The nine hole course at Hawton covered just under 40 acres held under a lease which in 1920 had only seven years to run. However, the landlord offered to sell the land to the club and at a special meeting of the members held at the Town Hall in June 1920 the committee were authorised to buy it for £1800. At the same meeting, a resolution was passed that the committee should set up a limited liability company with an authorised capital not exceeding £3000, divided into ordinary shares of £1 to be taken up by members.
H D Mumby then stood up and moved that the rule 'There shall be no Sunday golf be altered to 'Golf shall henceforth be permitted on Sunday.' To preempt possible opposition, he added that there would be no employment of caddies and no teas would be required. When his proposal was put to the vote, 75 members voted for the change and only nine against. The decision was received with applause.
The company was formed on 23 September 1920 and the board met for the first time on 28 September 1920 with Stuart MacRae JP in the chair. His fellow directors were H D Cherry Downes, Enos Smith, Dr P Kinmont, R D Hunter, Edward Bennett, Edward Harker and W B B Quibell. Their first act was to complete the purchase of the course.
The first board meetings were held at Clarke's Tea Rooms in Stodman Street but for many years afterwards at the Clinton Arms Hotel.
The purchase of the course was financed partly by a bank overdraft because although the authorised capital of the company was £3000, the club had only 220 members and most of them took just a £1 share each. The biggest shareholdings were: Enos Smith, The White House, Newark 100 W B B Quibell, The Croft, Balderton 50 Ernest Lees, 15 Lombard Street, Newark 50 H D Cherry Downes, Southfield House, Newark 25 C F Richardson, The Brewery, Newark 25 W A Warwick, Balderton Hall 25 Stuart MacRae, Handley House, Newark 25
Other shareholders included members of well known Newark families: R P Blatherwick, C F Cafferata, W H Cherrington, W H Colton, C J Huskinson, H D Mumby, Mrs G Ransome, the Misses Maries, Miss Starkey and W P Woolfit.
H D Cherry-Downes, Enos Smith and Col MacRae Gilstrap (a brother of Stuart MacRae) had acted as guarantors for the club's bank overdraft which by 1921 stood at a worryingly high £1,400. To help the club, these three gentlemen offered to take a mortgage and they were issued with 5% debentures to be repayable at £50 a year. This was a most generous gesture but it did not entirely remove the financial worries because later in 1921 members were being urged to take out an extra £1 share each. In order to help the club, Frow, the professional, agreed in 1922 to take a cut in his wages from £2.10s. (£2.50p) a week to £2.2s. (£2.10p) and his assistant, Marshall, from £2.5s. to £2. The Secretary agreed to forego his salary for the work he had done that year. The committee expressed appreciation for their attitude. Subscriptions were increased to £3 for gentlemen and £2 for ladies.
Matters had not been helped by the late payment of subscriptions. In October 1923, for example, the board reviewed a list of outstanding subscriptions which had been due for payment on the previous 1 April. It was recommended that the usual I/- (5p) rebate per £1 share should in future only be allowed from subscriptions paid by 30 April.
Membership continued to grow and a waiting list had to be opened in April 1924 and vacancies were balloted for. The year before, the board had appointed a special committee to consider the question of extending the course to 18 holes. C F Cafferata had agreed to approach Mr Abraham with a view to obtaining through him the tenancy of further land for an additional 9 holes. Nothing came of this but the question kept cropping up from time to time. In 1 930 Enos Smith (Chairman) in reply to an enquiry from Mr J A Stennett said they knew what land was wanted and there was a preliminary sketch and plan. However, he thought it would be unwise to divulge to what extent that had gone or the direction the extension would take. In May 1934 a member suggested calling an EGM to consider the question but was informed that 'the Directors have the matter under close consideration but are of the opinion that no useful purpose would be served at this stage by ventilating the matters at an EGM.' In fact Tom Williamson had already been commissioned to suggest alterations to the course and had presented his plans in November 1933. The fact that his plans were approved makes it clear that the board did not then envisage any early move to a new site.
Greens matters: In the Spring of 1920 a water supply was laid on to all the greens at a cost of £153. It was later found to be inadequate for keeping the greens in good condition during a prolonged period of drought. Frow was instructed to employ a boy for a full day, as and when necessary, to water the greens.
The following year, the greens committee , ordered 1 ton of wormkiller and 1/2 ton of lime. All greens were to be treated with lime during the winter and to be fed with sulphate of ammonia and other manures in the spring. J The following year a further 22 cwts of lime were required! Little wonder they needed wormkiller!
In 1924 the course machinery and tools were insured for £200 to include 2 motor mowing machines, manure, fodder and 'any other stores usually held by a Golf Club.' (In that year a 16" motor mowing machine with carrier was purchased from Ransome, Sims & Jeffries for £50.)
In 1927 the greens chairman complained about the unsatisfactory state of the course and the attitude taken by Wenn the new professional / Greenkeeper. A letter was sent to Wenn from the board reminding him of the terms on which he had been appointed Professional, namely, 'that the proper condition of course shall be your first and most important duty and they feel you have not been carrying this out in a satisfactory manner.' He was warned that unless there was a considerable improvement in both his timekeeping and the condition of the course, they would terminate his engagement. Matters did improve for a time but eventually the board decided to dispense with his services as from 1 June 1930. Some months later a letter was received from Mrs Wenn (Snr) regarding her son's dismissal. We do not know what she said but interestingly enough just two years later J A Wenn was admitted as a full member of the club.
In March 1928, it was brought to the board's attention that a lady member had been seen playing golf in high-heeled shoes. A letter was sent to the Ladies Secretary asking that she be censured for the damage done.
In July 1930, a specialist from the Board of Greenkeeping Research was asked to come and inspect the greens which were in a bad condition. When the report was received, it was agreed that the recommended treatment should be carried out and that a temporary green be made at each hole.
Three years later the Board of Greenkeeping Research wrote enquiring whether the club desired another inspection of the course. This time the greens committee recommended that no inspection be made!
The Staff: Mrs A E Halliday - The Stewardess was a remarkable lady. There is an account of her life and employment at Newark in the next chapter.
She was succeeded in 1926 by Mrs Basnett who had been her assistant. Mrs Basnett retired in 1931 through illness and was followed by Mrs Boyers who worked for the club for three years until February 1934 when, like Miss Basnett, illness forced her to resign. The board then employed Miss Nellie Robb as the replacement and she was the first stewardess when the club moved to Kelwick. She stayed until 1948.
F Frow - Professional and Greenkeeper: As was mentioned in an earlier chapter, F Frow had been engaged by the club as Professional/Greenkeeper in 1919. He had previously been an assistant at Torksey and had then gone to Gainsborough as professional before coming to Newark. He was described as a first class player and a splendid coach. He took a great interest in the course and board minutes refer to his 'indefatigable work.' His duties were to work on the course (cut the greens and move the holes) until midday, supervise the staff and be in attendance in the afternoon. He remained with the club until 1927. He then went to Worksop and was still there in 1939 when World War II started.
In 1920 he had two men working under him, Tindall and Marshall, but Tindall went to Gainsborough as Professional in 1921. Marshall was given his job at £2.5s (£2.25p) per week with an extra 21- (10p) a week for sweeping the greens on Sundays. Marshall's duties were to cut the fairways and tees, see to the bunkers and the general work of the course.
A boy, Leonard MacDonald, was engaged. His job was to sweep the greens, fill and water the sand boxes, rake bunkers and remove stones. MacDonald's services were dispensed with at the end of 1924 but it was decided to employ a strong youth in his place. One of the applicants was Leslie Bakin and he was offered the job at £1 per week. So began Leslie's long association with the club, which is given special mention in another chapter. Marshall resigned at the end of March 1926.Frow was obviously well regarded. He was given a testimonial in 1923 signed by the Chairman, Captain and Secretary and again in 1927 when he left. Numerous applications were received for his job including one from Marshall the former groundsman. Four applicants were shortlisted and the job went to J Anderson Wenn from Temple Newsam Golf Club at Leeds.
Frow may have been a difficult act to follow because two of his successors did not last long. After Wenn left in 1930, 70 applications were received for the vacancy in response to an advertisement in Golf Illustrated. The board appointed Eric Allamby of New Forest Golf Club, Lyndhurst, who was paid £2.7s. (£2.35p) per week. Like Frow, Allamby had to work on the course until midday and be in attendance in the afternoon for coaching, playing and club making etc. His coaching fee was 2/6d (12i/2p) per hour and 2/6d for playing 18 holes. Fees for club cleaning and binding were 51- (25p) per quarter by arrangement with members. His stay was very short. He was given notice at the beginning of 1932 and his job was offered to and accepted by Leslie Bakin with effect from 1 February 1932.
Caddies: All caddies were engaged through the Professional who was designated the Caddie Master. No boys under the age of 14 were employed and members were urged not to buy balls from caddies. From time to time there were reports of caddies being troublesome on the course and the Secretary would usually inform the County Police. In time, a classification system was introduced: a first class caddy being paid l/6d (7½p) per round and second class caddy I/- (5p). The Professional took 2d from each fee and he was responsible for instructing them in their duties and, if necessary, relegating caddies if members reported misconduct. However, he was instructed that no first class caddie should be relegated to second class without serious and consistent complaints and no second class caddy should be promoted to first class before their qualifications had received serious consideration.
Obviously not all the caddies were youngsters because a board minute records that in October 1932 a subscription list was placed in the clubhouse 'for the benefit of the widow and children of the late caddie Lowe.'
Competitions and the Golf Scene: Although a large number of competitions were held, only five Challenge Cups were competed for at the beginning of the 1920s: In the Spring, the Victory Cup which, as now, was open to both ladies and gentlemen. It was then played off in two sections, the finalist of the gentlemen's section played the finalist of the ladies. In the Summer, the Howitt Cup and the Coronation Cup and (for ladies) the Marris Hunt Cup and the Chappell Cup were competed for. The winners were given replicas of the trophies to keep and the winners' names were inscribed on shields in the clubhouse which had been given by Stuart MacRae and H D Cherry Downes. Five new trophies were donated in the course of the next 10 years.
In 1924, the Secretary was instructed to write to Mrs Beevor, the Ladies Secretary, and ask her to arrange for a handicapper from the Ladies Golf Union to reconsider the power of the course (Note - not 'par') before altering any existing handicaps.
That year the club bought the following books for members benefit: Braid's 'Advanced Golf and Wethered's 'The Science of Golf. The board were asked two years later to provide a practice net but said they could not afford it. C F Cafferata loaned one!
R A Hambling complained at the 1924 AGM that competitions were invariably on a Saturday and that only two inter-club matches had been arranged for Thursdays. He was promised the matter would be looked into.
In 1928, a letter was received from Golf Illustrated asking for an opinion on the use of steel shafted clubs. A reply was sent to the effect that none of the members of the committee had experience of these clubs but they were not prejudiced against the use of them. Two months later, Accles & Pollock wrote offering the loan of a steel shafted club on 14 days' trial. The offer was accepted subject to no liability being attached for any damage that might be done to the club.
In 1929, the board decided that no practising would be allowed on the course before a strokeplay competition and that the R & A rules would be observed in future.
In June 1932, a letter was received from Warner Bros regarding a series of golf films of Bobby Jones and asking if members would support a special show giving the full series. As it happened, the film was then showing at the local picture house so the Secretary was instructed to approach the manager and ask if he could arrange for the series to be shown again during the winter months when, no doubt, members would take advantage.
House & Social: The question of installing a telephone in the clubhouse was considered several times during the 1920s and early 1930s but no action was taken due to lack of finances.
Plant to generate electricity was installed in 1931 by A V Tully. The thanks and appreciation of the directors were accorded to him for the time and trouble he had taken. Members were asked to subscribe 5/- (25p) each to meet the cost of the installation.
On the night of Sunday, 21 August 1927, the clubhouse was broken into for the third time in a few years. The Newark Advertiser reported that 'the discovery was made by Leslie Birkin (Bakin) of Hawton who, on going to the links on Monday morning to begin his duties as professionals assistant, found the clubhouse in great disorder.' The intruders had gained entry by forcing a back door. Once inside they made themselves a meal of bread and butter and tinned food 'for the relics told their tale.' They raided the members lockers and a charity box and helped themselves to 'mixed drinks' including port wine, vermouth and orange bitters. This 'blending' apparently caused trouble 'because there were signs of ill-health.' Three men were later charged. They had all escaped that Sunday from the Vagrant Ward of Newark Workhouse!
In October 1927, the famous Trade Union leader Ben Tillett wrote to the national and provincial papers including the Newark Advertiser urging that the opportunity to play golf should be open to more people.
"There must be thousands who are prevented from playing..and all of them could have their game if corporations and councils would show a little enterprise and construct golf courses of their own. We have public tennis courts, public football and cricket pitches, bowling greens and swimming baths; why don't we have more public golf courses?"
He pointed to the example of the public course at Richmond in London which had an income of £1,500 in the previous year charging l/6d (7 l/2p) a round. (In today's money that would represent £300,000 from £15 a round.) He ended by saying that wherever municipal courses had been laid down in provincial towns, they had proved a source of considerable revenue to the corporation and he asked 'why not Newark?'
It is doubtful whether a municipal course would have been a success here because in 1928 the entrance fee was waived for a time to bring in new members but was to be re-introduced after 50 new members had joined. In November of that year, the following notice was displayed in the clubhouse: 'Members are specially requested by the committee to support the Xmas Box list as liberally as possible as the indirect earnings of the staff have been lower this year on account of a decrease in membership.'
The Alliance Assurance Company in 1929 charged £1.15s per 100 members to cover them against third party risks. They refused to insure the club's horse on the grounds that it was too old! The board decided not to install fire extinguishers after learning that this would not lead to a reduction in insurance premiums!
In 1931, the clubhouse roof was re-covered with grey asbestos corrugated sheets. Mr Cafferata obtained these at cost and the work was carried out by one of his men. It was also decided that the clubhouse should be painted, the work to be done by the Professional and his staff when they had the time available!
Tickets for the 1932 Dinner Dance at the Clinton Arms Hotel cost 8/6d (42 l/2p) of which 5/- (25p) was for the dinner. Dinner commenced at 7.45 pm and the dance ended at 2 am. Music was provided by Harry Hurst's five piece band at a cost of £3.5s. Tables for cards were available in the Pelham Room for those who did not wish to dance. Catering was provided by C A Lawrence.