The Story of Greenock Golf Club
by Sid Montford
The Story of The Greenock Golf Club (by Sid Montford)
The most important thing in the like of a golfer is his choice of club, the club of which he becomes a member, not the implement, although that is important enough in all conscience, as we well know – to our delight or sorrow!
How fortunate, then, are the good people of Greenock who have no worries at all about the choice of club – simply because the Greenock club possesses two courses of excellent quality, a long and testing eighteen holes circuit and an inner stretch of nine holes, which, although short, demands great accuracy in iron play.
But, apart from golfing territory and lay-out, the visitor is impressed chiefly by the breath-taking panoramic view presented to him on the higher reaches of the course.
“Finest view on the Clyde” is an eager claim frequently made by members of many clubs, and we must concede that those who speak in praise of Rothesay, Millport, Cowal and Skelmorlie are not without justification, but we of the Greenock Club believe that the views from our course are unsurpassed.
Naturally the members of the Greenock club are not free from prejudice, yet these other courses mentioned are limited in their scenic scope; they lack the far-flung vista offered at Greenock.
Stand on the eighth tee on the eighteen-hole course and cast your wondering eye around! To the east see the snaking river Clyde stretching to Dumbarton Rock and beyond, then sweep the gaze across the blue waters of the firth to the hills about Helensburgh, to the Gareloch, Loch Long and, miles and miles away, the towering mass of the Arrochar Alps and the start of the Grampian Mountains.
To the west we look down on Gourock, as from an aeroplane, and admire the great sweep of the river as it turns south at the Cloch towards the sea. As we survey the Kip Valley to the south-west, we discern the majestic mountains of Arran and the sparkling Firth of Clyde, a lovely picture. Due south rise the Renfrewshire Hills climbing above the town.
That then is the delightful setting for this round of golf that we are about to play.
Brief History of the Club
The first Greenock Golf Club began on March 26 1873, when a group of golf enthusiasts, chiefly ‘exiles’ from St. Andrews, held a meeting in the Brachelston Toll Bar which became the first ‘Club House’.
Ground for six holes had been mapped out at the Bow Farm. The annual subscription was fixed at one guinea. Presumably the Club ran smoothly for two or three seasons but in February, 1875, it was found that the club was £15 in debt.
There was consternation in the spring of the following year when it was discovered that the owner of the Bow Farm had put a top-dressing on the fairways. Play was impossible!
So the first golf club in Greenock died quietly. The last minute to be inscribed in the club records, dated April 20th, 1876, is incomplete, and, like the club itself, just faded away.
However, the great game was making strides all over the country and in September, 1890, a meeting was held in the Union Bank to form The Greenock Golf Club, annual subscription 10 shillings. The course was to be laid out on the Battery Park, members not to exceed 40 and the rent to be paid to the tenant of the Park.
On February 17, 1892, the club growing in strength, decided to rent a portion of the Craigs and Bow Farms for a nine-hole course.
Later that year the Club, with a membership of 150, decided to build a clubhouse costing £130, the money to be raised by members’ voluntary subscriptions. In 1893 membership was increased to 180 and on March 25 the clubhouse was opened.
That year it was agreed to allow women to join, with a limit of 50. At the A.G.M. in 1894 the question of extending the course over part of the ground within the cemetery walls was raised and presumably agreed to – the course then becoming 18 holes. The balance of the Skating Club fund was handed to the Golf Club.
The following year the members decided to wear red coats and badges, the membership was raised to 300, and the entrance fee to two guineas. The annual subscription remained at one guinea. The Club was still affiliated to the Skating Club. In ’96 an extension to the clubhouse was opened and in 1900 boy members were permitted.
Two ex-Open Champions, Harry Vardon and Sandy Herd, played two rounds in 1905. Vardon won by a hole. Their individual scores aggregated 144 each.
The A.G.M. in 1906 maintained the ordinary membership at 325. There were 101 women members and 16 boys, a total of 442.
David Cobb of Montrose was appointed professional in 1907. In that year, too, it was decided to abandon the holes in the cemetery ground, to drain the skating pond (now the 17th), take over additional ground, and reconstruct the course.
During the First World War a large area of the course was taken over by the military who dug trenches. At the end of the war the ground was restored.
In 1924 former Open Champion, James Braid, visited Greenock to advise on reconstruction of the course. Craigs Farm was purchased in 1926 and the ground used as part of a complete reconstruction scheme. This resulted in a new nine-hole course being formed and a fresh lay-out of several holes in the eighteen holes circuit, chiefly those on the ground now occupied by the eighth, to the thirteenth. The entire job was finished in 1927.
During the World War II, most of the course was taken over by the military and in 1946 the ground was reoriented to form the present eighteen-hole and nine-hole courses.