Battle for the clubs survival

The war in Europe ended in May 1945 but, anticipating this, the club in January 1945 gave Major Platt 12 months notice to end his tenancy of the 70 acres then under plough. He was very helpful and sowed seeds so that there would be a good growth of grass as early as possible.

Initially there was a tremendous sense of euphoria and optimism in the country after almost six extremely difficult years. There was anticipation of a brighter future. Life, however, con­tinued to be very drab and, indeed, rationing went on for another nine years. The task of bringing the front 9 holes at Newark back into play again was to prove a lot more difficult than in 1935. In April 1945, there was just £794 in the bank and the club still owed £2,250 to the debenture holders. They only had part-time labour on the course. They had to rely very much on the efforts of a small band of directors and members who volunteered to help. They were starting with land which had recently been ploughed up with the result that many nat­ural golfing features had been lost. Membership had fallen to about 100. Because of the con­dition of the course, it was difficult to attract new members. A daunting prospect lay ahead! However, a start was made 'to get the show back on the road.' Clarence Woodhouse lodged a claim for £1,965 compensation to re-instate the land. (Three years were to pass before any­thing was received and then it was only £1,450!) An Invitation Dance was held at the Town Hall in October 1945 and in 1946 some of the club competitions were revived, beginning with the Victory, Howitt and Wilkinson Cups and also the monthly Medals. The other trophy com­petitions were re-established over the next couple of years. Members will notice from the Honours Boards that there is a gap in some cases from 1941 to 1948. In 1949, the fixture list was revised so that most competitions would be played on a Sunday, which has remained the case ever since. In 1951, to stimulate more interest, the Winter League was introduced.

Early in 1946, the ladies expressed a wish to form a committee, and they appointed Mrs G Sammons as their Captain and Mrs Draper as Secretary. The committee members were Mrs Reg Hambling (Captain 1947) Miss N Moore, Mrs J N Stennett, Miss Ashton and Mrs Healey. The Captain's Prize was won in 1946 by Dr A Buchanan. The Ladies Honours Boards show the 1946 winner but not the Captain's name. The list of Captains begins with Mrs Hambling in 1947 (Mrs Sammons was selected to play for the county in 1947).

Meanwhile back on the course! In February 1946, a specialist was called in to advise on how the general fertility of the course could be built up to provide satisfac­tory turf for when fertilisers became avail­able again. The board accepted his recom­mendation that sewage sludge should be applied! The following month the greenkeep-er Fred Fogg returned. The sites of the old greens were inspected and it was decided that as a first step they should be rotavated and sewage sludge applied. It was also agreed that the first nine holes would more or less follow the original layout. 

The work programme for 1946/47 on the back 9 included mowing all thistles and nettles, treating the weeds on the greens and the purchase of a wooden roller to gather up and remove worm casts from the greens! A proposal from the Green Committee for a practice area between the 10th and the 18th fairways was turned down by the board. A suggestion for a putting green in front of the clubhouse was left to be considered 'when the time was oppor­tune.'

What was expected to be another step forward was taken in January 1947 with the employ­ment of a Professional/Greenkeeper called Bullivant. Great optimism was expressed for his future with the club but his appointment turned out to be something of a disaster. He seems to have had an accident on the course within the first couple of months and was off sick con­tinuously for the next three years. He ended up in Harlow Wood Hospital for treatment and was finally give his notice in June 1950. The club had to pay him £175 compensation!

Enquiries were made to see if German prisoners of war would be available to work on the course but we don't know whether anything came of this. However, one way or another, the work was getting done. By September 1948, six new greens were ready for mowing and sewage sludge was applied to the approaches from 30/40 yards out. It was hoped that the six holes would be ready for play in 1949 and, meanwhile, work proceeded on the remaining three greens (i.e. 4th, 5th, and 6th). A drought in 1949 delayed things and the full 18 holes were not in play until 1951.

Some members had become increasingly dissatisfied with the slow progress and the gener­al state of the course. As late as 1949 Harold Whistler even suggested that it might be prefer­able to settle for nine holes in good condition than 18 in bad. The Green Chairman came under attack (unusual this!) because the rough was not being cut. He explained that every effort was being made to get someone to come in and cut it but the hay was practically worth­less! Obviously the club could not expect to support an 18 hole course with only 100 mem­bers, all of whom were paying a smaller subscription than before the War. As a first step, the subscriptions were increased in 1946 back to the pre-War figures of £5.5s (£5,25p) for men and £3.6s. (£3.30p) for ladies. Members were urged to obtain nominations for new members, preferably young people. The aim was to double the membership to 200. For the next few years the Newark Advertiser s reports of the club AGMs invariably carried a headline to the effect that the club needed more members. Four years later and despite the publicity and all the efforts, there were still only 89 men and 34 ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the 1949 AGM, a letter was read from Harold Mumby, the retiring President, warning members that unless there was a concerted effort to double the membership the golf club might have to close down. He reminded them that subscriptions were still at the pre-War level but labour costs had trebled since 1939. It was suggested that two committees (men and ladies) be formed to draw up lists of people in the Newark area who might join and that they should then be contacted. As an interim measure the subscriptions were increased by £1 and one of the greenstaff was put on part-time working.

Things got worse not better and often there was not enough money to pay the bills. For example, at a board Meeting in January 1952 the Secretary reported that the club had just  £162 in the bank but there were bills totalling £461 due for payment (It will help to put these figures in context to say that a man s average weekly wage then was not more than about £5).

An Extraordinary General Meeting was held on 17 March 1952. Members were told that the club could not continue running at a loss and that measures would have to adopted to put it on a sound footing.

One member proposed an Artisans Section but this was not supported. In the end, it was decided that a very substantial increase in subscriptions was needed, the men's to go up to £8.8.0d (£8.40p) and the Ladies to £6.6s.0d (£6.30). Mrs Anderton said that it was only fair that the ladies should pay the same increase as the men and, by a majority, the ladies voted for a subscription of £6.16s.6d. Green fees were put up to 5/- (25p) per round a day but this was soon found to be prohibitive so it was reduced to 3/6d. However things had at last begun to get better because at the following year's AGM, the President was able to speak about an improved course and an improved balance sheet. A large number of new members had joined and at last the accounts were showing a profit.

The year 1952 also saw a momentous change in the way things were run at the club. Up until then, there had only been the Annual General Meeting of the company at which the directors were elected. The directors then formed the various committees from among them­selves, though from time to time they might co-opt.

Members must clearly have been pressing for a greater say because in May 1952 the board agreed that in future there would be a Members AGM to divorce, as it were, club and com­pany. The first Members'AGM was held on 26 March 1953 to elect officers and committees for the year. The procedure followed was very much as it is today except that all committees (i.e. including competitions) were under the chairmanship of a director.

We now look at some of the other happenings, difficulties and aspects of club life during this 1945-1960 period. 

Golf:

The final of the 1947 Howitt Cup competition had to be played by 31 March 1948! When the final was played, the 17th green was under repair so there were actually only eight holes in play. It was, therefore, agreed that the 15th hole should be played four times in order to make it an 18 hole final!

Ed Marker, who had been Match Secretary way back in 1908, died in 1950, aged 87. He had retired in 1934 from Messrs Hole, where he had been head of the Malting Department. His obituary stated that in his younger days he had played football for the famous Corinthians club and for Nottingham Forest and Notts County. He played for Newark Town against Grantham Rovers in the match in which Stuart MacRae had his leg broken.

At the 1952 AGM, the Match Secretary, G L Scott, complained that it was a 'big headache' raising teams for inter-club matches. "I have spent hours trying to contact members to play."

Harold Whistler proposed at the first Members' AGM in 1953 that the new Captain should 'play himself in' on the Sunday afternoon before the Spring Mixed Foursomes, the retriever of the ball to keep same.

The 'opportune moment' for the putting green must have arrived by 1953 because in July of that year 'the necessary equipment for the putting green' was gifted by Mr Len Johnson.

A visiting golf professional named Smith used to come to Newark to give lessons but in 1953 he wrote saying that he longer found it a paying proposition. For a time the club secured the services of S R Roper, who came from Nottingham periodically, and he was allowed to sell golf requisites. Available times for lessons were posted on the notice board. In time Roper was succeeded as visiting professional by Jack Jacobs of Lindrick or one of his assistants.

There were complaints in 1958 about cattle straying on the course and that a harvester was making the cart track between the 4th and 6th 'nearer the fairway'. A year earlier fairways and greens had been damaged by trespassing horse riders!

Captain's Day (Harold Whistler) in 1958 had to postponed. Play was impossible because the course was completely waterlogged. In his Captain's year, Harold presented the club with a flag and a flag pole.

The then record gross score of 73 was set in 1959 by Bill Lorimer playing in the Titchfield Cup.

Members:

A Mr Draper lodged a complaint in October 1946 that a Mr Bertie Dobbs (whom Pat Mumby remembers as being quite a fiery character) had brought two dead pigs up to the course, one of which was still in his car some days later! There were also complaints that he had been rude to Nellie Robb. Dobbs was sent a letter asking 'for a cessation of these acts and for behaviour worthy of a member of the club.'

In the spring and summer of 1948, the Lincolnshire Road Car Co provided a bus service to the club on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving the town centre at 12.15 pm. There was a special relief bus in the evenings to bring members back.

Two members who were later to become Chairmen joined the club in the early 1950s: F R Bond, in November 1951, and Gordon Hunter as a junior member in April 1952.

Members were asked to support the bar because money was needed to pay for the mains electricity supply which was installed in 1956.

In 1959, a new membership category was introduced, Adult Beginners, who paid half the applicable subscription. This proved very popular and led to such an influx of new members that it was discontinued in March 1962.

Course:

Members pressed the board in 1955 to get rid of sheep gra/ing on the course. A Mr Capp was given notice to clear his sheep by 6 April 1956 and remove the wire fences. Some regret was expressed at the loss of the manurial benefit and the rent!

At this time, there was a regular staff of just two men working on the course, Merrin and Fogg, and during the growing season there was far more work than they could cope with. Sid Fryer was paid 3/- (15p) an hour as casual labour to help them. One of his jobs was filling in rabbit holes on the greens. A programme was started to get rid of worms on the green using lead arsenate. (In 1982, Gordon Hunter reported that a quantity of this poisonous stuff was still lying in one of the greenkeeper's buildings. We had to pay £110 to get rid of it!)

In reply to a enquiry in 1955 from the Sports Turf Research Institute at Bingley, the Secretary said the Club was not in a financial state to pay a subscription to them.

A lot of help on the course continued to be given by members, particularly the members of the Green Committee. Edwin Foster and his father, R S Foster, were regularly thanked for their work. In 1956 Gordon Hunter was given six Dunlop 65s in appreciation of the work he had done on the course.

That same year there had been serious problems. Fred Fogg (who was referred to as an old and valuable servant) died in June having worked for the club since 1930, apart from the war years. Merrin resigned the same month after he had been refused a pay increase. The vacan­cies were advertised but successful applicants turned the job down because of the state of the accommodation. The board was forced to make improvements to put the Kelwick farmhouse in habitable condition, including piping water across from the clubhouse and installing water lavatories. It was another two years before bathrooms were fitted.

Once again members rallied round to help on the course because of the labour shortage. Leslie Scott was another who did a lot of work, and when he had to resign as Chairman of the Green Committee through ill health he was thanked for his many years of valuable work and given courtesy of the course.

The rough was only cut occasionally and usually by a local farmer or a contractor. For a time the Lincolnshire Playing Fields Contractors were employed.

House:

Miss Robb, who had been the Stewardess since 1935, left in April 1948. Successors quick­ly came and went over the next 18 months until the appointment of Mrs Mastin, who stayed until 1953. She was followed by Mrs Fryer, who was paid £3.17s 6d a week plus house rent free and catering profits. Sid Fryer, her husband, was initially employed as casual labour on the course but was later appointed a greenkeeper and stayed with the club for over 20 years. 

In June 1950, the board was asked whether a shower could be installed above the footbath in the gents toilet. Nothing was to come of this for some years!

The driveway from the Sleaford Road was an ongoing source of complaint, particularly during winter when it developed deep potholes. In 1954, Howard Selby offered to fill in the deep holes and suggested a working party of members to complete the work. Later an esti­mate of £750 was received to tarmac the drive from the main road to the car park. It was decided instead just to scarify and roll it with shaling. It was to be another 25 years before we had a tarmac road - at a cost of £20,000!

Fridays were Mrs Fryer day off and for a time one of the ladies, Mrs G R Needham agreed to be at the clubhouse to collect green fees. No catering was provided when Mrs Fryer was on holiday and the directors ran the bar on a rota basis. Later it was arranged that at these times her husband would work on the course in the mornings and look after the clubhouse and the bar in the afternoon.

Mrs Fryer had to resign in 1957 for health reasons. A Mr Smith was employed as Professional/Greenkeeper and his wife as Stewardess. In time there were serious complaints from several directors and the Ladies Section about Smith's conduct. The Secretary, too, com­plained about his lack of co-operation and said that if Smith remained on the staff, he would not. Smith left not long afterwards and Mrs Fryer returned and looked after the catering until 1963. Finance:

Despite the optimistic comments of J H Knight at the 1953 AGM, lack of money continued to be a problem for many years and at times the Club relied on the generosity of its members.

He himself in 1953 handed in £100 debentures for cancella­tion, perhaps £3,000 in today's money. Such acts of gen­erosity on the part of Presidents or Chairmen are, of course, always to be welcomed and encouraged!

A couple of years later the Club Secretary, Herbert Masding, refused an increase in his salary (which was only £26) 'to help keep the expenses of the club as low as pos­sible'.

In 1952, Stephenson & Nuttall were appointed auditors to the club. Their charges for the first year were £ 10 but Mr Nuttall reduced them to £7.