dense copse of tall shrubs needs to be avoided on the right, and the road which runs parallel to the fairway is now partly protected by trees and a hedge. In the mid-twenties, long hitters would drive the short cut over the Great Coates Road which was then carrying a minimum of traffic. Further down the fairway a bunker was also installed on the right well short of the green, and during the 1980s and 90s large numbers of trees were planted down both sides of the fairway.
The tee for the 9th hole was the top one but is now used for both the ladies, (par 4) and the men?s white tees, (par 3) the other tee being lower down. Owing to the steep bank to this top tee, steps were built with old railway sleepers in 1998. The remnants of a ditch from the farmyard are still to be seen though much has been grassed over. It used to carry slurry from the piggery and became highly offensive; the ladies asked for a wider plank to cross over and for a time this was a trouble spot. When our ground staff built a dam across this drain the farmer resorted to litigation, the result of which has not been recorded. Hedging ran alongside the drain and was also along the line that divides the practice ground from the 9th and 1st fairways. The 9th green was never altered and it is interesting to recall that a spring bubbled out of the mound to the west of the green.
The second 9 holes were opened in 1924, and it took much longer for that side of the course to settle down and mature and, apart from the lush fairway of the 14th, it was heavy going.
The 10th crossed the deep dyke that bisects the course and this was not culverted until much later. Over the dyke and to the left were open fields up to Little Coates Road. The bunkers to the right were not there and a division from the 18th was made by white posts over which it was ?out of bounds? whilst playing the 10th. The 11th too was featureless with ploughed land to the left and no willow clumps separating the fairways to the right. There used to be a half-boat erected on end to act as a rain shelter; this was placed about 200 yards from the 11th tee where an old rusty gate used to be sited.
A feature of the 12th is the spinney to the left which has now grown to adult height. In the 1930s it was a young plantation and it was possible to play over the top to the green from a pulled drive. On old ordnance maps it is described as an oak plantation, but it is mainly full of ash trees. The idea of moving the green back to the Freshney had been mooted before the War, but it never materialised until 1979. The other half of the afore-mentioned boat was sited here just across the plank bridge over the dyke near the spinney. The hole remained unaltered until the new 12th green, now on the far side of the dyke, was brought into play in 1982. The 13th tee had then been moved to the side of this new 12th green but, following an extension to the lake, a complete new siting of the 13th tee to its present position was opened on Captain?s Day 1999.
Flooding of the 14th had always occurred, yet it remained for many years the nicest turf on the course. At one time a shallow open drain ran right across the fairway and was the start of the ditch that ran from the willow clump to join up with another ditch that was beside the old 13th tee close to the 12th green. The ditch was a haven of wild flowers with an abundance of meadow sweet, ragwort, knapweed, varieties of willow herb, sweet grass and creeping buttercup, all of which disappeared when the ditch was filled in when the huge lake was built in 1995, where a practice ground had been previously situated. The drain itself which crossed the fairway was a nuisance as it caught the long drives, and after an attempt to protect it with wire mesh, it was filled in and some attempt at drainage was made in the process. Always in that brown drain water was seen an oily iridescence. Some used to think we played on top of an oil-field! The ditch was reopened when the lake was built to carry the water from the pond on the 2nd in an overflow pipe after crossing underneath the 15th fairway.
When the tee was more forward than it is now and long before the existence of the lake, long hitters would attempt to drive straight for the green. Roger Bacon, for one, succeeded; and a temporary member named Watt, who had earned the nickname ?Gorilla,? such was his strength, reached the green apron from the back tee - a prodigious drive of 350 yards! Since then and with more modern equipment, many of the big hitters in the Club used to try to reach the green by driving straight through the dog-leg and across the out of bounds practice ground. However, after the lake was formed in 1995, this distracted most players from doing so.
The 15th hole was played from the present winter tee. The ladies had a very forward tee at the start of the fairway which is still in evidence as a flat mound and an interesting relic as a reminder of the average size of tees long ago. It was once suggested that this green be constructed higher up and backing to the 1St and 17th greens, but the length of the hole did not have such importance then and the natural indentation on the side of the hill was utilised.
Both the 16th and 17th originally lacked interest and were bare of trees. They constituted a hard slog along ground that was termed fairway but in fact was somewhat sparse of grass. For many years grazing was allowed on the course and it was compulsory during the War years. This was confined to the second 9 holes and the sand pit area, the ground becoming too well cropped. A drive on the 17th with a good back wind would frequently bound away up to the ridges, which were then bunkers, needing only a niblick shot to make the green. After the end of the War in 1945, those fairways improved out of all recognition, which was attributed to the withdrawal of the sheep.
Now to the 18th. This has always been a gem of a hole. Again there was the hazard of the dyke to trap an indifferent drive, and more trees lined the fairway approach to the green to halt anything but a straight shot. When trees came down one could get to the green from the 1st and 10th fairways which was never possible when this hole was planned.
What a pity, with hindsight, that the original Directors did not grasp the opportunity of planting trees as has been done over the years since then. The answer may well have been because of the financial constraints of their time, and there were no ?fruit machines? bringing in a steady income for course improvement. (Following a spate of burglaries and increased licence fee for these machines resulting in a loss to the club, the machine was taken out in the 1980s.)
There have been many attempts by members to re-arrange the order of play, and the provision of new holes. in the late 1980s, the hole
numbering was changed so that the 10th hole became the 1St and the 1st the 10th. This experiment was tried mainly to alleviate the congestion which often occurred at the 2nd hole, but it was not successful, nor was the membership in favour of the move, and the original order was restored after one year.
When the mineral rights had expired and the sand pit became available, many suggestions were put forward to utilise that natural centre, but it is a tribute to Mr. H. S. Colt, the original designer, that his plan has prevailed to this day. However, although the original plan of the course has been lost, there is evidence that the front nine may have been in a different order from what it is now.
In a letter to the directors, following his visit to the club in May 1931, he describes the present 7th as being the 5th on his old plan. This would suggest that he may have intended that the present 6th should be the 4th hole, the 7th the 5th, the 8th the 6th, the 5th the 7th, the 4th the 8th, and it was believed that the course was played like that for a short time before the order we now know was adopted.
Mr. Colt visited the Club in 1931 as a result of an invitation sent by the directors with a view to asking his advice on the reconstitution of the urse. It was desired by the directors at that time to give up the land adjoining the roadway so that it could be developed for building purposes. Mr. Colt drew up a plan showing that the 3rd would become the 2nd, the 6th the 3rd and the rest of the holes to the 8th repositioned. Subsequently, un action was taken and the 5th and the 8th holes remained as they were until the war.
As a matter of interest there was a strong move to go back to the original order shortly after the course was brought back to normal, it did not find a majority in favour.