Fulneck Golf club got their 125th anniversary celebrations underway with a Texas Scramble event that was open to all members – men, women and juniors.
It is the first of several events that the club have planned to mark their creation in 1892.
Rob Gillespie, last year’s Rabbits’ captain and one of several members who act in voluntary roles to help the club function, says the exact date of Fulneck GC coming into being is unknown.
“We have got a history book, which was produced in 1992 for our centenary,” says Gillespie.
“One of our older members went through all of our history books, got all the information together, and all the photos, in one place, but there is nothing official to say on which day it was formed in 1892.
“Tristran Tempest, who lived in Tong Hall, overlooking the valley, and the Reverend Titterington had a meeting in middle, late 1891 and decided to create a golf course.”
Because the exact date is not known, Headingley Golf Club is generally considered to be the oldest in Leeds while Leeds (Cobble Hall) is the oldest still in its original position, Headingley having shifted location in 1906.
“We see it a lot, in magazines, that Headingley is promoted as the oldest club in Leeds, which grates on us a little bit,” continues Gillespie. “We don’t profess to be older than Headingley or newer or anything like that, it’s just we get totally overlooked.
“I think some people look down on us because we are a nine-hole course, but we are a golf club and we’re still here.
“We have the same problems like other clubs, but we’re still here, unlike some, and we still want to shout about ourselves.”
Some of Fulneck’s holes have two tees and others two sets of tee markers to give them 18 ‘holes’ on the card.
Back in the 1990s, the club were offered adjoining land – “for pennies”, says Gillespie – but its purchase would only have allowed three further holes to be built.
“I’ve only ever played one 12-hole course before, a beautiful course up in the Isle of Arran, Shiskine,” says Gillespie. “It’s a lovely course, but it is strange playing 12 holes.”
Instead, Fulneck invested in a new clubhouse, which was extended at the end of 1999, to provide a function room that officially opened on Millennium Eve.
It has provided a revenue stream vital to the club’s future as it is regularly hired out for public functions.
“It is probably one of the biggest parts of the golf club as far as income goes aside from the members’ subs,” adds Gillespie. “We rent it out for private functions and it is one of the reasons, probably, why we’re still here.
“If we didn’t have our function room – and we wanted to have the same turnover – our subscription levels would triple, and that would put us out of business.”
At an anniversary evening at the start of the month, a special presentation of an engraved pocket watch was made to John Allan, a member of 50 years’ standing, and the function room was renamed the Allan Suite to reflect the work he and his wife, Val, do at the club.
“John and Val are here on a weekly basis, doing our books, cashing up for us,” explains Gillespie.
“John was on his hands and knees painting the room when we were decorating.
“He’s been a part of this club for years.”
He adds: “We have another couple of members who are coming up for 50 years at the club next year.
“The type of members we’ve got, we’re all working men, your tradesmen and things like that.
“They’ve all got a bit of banter about them. They’ll sit round and take the mick out of each other and laugh about each other’s golf.
“On the course, it’s taken seriously, but if anyone asks me to describe Fulneck I describe it as a con club with a golf course in the back garden, because I think we are known as a friendly club.
“The feedback we get from visitors is that they have been made very welcome. They say members on the course have been very helpful and I think that’s why we get people coming back, whether that be to join as members or to pay-and-play.
“From a social point of view, feedback we get from holding social functions is that we have friendly bar staff.”
The club have added new members this year and Gillespie expects there to be more as greenkeeper Rob Taylor’s work on the course starts to show itself.
“Rob joined us at the start of 2016 and with all the new ideas he’s got I can only imagine we are going to be getting more new members this year,” says Gillespie.
“Rob came to us from Riddlesden when they, unfortunately, decided to close their doors.
“He joined us last February-March and that was off the back of the worst winter I’ve known up here.
“But with the ideas Rob had, the course was probably the best I’ve seen it at the back end of last year.
“We’ve had a much milder winter and Rob’s already starting to put his mark on it.
“We’ve had quite a bit of work done on the banking in front of the third tee, a new bunker has gone in, some old bunkers have been filled in and new hazards created,.
“We’re not changing the layout too much, but changing the way you play the course and there is more work planned for it and more improvements for the clubhouse.”