Final years of the century

The period from 1980 has seen many staff changes. In 1980 alone every sin­gle member of the senior staff left. Wilf Cocking and Les Bakin retired full of years and honour. The Professional, Malcolm Lambert, decided to seek reinstatement as an amateur and resigned in March. George Hindson, the Steward, left in October to become the landlord of a public house in Newark. Thus this chapter of the club's history began with a whole new senior team: Ted Dowling (Secretary), Malcolm Grand (Head Greenkeeper), John Pearsall (Professional) and John White (Steward).

Sadly, Ted Dowling died suddenly just two years later and John Simpson was appointed. More changes came in 1986. Out went Malcolm Grand, John Pearsall and John White and in came Willie McConville, Tony Bennett and Peter Horbury. Peter introduced us to a standard of golf club cuisine to which until then we had been unaccustomed and we were the envy of many clubs. Tony Bennett was a first class Professional, both as a golfer and a businessman, and we had a shop and service which were then second to none. Howard Bennett, Tony's father, later came to assist with coaching. Howard was himself a PGA Professional and had been attached to the Penina Club in Portugal. During the time he was at Newark he was also coach to the Ireland Amateur Team and the Portuguese Youth Team. Tony left Newark to take up the position of Director of Golf Development in Portugal in January 1997.

Within two years Willie McConville and Peter Horbury had gone. Charlie Macdonald, the new Head Greenkeeper, arrived in July 1988 and stayed for nine years. He was excellent at his job, very personable and very popular with the members. A category 1 golfer, he took an active part in club competitions and matches.

Melanie Hopkins and Philip Maxwell took over as joint Stewards at the end of 1988 and although Mel left in 1997, Philip and his staff are still looking after us very well 12 years on.

John Simpson successfully applied for the prestigious position of Manager/Secretary at Blairgowrie and moved there at the end of 1989. Tony Morgans replaced him and later became Secretary/Manager. He remained until his retirement in 1999 and those 10 years saw many changes in golf club administration. They brought in, for example, a computerised accounting system, word processing, fax machines and answerphones. Long gone were the days where all the paperwork could be handled by a part-time Secretary working from a room at his house.

Charlie Macdonald's wife had yearned to return to her native Scotland more than ever when she became pregnant with their first baby. So we lost Charlie in the spring of 1997. What might also have persuaded him to leave was that he had had three very frustrating and con­secutive years struggling to make the course presentable in drought conditions. It hardly seems to have stopped raining since he left!

We now come to the present day, Graeme Macdonald (no relation) is Charlie's successor and took over in the summer of 1997. He has settled in very well, and with the assistance of his experienced staff, has provided us with a course which, as we write this history, has never looked better. Like Charlie, Graeme is a low handicap golfer.

How time flies! It seems little more than a year since our Professional, Peter Lockley, arrived here from Belgium but in fact it is more than three years. Peter, too, has settled in very well, both at the club and in his new house in Newark with his wife Rhonda and their two young children. Many members have already benefited from Peter's excellent coaching.

Peter Snow retired from the Army in 1999 and in his first year here has quickly climbed the steep learning curve which faces a new golf club Secretary. He is perhaps finding the learn­ing curve of becoming a single figure handicap golfer a little more challenging. But he is tack­ling it with determination. Time will tell.The improvements to the course, the clubhouse and surroundings continued year by year. At the beginning of 1980 the driveway from the A17 Sleaford Road was tarmaced at last. Over the next 10 years the clubhouse was extended in stages to provide a separate dining room, an improved and enlarged ladies locker room, the present boardroom, and (in 1984) a new locker room, showers and toilets for the gentlemen. The old locker room became the pre­sent Spike Bar and Snooker Room. The following year, the Steward's flat was extended and the club bought the land for a visitors car park. The present trophy cabinet was built in 1988 and in 1985 we had for the first time a half-way house, a wooden summerhouse-type build­ing. Before this we had to make do on the big golf days with refreshments served from John Simpson's caravan!

In 1992, Peter Robertson presented the club with the rockery between the members car park and the first tee, and a proper path was built from the car park to the tee. Together, these new features made this area so much more attractive.

The same year the machinery building was completed, incorporating showers, toilets and a rest room for the greenstaff. Also in 1992, the visitors car park was landscaped and surfaced and the driveway was improved with passing places, bollards etc. Then in 1994 came the piece de resistance, the major extension and complete refurbishment of the clubhouse. This was the biggest single expenditure in the history of the club. The official opening was per­formed by Mr Bob Brown, the President of the Nottinghamshire Golf Union, on 15 April 1994.

Two years later the new half-way house was built, not without some opposition! However time has proved it to be a very useful facility (in several respects) and money well spent. The same year, the verandah in front of the Secretary's office was completed.

Derek Needham was very much involved in the planning, discussions and negotiations which lay behind all these improvement. Without exception, they have been successful and much credit is due to him. Derek was elected to the board in December 1973 and served as a director for 24 years. For the last 20 of those years he was Chairman of the House Committee.

On the course, the annual programme continued of hollow tyning and top dressing the greens and verti-draining the fairways. However, in 1989 major problems were experienced with an outbreak of dry patch on the greens. This called for urgent measures. The programme of aeration was intensified and efforts were made to rid the greens of thatch and disease and drought prone grasses.

In 1981, the second and 13th greens were lifted, re-designed and returfed. In 1985, the course watering system was updated and now included the tees. However, a drought in 1990 caused the wells to run dry and tees could not be watered. A new bore hole had to be sunk in 1991. Sprinklers were later installed on the approaches to some of the greens.

A new 10th green was constructed in 1985 and came into play a year or so later. Unfortunately, because the approaches to this green were very confined, it soon suffered badly from compaction. In 1993 therefore, it was decided to revert to the old 10th green which was later enlarged.

Other improvements included dredging and enlarging the pond at the fourth. Many tees too were enlarged. Better drainage was provided on six of the fairways. In earlier years effective drainage has always been difficult because the course is flat and the water table is high. It was not easy to take proper levels. However, specialist firms using laser equipment can now over­come these difficulties and recent drainage work has been very successful.

In 1983, Trevor Clarke, playing a medal round, completed the last two holes in just three shots. In what was only his fifth year playing golf, he holed in one at the 17th with a 9 iron and at the 18th he holed his 8 iron second shot!

   

On 2 April 1985, the club celebrated 50 years at Kelwick and to mark the occasion the Club Captain, Wick Devos, drove a ball off the first tee at 5.30pm, exactly the time R A Hambling had 'driven in' on 2 April 1935. A Jubilee Dinner was held at which the guests included J R Wilde, the President of the EGU, and his wife, John Small, the President of the Notts GU, and his wife, the Mayor and Mayoress of Newark and four long serving members.

The computer age arrived for our golfers in 1988 with the introduction of a computerised handicapping system. There was no longer any need for a handicapping secretary. Older members will remember Ted Hastell (sadly he died in 1988) walking about the clubhouse with the thick Handicap Book under his arm. What a tedious job it must have been recording all the scores manually and adjusting handicaps week by week! Of course, he had to listen to lots of complaints but Ted could give as good as he got. We still remember his warning to those who might be tempted to boast about a good round 'Careless talk costs shots!' More recently there was a further technological advance with the arrival of the PSI system Player Scores Input.

In the mid-1990s we had three consecutive years of drought with less than 18 inches of rain in 1995 and only 14 inches in the first 10 months of 1996. The fairways were dry and scorched and suffered badly (but also brought some record scores - see next page). In two successive winters we all had to carry astroturf mats and play the ball off them for fairway shots. This gave rise to a fair amount of grumbling. The fairways recovered well and quite quickly, helped by the wet weather which, as already stated, we seem to have had ever since!

For many years there were complaints from members about the internal out of bounds on the course. The sixth fairway was out of bounds when playing the fourth hole and the seventh fairway when playing the third. This was for reasons of safety. However, in 1991 the club engaged a firm called Civic Trees to transplant about 30 young oak trees. The intention was to screen the vulnerable areas and it worked. All these trees survived and flourished and by about 1995 it was considered safe to remove the internal out of bounds.

Civic Trees are able to relocate trees with a girth of up to 65 cms using a special mechani­cal spade which lifts out the complete root bowl. It is therefore possible to transplant quite sizeable trees which can quickly become a significant feature. This firm were therefore called in again in November 1994, December 1996 and March 1999 and in total a further 90 trees were relocated, mainly oaks but with some beech, silver birch and sycamore. Again almost all have survived.

It was fortunate this could be done because in the mid-1990s a number of silver birch were lost because of the drought. Trees were transplanted to fill the gaps so as to maintain the char­acter of the course, particularly in the copse at the corner of the third. The precaution was also taken to plant sturdy specimens in areas where silver birch were coming towards the end of their life, as in the copses on the right of the 12th and 16th. Tree nurseries were established in 1999 on the left of the third hole and to the right of the seventh tee.

In 1987, Five Day membership was offered to 25 applicants on the waiting list and three years later the board decided to increase the full membership limit from 550 to the present figure of 600. The Five Day membership limit was set at 50.

 

Mrs Peggy Hambling and Sean O'Grady were elected to the board in 1987. Peggy was the first lady ever to become a director of the club. There was great sadness when she died a year later. Mrs K Brumpton then served as a director for nine years until she retired in 1998. Mrs Eva Glasby followed her on to the board.

Sean O'Grady chaired the Social Committee with enthusiasm and commitment for over 10 years. His very sudden death in October 1998 shocked and saddened members. He had been an ever present member of the club scene for over 20 years and long after his death we some­how still expected to see him walking in through the clubhouse door. He is sadly missed.

In 1997, two of our members shared a unique distinction, probably the first couple to do so in the Club's history. John Davies was the Club Captain and his wife Joan was the Ladies Captain.

As we come to the end of our century and this book we cannot help wondering:

What if the members of that first committee in 1901 Stuart MacRae, Francis F Corballis and friends could have looked 100 years into the future? What would they have thought?

We feel sure they would have been delighted and proud to see what had been built on the foundations they had just laid. Our club ends it first century with an excellent course, a fine clubhouse and facilities and a full membership. It is financially sound, has a long waiting list for membership and is very confident of its future.

In the course of this history, we have mentioned by name just some of the members with­out whose efforts the results would not have been so successful. However, there were many, many others who over the years have volunteered their time and talents to ensure the survival and development of our club. All of us are indebted to all of them.