Whickham Golf Club
Whickham Golf Club was formed on 22nd February 1911 at a meeting in Whickham Village Institute.
Lt Col J.W. Thompson of Whickham Park was elected as President. Messrs. J.E. Stafford, Head Clerk to the Land Agent, and J.B. Renton, Council Surveyor, were elected as joint Secretaries. R.W. Glass, Colliery Manager, was elected as Treasurer and Captain.
The Course was situated at the corner of Broom Lane and Sunniside Road. It consisted of 9 holes. 5 holes were on the east of Sunniside Road and 4 holes were on the west side in fields where Napier Court now stands.
During the First World War the course was closed for 2 years and reopened in 1919.
In 1920 there were 72 Gentlemen members, 41 Lady members and 1 Junior member. Visitors' fees were 1 shilling (5 pence) on weekdays and 2 shillings (10 pence) at weekends and holidays.
By 1925 the membership had increased to 82 Gentlemen, 78 Ladies, 7 Juniors and 1 Juvenile (?)
The Clubhouse stood near Broom Lane. It was a wooden pavilion with a verandah and had originally been the Clubhouse of the Polo Club at The White House, Burnhope, run by the Ritson brothers.
The greens and fairways were cut using a horse drawn mower, the horse wearing leather pads to protect the greens.
About 1935 a petrol driven mower was obtained. It was made from an old Austin 7 car converted by Atholl Campbell, owner of the Crown Garage which stood near the Rose and Crown (now the Olde Lang Jack).
In October 1936 a dinner was held in the Crown Hotel, Newcastle to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Club.
Joseph Tate of Marshall Lands Farm grazed some of his sheep on the Golf Course.
In 1937 Whickham Council approved plans for a new clubhouse to be built at High Hollinside.
The course at Broom Lane was abandoned in favour of a new 9-hole course at Fellside on the Earl of Strathmore's Gibside Estate.
The first AGM was held on 30th March 1938. 9 holes were laid out and voluntary labour became a way of life for the members. Play began on 6th June1938. Of inestimable value was the agreement with the Northern Bus Company who ran an hourly bus service to and from the club. In 1939 the Second World War broke out. However golf was played throughout the war despite enormous difficulties.
Two incidents worthy of note: A German flyer bailed out and landed on the course. He was injured and taken to the clubhouse until the military collected him. A bomb fell on the course during a night when the river Derwent was mistaken for the Tyne, and peppered on each bank. There were no casualties and unfortunately the crater in front of the 5th tee has been filled in.
After the war a further 9 holes were added.
A local farmer's son was paid £1 a week to cut the grass and sheep were allowed to graze. One can imagine the problems there! The club had a stewardess called Mrs. Pringle, who was in charge of the course and was expected to work outside as well as in. And she did!
By 1948 18 holes were in use and everything was improving until in 1951, on the night of New Year's Day, a fire completely destroyed the Club House. If there had been funds available the new Club House would have been sited on Hunters Hill. Funds were not available so it was decided to rebuild on the same site. Five months of intense activity followed. The voluntary labour of members, the fund raising and the insurance payment all resulted in the AGM being in the new and improved Club House. Huwood Machinery and Robert Frayer of Hebburn gave help.
Throughtout the 1950's the club only survived by the continued voluntary work and financial help provided by the stalwarts of the club. They saw to the maintenance of all machinery, assisted in the bar and did all tasks willingly.
In 1962 Bill Woodend was appointed as Professional and Head Green Keeper. He was admired by all who became his pupils and was sought by members of other clubs. He loved teaching the young and also putting mistakes in stance and swing right whenever he saw it. Money meant little to him. Bill was also far sighted and turned the holes round thus eliminating the many blind holes that existed when the course was played clockwise. He retired in 1978 and all the members realised how much they owed to this special man.
All this time, the club lived in fear of the land being sold. However, as it was a thriving club and had the backing of the Whickham Urban District Council, bank loans were agreed and the land was bought from the National Coal Board for £17,500.
At last Whickham Golf Club owned their land. Improvements on the course began, not least the tree-planting programme, which gave hole definitions and protection from the winds which blew down the valley. "Plant a tree in 73 plant some more in 74" and the members did just that! Over 1,000 trees were planted!
In 1994 new land was bought - 29 acres in Snipe Dene. Two new long holes are now in the process of being incorporated into the course. Membership keeps growing and now the ethos is completely different. It used to be the centre of Social Life - open every evening Winter and Summer for good company, shared pleasures and life long friendships. Cards, darts, dominoes, snooker, table tennis, dinners, presentation evenings were all well attended. Now some members never enter the clubhouse. They come in cars, play and go home. "Drinking and driving" has made a difference for Whickham and other golf clubs.
The game is flourishing, but it is important that those who play today realise how much voluntary work and sacrifice from members from 1911, went towards making the club what it is today.