Leeds GC relishing being the stage for Yorkshire Challenge Bowl

Competitors in the three-day Yorkshire Challenge Bowl festival cross a bridge on one of the fairways at Leeds GC.  Home player Liz Burkill led the 16-strong contingent of Challenge Bowl qualifiers with a net 66.
Competitors in the three-day Yorkshire Challenge Bowl festival cross a bridge on one of the fairways at Leeds GC. Home player Liz Burkill led the 16-strong contingent of Challenge Bowl qualifiers with a net 66.
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COURSES throughout the area are teeming with golfers making the most of the prolonged spell of sunshine.

One of the busiest is Leeds Golf Club, which is currently staging a three-day festival of golf, the Yorkshire Challenge Bowl, one of the Yorkshire Ladies County Golf Association’s flagship events.

And next month the Cobble Hall course will once again host the Leeds Cup, professional golf’s oldest trophy, which returned to its spiritual home last year after an eight-year absence.

The Yorkshire Challenge Bowl competitors, around 300 of them, plus the Leeds Cup’s professional field from August 7-9 will find a course in top condition that now has former Slaley Hall employee Ian Pullan leading its greenkeeping staff as course manager.

“It was a huge coup for us to get Ian,” said Leeds GC’s club secretary Paul Mawman.

“We got the Sports Turf Research Institute involved and they were able to ask technical questions that we wouldn’t have the knowledge to have asked.

“They said that Ian’s knowledge was exceptional in all aspects and it has been so good for the club to have him here.”

The club’s membership – which has grown by 50 since Christmas and more than 80 in the last financial year – are playing on a course that is undergoing changes.

“We have a bunker programme that we will be implementing, hopefully in the autumn,” continued Mawman.

“We will be reshaping them and clearing them out and completely re-doing them.

“With the bunkers you need to keep topping them up, but it is an area where we need further investment.

“We have renewed some paths and we have also renewed some tees; several tees have been replaced.”

Having the Leeds Cup back at Cobble Hall is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for the club.

“Having the Leeds Cup and the Yorkshire Challenge Bowl here is further recognition for the club,” said Mawman.

“There is no intention now from the PGA to move the Leeds Cup from here.

“The night before the pro-am there will be a reception at the Dakota hotel in town. We have invited the Lord Mayor and we have invited Sir Gary Verity [Welcome to Yorkshire CEO].

“Everything is going from strength to strength.

“The course is better than ever considering, like all clubs, we had such an awful start to the year because of the weather.

“We have been traditionally known as late starters in the year in terms of the course coming good in comparison to other clubs, but we have always gone on longer in the season than a lot of the other clubs. This year we have started earlier this year as well so the season will be longer than we have had in past years.”

The area in which the club have seen their biggest membership growth is with people under 40.

“We do not charge them a full fee until they reach 40,” explained Mawman. “From 18 onwards the fee goes up in increments.

“We also have flexi-play now, and I know a lot of other clubs are doing it too. It is a points-based system. We have a nominal fee that you pay to be a member of the club and then you buy points and use the points when you play, depending upon what time you play and what day of the week you play.

“It does have some restrictions; you can’t play on Saturday morning in competitions. You can play in Saturday competitions after one o’clock.

“And you can’t play in the gold leaf competitions because otherwise what benefit is there to being a full member?”

The club have started making plans for their quasquicentennial year in 2021.

“The club will be 125 years, so we have started what is called the 125 club with members paying £5 pound a month,” continued Mawman. “There is a draw each month and the winner gets £125. What that will do is generate additional funds for us for when we get to 2021 to pay for whatever celebrations we want to do. It will mean we will not be drawing on usual operational funds.

“It will also help for anything we want to do leading up to that, such as any additional refurbishment to the clubhouse.”

Leeds have won Club Mirror awards in the past three years.

“We won steward of the year last year, before that we got caterer of the year and the year before that we won club of the year,” said Mawman, adding with a smile, “I don’t think we have any more to get now.”

Cobble Hall is a popular venue for societies staging golf days, and some might consider the course easy because of its modest length.

But Mawman cautioned: “We are not the longest course, but you can find the trees, which will cause you trouble, and the greens cause the most problems because they are wickedly deceptive.”