2nd January 1906
Proposed Union of Gloucestershire Golf Clubs
As you are doubtless aware County Unions of Golf Clubs have already been formed by several counties, and others are now taking the same step. The question of a Union of Clubs in Gloucestershire has recently been under the consideration of the Committees of the Cheltenham, Minchinhampton and Gloucester Clubs, and I have been requested by them, in the capacity of Hon Sec pro tem, to communicate with all Clubs in the County upon the subject, and to invite them to send representatives to a meeting to be held at the Wellington Hotel, Gloucester, on Wednesday the 31st inst, at 3.15 o’ clock when the matter will be fully discussed.
Having regard to the widespread and continued growth of the game, it is felt that many advantages would be gained from such a union, amongst them the following:
1. A Central Authority: to determine all questions which may arise in the county; to fix the par and bogey scores of all courses in the county with a view to equalising handicaps; to revise, and, so far as possible, bring into line local rules; and generally to promote the interests of the game in the County.
2. The institution of a County Club Championship and an individual competition in connection therewith.
3. The arrangement of matches with other Counties.
4. To act in conjunction with other County Unions in all matters affecting the game.
It is suggested that each club send two representatives to the meeting, and it is hoped that all will do so in order to make it thoroughly representative of the whole County.
I shall be glad to hear from you, as soon as you are able to inform me, that your Club will be represented at the meeting.
I am, dear Sir,
H W Grimes
(Hon Sec Gloucester Golf Club)
As a result of this letter, on the 31st January 1906 representatives of the following Clubs attended the meeting:
Cheltenham, Minchinhampton, Gloucester, Rodway Hill, Stinchcombe Hill, Henbury, Sapperton Park (to become Cirencester), Clifton Downs, Wotton-under-Edge, Churchdown and Cotswold Hills. The Alveston Club, although not represented, had intimated its intention of joining the Union if formed, as did Badminton. The Minutes do not say whether responses were sought or received from Cotswold – the third oldest Club in the County, Painswick, Tewkesbury, Royal Agricultural College, Birdlip, Broadway, Lark Hill, Stroud, Knowle, Forest of Dean or Moreton in Marsh.
Once the Union formed, actions followed fairly quickly with the formation of a Sub-Committee to visit all clubs and establish correct par score for each course, on the principle of a scratch player going round without making any mistakes. As a result of the Course inspections, the following were agreed:
Cheltenham & Cotswold Hills 75
Rodway Hill 73
Clifton Downs 70
Stinchcombe and Henbury would be inspected as soon as the upgrade from 9 holes to 18 had been completed.
It was agreed that the findings would be adopted subject to the addition of 3 strokes for 18-hole courses and 2 strokes for those of 9 holes.
Next, it was agreed that a County Club Championship would be held. Each team would consist of four players, playing two rounds of 18 holes, with the best three aggregated. The same rounds would be used for the individual Championship. The first took place at Cheltenham on 27 June 1906.
A further sub-committee was set up to agree a common set of Local Rules for the County’s Clubs. It came up with the following:
1. A ball may be lifted out of any difficulty and dropped behind under penalty of one stroke.
2. A ball lying on dung or a molehill may be dropped without penalty but not nearer the hole.
3. A ball on the putting green may be lifted and have dirt adhering to it removed without penalty.
4. A ball played onto a wrong green must be lifted and placed behind or to the side of such green as near its original position as possible but not nearer the hole without penalty.
5. A ball lying on the putting green or outside the green within two club lengths of the posts or wire in such a position that the posts or wire interfere with the stroke may be lifted and placed in a playable position no nearer the hole without penalty.
6. If a ball played at a green strikes the posts or wire between the player and the hole, the player may drop a ball in the original position and replay the stroke without penalty.
7. Players not taking part in a competition must allow those who are doing so to pass when requested.
8. Glass, pottery or metal within a club’s length of the ball may be moved without penalty whether in a hazard or not, and if the ball is moved in doing so it must be replaced without penalty.
These Local Rules were adopted, with Rodway Hill dissenting from Rule 1.
An inter-club competition for The Minchinhampton Cup was inaugurated, in which each team would play each other home and away. The rules were:
- Restricted to Clubs affiliated to the Union
- Players had to be bona-fide members of affiliated Clubs.
- Players must have been a) born in the County or b) resided in county or been bona-fide members of affiliated for two complete years before the match
- No player could play for more than one club in any one year.
The Cup would become the absolute property of any club winning three years in succession
Finally, a fixture was arranged with Worcester and one with Warwickshire
Thus, the new Union had carried out all the actions it had intimated it would.
The most controversial happening of this founding year occurred in December when representatives of Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire met and agreed to form the Midland Golf Association. This caused considerable discussion in both the National and regional press. The Daily Chronicle commented:
“Midland Golf association – Will there be a British Union?
The full importance of the decision arrived at on Wednesday at the meeting of golfers in Birmingham, when it was resolved to form a Midlands Golf Association may not be realised by the general golfing public or even by those who are immediately concerned and who are responsible for the step. For the present at all events it is in no way antagonistic to the weak and unwilling authority of St Andrews; but anyone who gives a moment’s thought to the matter must see that the multiplication of County Unions, and then their combination to make larger associations covering wide expanses of the golfing worlds, must inevitably, if unintentionally, do much to undermine the existing authority. This Midland Association is an important body from its birth, and on its borders there is another of great influence in the Yorkshire Union, while not far away are the Welsh. If these should come to a working arrangement for the purpose of furthering their particular objectives they will have gone a very long way in the establishment of a British Golf Union. Nothing may be farther from their minds now; but such a course of events as that indicated is not only logical, but almost inevitable. These Unions and Associations are organising inter-county tournaments, regulating local rules, standardising handicaps, and in general doing all those things that St Andrews won’t bother to do, but what a considerable proportion of the golfing world wants. The time will come when they will want to do everything.”
These sentiments were strongly echoed by the Birmingham Post, and they prompted the President at the next meeting of the Gloucester Union to stress that “the Association had no desire or intention to conflict at all with the authority of the St Andrews or to alter the rules of the game at present existing.”
The young Union matured steadily, although the Inter-Club competition was abandoned in 1908. But in the same year, a North v South match was instituted presumably to help better select County teams. An invitation was also received from Somerset to play in an Inter-County competition with Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall.
The next noteworthy change took place in 1914. In the previous year, Long Ashton GC asked to join the Gloucester Union on the grounds that although the Club was in Somerset, most of the members lived in Bristol, which was in Gloucestershire. The GGU asked the Somerset Secretary, who did not approve, to raise the matter at the next Somerset County Union meeting. The transfer was duly agreed and in 1914 Long Ashton and, on the same grounds, Bristol and Clifton were admitted to the GGU. The constitution was amended to allow admittance of clubs “whose links though not actually situated within the county are on or near the borders of it.”
If the Union was adept at managing the County’s affairs, its foresight was more questionable in that at the AGM on 27 January 1915 it was agreed that “no Annual Meeting be held as long as the war continues but that in the event of it terminating before the end of the Summer, the question of holding the meeting be left on the hands of the Executive Committee.” If only they were to know!
After the War, County matters settled to a routine until 1924, when a major change occurred. GGU resigned from the Midlands Golf Union to join the South West Counties Golf Association. The reason was that “The feeling was very strong in the County that some parts of Gloucester were situated at too great distance from Birmingham to create much enthusiasm over the Midland Golf Union.” Given the improvements in transport since the Union was formed, it is hard to imagine that Birmingham had suddenly become more inaccessible than the links of West Cornwall. It could be that this decision was reached in haste because in 1929 the question of continued membership of the SWCGA arose. Several members considered that the Association was not the success anticipated so far as county matches were concerned, and it was suggested that the County should return to a regime of friendly matches. It was very difficult to get representative sides to go away for a whole week. The Gloucester delegates to the SWCGA AGM were empowered to act as they deemed best on the point of retaining membership or resigning from the Association. In the event, membership was retained. It should be noted that since 1924, when Birmingham was ‘too far away’, friendly matches with Worcs and Warks had continued to be played annually home and away. It was not until 1932 that the matches with Warks were discontinued because of distance. But it was not only at County level that there was controversy. In 1930, Gloucester joined the English Golf Union, although only after protracted discussion and an eventual vote which was carried with three recorded dissentions.
The question of affiliation had continued to arise at regular intervals. In 1927, a South West Counties Golf Association proposal that Clubs should be affiliated to the county union in which they were situated was soundly rejected. In 1934, a reverse situation occurred when, following discussions with the Monmouth Golf Union, it was agreed that although the Chepstow Club was located in Gloucestershire, the great majority of members lived in Monmouth, and so the Club should remain in the Monmouth County Union. The last transfer took place in 1961 when Somerset County Golf Union agreed that Lansdown GC should transfer to Gloucestershire. With all the transfers over the years, it is interesting to note that Broadway, which has always been in Worcestershire, was one of the original Clubs to join the GGU and that it has remained in it ever since.
The topic of handicaps was not absent. In 1927 it had been reported that certain clubs were in the habit of increasing the handicaps of all their members automatically at the beginning of each winter. Following protracted discussion the Union issued the resolution that “no universal raising of handicaps shall take place at any time without the sanction of the Union, but this shall not prevent any club considering the revision of any individual handicap.” An addendum to this was introduced in 1930 when the Union decreed that no player’s handicap was to be reduced below scratch without reference to the executive body of the Union. There were periodic such referrals but all were rejected.
In the period up to 1939, an annual County Veterans competition for the Durnford Cup was introduced for the over-50s in 1929, the age limit being raised to over-55 in 1932. Also in 1932, the first match was held with the Gloucester Ladies County Union. The last recorded event was a match against Worcs at Cotswold Hills on 16 July 1939
After WW2, activities soon resumed with the first County Meeting on 22 June 1946 at Stinchcombe Hill., and the resumption of more normal living saw an expansion in the fixture list. In the following year, the County entered a team in the English County Championship at Ganton, a substantial change from the early days when Birmingham was considered too distant! In 1948 matches were arranged with Worcs, Glamorgan and Berks, Bucks and Oxon, while in 1949 there was an away match with Monmouth, and in 1950 home and away matches with Wilts. This settled to a pattern of around four matches each season for a number of years.
As a way of raising some needed finance, a Supporters Club was formed, subscription 10/- per annum, enabling each member to have one day’s free golf at each member Club within the Union. This was the forerunner of the County Card, which in turn led to the Inter-County Card as we know it today. This raised £56 in the first year from the 112 members.
In addition to the established Championships, the first County Junior Championship was held at Minchinhampton in September 1952.
The County Union has, of course, depended on its Clubs for support.