In 1889 the owners of the Pump House Hotel, Llandrindod Wells, appointed Alexander Patrick of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club to lay out a nine-hole golf course over the common near the lake for the entertainment of visitors to the Hotel and for the use of such local people as might be interested in the game of golf.
This course was advertised in the Golfing Annual Vol IV, 1890, as being of 9 holes with no crossing over moorland and with plenty of 'whins and sporting hazards'.
In 1905 the Town Council took over the common and as more and more visitors were using the common the playing of golf there became increasingly dangerous and the Pump House had to close their golf course. One of the leading golfers and a prominent business man in the town at that time was Mr Tom Norton, a car and cycle dealer, and a man who was to be to the forefront in the subsequent development of golf in Mid-Wales. He had been an early member of St Giles Golf Club of Newtown, where he had business interests. He was perhaps the first man in Llandrindod Wells to recognise what an enormous attraction a first class 18 hole golf course would be for the town; he enlisted the support of a few other like minds and looked out for a suitable site for a brand new course and clubhouse convenient to the town. They decided on a beautiful stretch of land to the east overlooking the lake and town with magnificent views in all directions. Negotiations to obtain this land, either by purchase or lease, were started and this is really where the history of the Llandrindod Wells Golf Club begins.
On the 22nd May, 1905, in the office of Churchill and Co, Solicitors, of Llandrindod Wells, seven gentlemen signed the Articles of Association to form the new Llandrindod Wells Golf Club Company with a share capital of l,500 in 1.00 shares, and appointed Dr Bowen Davies of Brynarlais to be Chairman of the new Company. The seven signatories to the Articles of Association were: Tom Norton, Motor Factor; W L Harper, Hotel Keeper; R Wellings Thomas, Architect; W Ringrose Gore, Physician; C S Davies, Medical Electrician; T Watson, Hotel Keeper; and John Griffiths, Physician.
Negotiations were started immediately by the Company, represented by Tom Norton, to obtain by purchase or lease approximately 140 acres on Little Hill above the town. Agreement was finally reached on 16th October, 1905 when five of the Directors agreed to an Indenture guaranteeing the payment of rent by the Directors.
A start was made by clearing large areas of bracken on the hill with the assistance of the tenant of the Hall Farm, who had the grazing rights for sheep only. The Open Golf Champion, Harry Vardon, a prominent course designer, was called in to design the layout of the new course.
By 1906 the course was playable and the club's first match took place against Newtown on the 21st May, Llandrindod winning by 4 matches to 3. The course gradually took shape, using a horse and cart and wheelbarrows to construct the new greens and tees. Four men were employed to maintain the course using hand mowers to mow the fairways and greens, sometimes assisted by a horse-drawn mower, the horse having leather boots put on over the hooves so as not to damage the grass.
The wooden Clubhouse was supplied and constructed by the Wire Wove company of Queen Victoria Street, London. It stood, withstanding the severest of weather, for over 70 years. It is interesting to note that when the building was demolished in 1974, it was discovered that it had no foundations as such, but rested on heavy wooden beams laid on concrete "Dollys" similar to the present-day American "Doughnuts".
Official Opening Day, 18th May 1907
Incorporated in the clubhouse was accommodation for a Steward and Stewardess. Cooking was done on a coal-fired range and the clubhouse and drying-room were heated by large cast-iron stoves, parts of which became red-hot when well stoked up in the winter. Lighting was by paraffin lamps and sanitation by earth closets, with access from outside the building for emptying daily.
By early 1906, as the course and clubhouse were now in use, the directors of the company decided that the Llandrindod Wells Golf Club should be formed.
A meeting was called on 7th March 1906 and this minute was recorded: "That the persons present at the meeting of golfers whose names the secretary has read form themselves into a Golf Club to be called the Llandrindod Wells Golf Club and that the rules and regulations dated 6th day of November 1905 shall be accepted as the Rules and Regulations of the Club."
Thus the Llandrindod Wells Golf Club and the Llandrindod Wells Golf Club Company Ltd. were formed and a famous Golf Course was created for the future benefit of visiting golfers to the Spa as well as the local people. The Official Opening was to take place on Saturday, 18th May, 1907.
The 18th May, 1907 was a glorious sunny day. The occasion was marked first by two singles matches, the first played by the local Professional, George Humble, against the then current Open Champion, James Braid of Walton Heath who was Open Champion in 1901, 1905 and 1906, (and was to be so again in 1908 and 1910), and the second between Harry Vardon of Totteridge, Open Champion 1896, 1898, 1899 and 1903, (and again in 1911 and 1914), and J H Taylor of Royal Mid-Surrey, Open Champion in 1894, 1895 and 1900, (and again in 1909 and 1913), the winners being James Braid and Harry Vardon.
J.H.Taylor, James Braid, Harry Vardon
In the afternoon two foursomes matches were played by the distinguished professional golfers and a very happy and successful day was concluded.
Exhibition matches were held on the course attracting visitors and golf enthusiasts from far afield. The most notable of these exhibition matches took place in 1911 when no less than four Open Champions played before a large crowd. These were the Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J H Taylor joined by Alex (Sandy) Herd of Huddersfield, Open Champion 1902. A unique occasion indeed.
In 1910 the qualifying round for the News of the World Professional Championship took place with a special prize of £25 donated by the Club.
Ladies Golf was becoming more popular and a Mrs Bird from Penarth wrote on behalf of the Welsh Ladies Golf Union asking if the qualifying round of the Welsh Ladies Championship could be played at Llandrindod. This was agreed to, subject to certain undefined conditions appertaining to Ladies Golf, and the committee donated £5.00 as a gesture of goodwill.
In 1912 the secretary's salary was agreed at £100 per annum.
In the same year, a letter was received from five club members requesting that golf be allowed on Sunday. The committee decided that a ballot should be held to decide the issue and subsequently 127 voting papers were sent out. The result was that 58 voted for Sunday golf and 33 voted against. The directors were of the opinion that there was not enough feeling for or against the proposition so decided not to make a change. However, in 1914, after further meetings of the committee, Sunday golf was allowed in spite of two strong letters opposing it from the Revd Singers-Davies.
The Caddie Master and Caddies, circa 1909
During the 1914-1918 Great War the club continued to function with some difficulty However, on 29 April 1919 H I Walker, secretary of the Welsh section of the Professional Golfers Association wrote requesting the use of the course for the PGA Victory Tournament to be played on 21st May. This was enthusiastically agreed to by the committee. At the same time Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was elected an honorary member and subsequently served as President of the Club.
An attempt was made in 1932 to obtain an electricity supply to the clubhouse but to no avail. Eventually a generator was installed driven by a petrol engine which could be clearly heard in the town when the wind was in the right direction.
The Wooden Clubhouse 1920
During the 1930s there were many problems in the running of the course and clubhouse. There was much discussion with regard to the pay and duties of George Humble, the professional. George Humble's hours of work were becoming increasingly erratic so the committee decided to set out his duties as far as practicable. His hours in the summer and winter were decided and his duties were to supervise the work on the course, control of the caddies and fixed times arranged for private tuition. He was also instructed to keep out of the clubhouse at the request of the directors. Any refreshments purchased by him must be obtained from the back entrance. It should be appreciated that golf professionals were considered servants of the club and did not achieve their present high standing until just before the second World War.
With all the extra administrative work to be done, the secretary, J Lewis Wilding, felt that a full time job was beyond him and suggested that a younger man be appointed. Consequently he resigned with effect from the end of February, 1935 after 30 years.
At a ceremony at the clubhouse attended by many club members as well as the directors, he was presented with a radiogram and cheque in appreciation of his years of service.
In February, 1935 the Club advertised for a new secretary to replace Mr Wilding. The salary was to be £200 per annum without accommodation. Five applicants were seen and Captain J.R. Nelson was appointed as the first full-time secretary of the club. A letter was received that year from the manager of the Midland Bank, Lampeter, requesting use of the course for a Managers' Golf Day. This was agreed and a charge of 2 shillings per player for the day was arranged.
It was decided to upgrade the course and James Braid was invited to visit the club and submit plans for improvement. James Braid visited the course and submitted his report and his account of £11 and 11 shillings. Much concern was expressed at the large number of sheep on the course and the irritation and inconvenience caused to members and visitors alike. Mr Wilding pointed out that the Company had no control over the number on the leased land but he would contact Capt Woosnam with a view to limiting the numbers. This resulted in a reduction in the number of sheep during the summer months to around 150. The new lease was approved and signed. Mr T L Vaughan, the grazier, was to be allowed to trap rabbits on the course.
Much criticism and many complaints were being made at this time against the club Professional, George Humble. The secretary was asked to draw up a report and as a result Mr Humble was given notice to retire after taking 14 days holiday with pay and was awarded a pension of 10 shillings per week after 32 years service.
The Club then advertised for a professional and eventually W C Grabham was appointed to take over in July 1937 at a wage initially of £100 per year.
A new Calor Gas system was installed for heating and lighting, affecting a substantial reduction in the coal bill. The qualifying round for the Welsh Professionals for the Daily Mail tournament was held on the course on 25th March, 1937, also, the district final of the Ladies' Wakefield Trophy.
Several ladies complained to the Secretary that the bull belonging to the tenant of the Hall Farm had been loose on the road up to the Club on several occasions and had caused them no little consternation, so the Secretary was asked to contact the farmer. This was done but occasionally the bull escaped and the matter was settled finally when the bull was sold.
On the 19th August, 1938 Mrs. Seaborne attended the committee meeting, the first time a lady had been appointed. She did not attend many meetings, however, and eventually resigned.
In March 1939 Chris Grabham, the club professional, won the Welsh Professional Championship. On September 3rd 1939 war was declared, the Open Meeting for 1939 was cancelled and the company and club prepared themselves for the difficult times that were to come.
Source: "The History of Llandrindod Wells Golf Club, 1905-1939", H.A. Bottomley, The Radnorshire Society Transactions, 1992, pp 96-111.
(Reproduced by permission of H.A. Bottomley).