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New Book: From Tenby to Celtic Manor: A Cultural History of Golf in Wales
July 19, 2010

The story of the progress of the sport through the last 120 years or so is a fascinating one. Women were kept on the sidelines in some clubs, and tolerated in others. The issues of Sunday golf and of the nineteenth hole selling alcohol on Sundays were important ones in Wales. Some clubs are still selective about their membership, whilst others are open to all comers.

This book looks at eighteen (of course!) golf clubs in Wales, from the tiny rural Rhosgoch to Celtic Manor itself, and a selection in between. A handy book if you are visiting Wales and want a course with a fabulous view and a friendly welcome.

Below we present a sample chapter from the book:-

TENBY 1888

The last 50 years of the Victorian era was a dramatic time of change for Wales. The population virtually doubled between 1851 and 1901. In 1851 35% of the population of Wales earned their living in agriculture. By the early 20th century this was down to  10%. In 1850 almost all elected MPS were members of the land owning classes, by 1914 only 3 of the 34 elected MPs were part of the landed gentry. The role of women was on the verge of dramatic change, as was the power of the Church. 

Golf, and sport in general, was a symbol of the changing times. In 1876 the Football Association was formed in Wales. In 1881 the Welsh Rugby Union was formed. In 1988 Glamorgan County Cricket Club was founded. Although golf had been played in Britain for a number of years - England first club founded in 1864, Scotland, 1754, it was only in 1888 that the first golf club was founded in Wales. By the start of the First World War the majority of golf clubs in Wales today had been founded.  

"It is difficult to discover any aspect of the life in Wales, which was not transformed by locomotion." - John Davies -A History of Wales.

A symbol of this era was the railway which affected every part of Welsh life. The effect on the industrial valleys was overwhelming. However the effect on rural area and coastal towns was also remarkable. The industrial revolution gave benefits to workers in terms of holidays for middle and working class. Three seaside towns in particular were established as tourist centres; Aberystwyth, Swansea and Tenby. 

Tenby was a pretty, historical town with a busy fishing community in the early 19th century.  Victorians were keen on health and "taking the waters" was a great Victorian passion. The trickle of tourists in the first half of the 19th century became a flood as the railway arrived at Tenby in 1863. By 1888 it was a busy, tourist-driven town. In Tenby, golf had a dual purpose. It was a focus for local businesspeople to relax, play and meet. It was also an attraction to tourists. Golf courses and towns in the Victorian age met a strong market for affluent visitors staying in fashionable hotels and playing golf in the finest resorts, on the finest courses. Over a century later some things stay the same.  

BEGINNINGS

Tenby is the oldest golf club in Wales. It was established in 1888 after a meeting of September 31st in the Town Hall when 6 people decided to form a club. The first membership fees were 10/6d per year or 5/- per month (equivalent to £273 or £130 today)  

There is some evidence that golf had been played at Tenby in 1875 as a passge in 'Laws of Markets and Fairs' published that year refers to court proceedings being adjourned whist the court officials took time off to play golf. 

The course was obviously already established as there is record of the first club competition being held on October 21st of the same year when 33 Gentlemen and Ladies took part and a Mr. T.A. Rees was the winner with a gross 51, net 41 off a 10 handicap (9 holes)

The club prospered in the early years and in 1889 there were 90 recorded members. There was obviously sufficient money and optimism around to employ a groundsman in 1892.

The club developed in the late Victorian era with a number of improvements to the course and exhibition matches being recorded. It was also the time when Tenby played a home and away match with Ashburnham in 1896. This match still continues today and is the oldest surviving Welsh fixture. 

In 1907 James Braid developed the full 18 hole which was opened at the Easter meeting that same year.  

There is a record in 1911 of comparative wages and whilst the professional was paid 15/- a week, the greenkeeper was paid 35/- per week.

More alterations were made between the war years and it's also recorded that part of the course was land mined in 1940. 

There have been a number of clubhouses over the years, even one in the town However the current one was opened in 1966 at a cost of £40,000. Over recent years this his been refurbished and extended but is essentially the same building

It is also one of the most modern looking. 

With the help of partners such as the Ryder Cup Legacy Fund the club are working hard at improving facilities to encourage more members. The fund will help Tenby club develop a 3 hole short course specifically designed to make golf more accessible and enjoyable for juniors and newcomers to golf. There will also be better practice facilities and an area for driving. 

This is essential as the club moves on holding more prestigious tournaments, next year the club will be holding the Welsh Amateur Championship and the British Ladies Championship.

With the support of Golf Development Wales the club professional, Mark Hawkey,  has introduced a 'taster session' for over 150 potential new golfers over the past year. At a subsidised cost of around £1 a person people can try golf out and see if it's for them. 

Following on from that the club has looked at more flexible membership deals with 3 month trial memberships or 6 monthly memberships. 

So, whilst Tenby is justifiably proud of its heritage and unique place in Welsh golf history, Davis Hancock / secretary sums up the approach; "It's about not living in the past, but keeping moving forward."

TENBY TOWN

"Tenby is a bustling town on the southwest coast of Wales with an unusually high concentration of pubs."

"This delicious little town on the coast of southern Pembrokeshire, 27 miles west of Carmarthen is a Georgian watering-place that has strayed into the 20th-century. The elegant houses, perched on the cliffs, look down on golden sands and a harbour crowded with yachts. "

Tenby seems to be a number of things to a number of people In the Victorian age it 

became a popular tourist destination very quickly. The growth of the town and the tourism went hand in hand. There were owners of hotels, businesses in the town who were keen golfers themselves and eager for something extra to attract their customers to the area. Setting up and developing the club was a mixture of business and pleasure for a number of Tenby golf club members. 

DESIGN OF COURSE

One name seems inextricably linked with Tenby golf course - James Braid. James Braid was a keen golfer at a young age and won his first tournament at the age of 8. 

He became a club maker and turned professional in 1896 moving to Romford Golf Club. Although he had an excellent long game his putting let him down. However in 1900 he switched to an aluminium headed putter and won 5 of the next 9 Open Championships. 

However, it was as a course designer that he felt his great passion and designed over 200 courses in Britain including Carnoustie, Troon, Prestwick and Ballybunion. He also remodelled 20 courses in Wales. He tended to work in the same way; he charged a low fee, communicated his ideas quickly and effectively and tried to keep the greens committees happy. 

James Braid was brought to the club early in its existence. In July 1902 he was paid £6 to inspect the course and suggest improvements. Five years later the course had expanded to 18 holes with more input and advice from James Braid. This new course was opened at Easter 1907. 

In 1927 he was again asked to help with the structure of the course and made further alterations and suggestions about the layout of the course.

There have been minor changes over the years but principally they are the same as the time James Braid finished remodelling them.  

The layout is pleasantly old-fashioned; 

Originally in golf you teed up for the next hole within a few clubs length of the hole you had just played. At Tenby the tees are close to the greens. 

Sand bunkers were very difficult to maintain in the early days of golf. At Tenby there are few sand bunkers

One unusual feature of the course is that the holes all have a story behind them. For instance the 3rd is Dai Rees because the famous golfer really liked the hole; Monk's way the 9th is a reference to the path the monk's would take on their journey from the town to Caldey Island; The 10th is called James Braid.

DESCRIPTIONS

"There are longer courses that are less challenging and shorter courses that are more difficult but Tenby is fun and difficult." - John Hopkins

"Tenby offers fantastic value for money in winter. Expect a truly special golfing outing."- 2 FORE 1 Course Factfile

"The legendary Dai Rees was so enamoured with James Braid's design that the 3rd hole, his favourite, is named after him. Tenby is a classic links experience."- Golf World

"The gently rolling James Braid links offer a string of classy, short holes, while the greens were splendidly true and faster than most in midseason."- Todays Golfer

"This most traditional archetypal links is the oldest course in Wales and those who find their way to Pembrokeshire, in the south west of the Principality, will be richly rewarded. Every round at Tenby is a new experience but what can be guaranteed is a warm welcome at a club that seems to appreciate the lengths to which many of its visitors go to."- National Club Golfer

"Tenby boasts great links terrain filled with excellent views of the coast and plenty of quirks. It's reminiscent of an unrefined Prestwick in a lot of ways: a historic, 19th century pedigree and an imaginative routing with lots of thick rough."- World Golf.com

"Tenby was my favourite course in Wales. The blind shots didn't seem overwhelming and the drama of high dunes and deep hollows more than compensated for this lack of visibility. The greens, true, fast, and always undulating, were the best we'd seen in Wales." - Robert Kroeger

DETAILS

Tenby Golf Club, The Burrows, Tenby SA70 7NP
01834 842978
Location: From Tenby town take Marsh Road
Type of course:  links 
Par: 71
Course yardage: 6224
website: www.tenbygolf.co.uk








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