The founding of the Notts. Golf Club
As long ago as 1864, Mr John Doleman, one of a famous Musselburgh trio of golfing brothers, came to Nottingham with a good supply of balls and the game of golf. He was not deterred by the crowd of onlookers who stopped to watch him at his curious lonely pursuit but at that time he found it difficult to find anyone else of similar interest. It was some years later, in 1887 when there were only 30 Golf Clubs in England, that the Reverend Arthur Hamilton Baynes arranged a meeting for all those in Nottingham interested in forming a golf club. Five appeared. Undaunted, they founded the Nottingham Golf Club and promptly obtained permission from the Council to use what was known as the Recreation Ground off Queen’s Walk -long since built on -where they laid out a small course, assuring the Council that their game would not injure the turf at all and the 5 holes required were only between three and four inches in diameter…..
This area was soon found to be inadequate for the needs of the club and a new home was found at Bulwell Forest which, with its fine turf, sandy soil, gorse and natural undulations made an ideal surface for the development of a golf course. The first competition was held in December 1887 when two rounds of the seven holes were played and Mr John Doleman was victorious.
A local newspaper recorded that at the meeting of the Club on the 8th February 1888 thirty eight members had been enrolled and “that nearly all of them were golfers and that most of them had paid their subscriptions”. By the end of the year they had 43 members and the future of the Club was secure. Playing arrangements were different from those of today. It is recorded that the flags were put out, and gathered in, on Thursdays and Saturdays at the Club’s expense whereas if members wished to play on any other day they had to make heir own arrangements as to flags and be responsible for their safe return. At this time the balance sheet shows that the expenditure for “keeping the ground in order” was substantially less than for “printing, postage, etc.”
Rev. A H Baynes
Mr John Doleman
Edmund Williamson, the Station Master at Bulwell Forest Station, allowed members to change their clothes at his house, store clubs, and have light refreshments provided by his wife and daughter. His son Tom started caddying at the age of seven and became, at the age of seventeen, a very competent player and the first professional to the Notts. Golf Club. This engagement lasted over 50 years. During the period at Bulwell Forest the Club went from strength to strength with new club rooms for Gentlemen and a separate club house for ladies, and the course itself was developed into 18 holes by 1894. It was of such quality that exhibition matches were played, in front of large crowds, involving Harry Vardon, J H Taylor, Ben Sayers, James Braid and Tom Williamson. However, there were a number of external forces at work e.g. expansion of the railways, the encroachment of football and cricket matches and the public use of the Forest especially on Bank Holidays when, it was reported, families picnicked on the greens. It had become evident that a move would have to be made.
The move to Hollinwell
Mr C R Hemingway, a railway surveyor, had discovered a tract of land about 9 miles north of Nottingham (within sight of Lord Byron’s Newstead Abbey) which he considered would make an excellent golf course. In a remarkably short space of time the Club leased the ground (later fully purchased in 1924) and engaged Willie Park Junior to design the course which was to become known as Hollinwell. Amazingly, arrangements were also made for a station to be erected close to the course so that members could travel in comfort from Nottingham. It is recorded that friendly matches were often organised on the train. Another benefit to members was that the signalman at Hollinwell Halt would warn the golfers when the train was due.
The course was officially opened in November 1901 when the membership stood at 228.
Willie Park Junior
In 1902 JH Taylor was consulted as to bunkering but the most dramatic change to the Willie Park course occurred in 1912 when Tom Williamson’s scheme for the course extension was adopted. This involved the laying down of the first three holes to the west of the road and the subsequent redesign of the others which reduced the amount of climbing for the golfer. This superb layout has remained essentially the same but the overall length has been altered as needs have dictated.
Hollinwell has been home to a number of prestigious golf competitions including The News of the World Matchplay, The Daily Mail Tournament, The Dunlop Masters, The John Player Classic, The Haig Tournament and a number of English Amateur Championships.
Christy O’Connor winning the John Player Classic
Nick Faldo with the Haig Trophy
More recently in 2012 Notts. GC (Hollinwell hosted the prestigious R & A British Boys Amateur Championship which list such winners as Sir Michael Bonnallack 1952, Ronan Rafferty 1972, Jose Maria Olazabal 1983, Sergio Garcia 1997 and in 2001 Pablo Martin defeated his fellow countryman Rafeal Cabrera in the final only the second time in history that the two finalist hailed from the same country. In 2012 the Trophy went to Englands Matthew Fitzpatrick who defeated Wales Henry Jones 10 & 8 in the 36 hole final.
In 2015 The Brabazon Trophy was held at Notts GC. The prestigious trophy attracts entrants from around the world and has previously been won by Notts GC member Charles Banks as well as Charl Schwartzel and Ignacio Garrido to name a few. The 2015 Brabazon was won by Cormac Sharvin, an outstanding performance, beating Paul Dunne who, only a few weeks later, led The Open at St Andrews going into the fourth day.