An ‘Hors D’Oeuvre’
The person called upon to design the first course at Southerndown was Willie Fernie, the Professional at the Glamorganshire Golf Club in Penarth. While the course was being constructed a temporary course of five holes was played over from the autumn of 1905, the members using the Professional’s shed as a temporary clubhouse. That shed stood on top of the present access road where it turns off westward to the modern clubhouse. It was one of the many gifts made by Colonel John Nicholl, the first Captain of the Club and a Trustee for many years.
Even before the formal registration of the Ogmore Down Golfing Society, John Moxon had invited a number of gentlemen to meet him at the Dunraven Arms, Southerndown (now the Home for the Blind). This meeting took place on 5th August 1905. The most important question discussed at the meeting was the site of a proposed clubhouse.
Four possible locations were considered. As the draft course plan (see p.6) attached to the lease shows, the 1st tee and the 18th green were originally to be located near the top of Rhiw Forgan, in keeping with the original wishes of the Commoners and the St Brides Parish Council to encourage the employment of local labour. Approaches were made at the time to the Vale of Glamorgan Railway for a new Halt along the Alun valley. But nothing came of this.
According to John Alexander another suggestion was for the clubhouse to be built near the present tenth hole. But as drivers of horse-drawn vehicles would not take passengers to the top of the hill this idea, too, was abandoned. The vicinity of the 14th green was another suggestion, this location favoured by John Nicholl.
But eventually the present site was agreed upon. What finally decided the meeting in favour of this was its accessibility from the town of Bridgend where, it was hoped, the Club would draw a large number of members. Bridgend was also a stopping place for many fast mainline trains. Newspaper reports of the time enthused about “the most delightful views both up and down the valley." Fernie duly obliged by moving one of the greens from the proposed site to where the 18th green is now.
The clubhouse was designed by Newport Architect, Mr E M Linton of Linton & Barker, and was erected in 1906/1907. Tenders had been advertised locally in May 1906. The contractors were duly appointed but got into difficulties and there was considerable delay in the completion of the building. These difficulties were eventually surmounted and the formal opening of the clubhouse and course took place on 23rd May 1907. The clubhouse alone cost £2,377 to build.
The land on which the clubhouse stood was initially leased along with the course from the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1922 the Club secured the freehold of the site of the Clubhouse at a cost of £100. At the same time a new lease for 31 years was granted, and the Duchy generously reduced the annual rental from £50 to £45 “representing 5% of the purchase money of the grant of the freehold." Subsequent purchases secured additional land to enable extensions to the clubhouse and provision of car parking.
John Moxon’s meeting in August 1905 did more than simply discuss the clubhouse. After the meeting Moxon conducted a large number of interested people - who had also been entertained to a luncheon - over the proposed course which had been pegged out by Willie Fernie. The length of Fernie’s course was 6,900 yards and is described in detail in the next chapter.
John Alexander later wrote, “It should be made clear that the Ogmore Down Golfing Society built the clubhouse and made the original course at a total approximate cost of £4,000. This Society was later to be merged and called Southerndown Golf Club."
That decision was arrived at during a meeting held on 13th February 1906 at the offices of Messrs Stephenson and Alexander in Cardiff. There it was resolved to form the Southerndown Golf Club which would take over the course from the Ogmore Down Golfing Society.
Foundation members, paying a small fee, eventually became a source of embarrassment to the Club but practically all of these members surrendered their rights or, if they did not do so, compensated in other directions, as a token of their loyalty to the Club.
The faith of these early pioneers in the proposals they had for the course is shown not only by the time they devoted to the formation and development of the Club, but also to the money they spent. At one time Southerndown Golf Club owed the Ogmore Down Golfing Society nearly £1,600 and the Society surrendered its claim to the golf club.
“Yesterday the Earl of Dunraven performed the interesting ceremony of formally opening Southerndown Golf Links and Clubhouse in the presence of a large distinguished company. The course has been played over for something like twelve months but there has been no opening and few events of importance have been played.
“The weather in the early morning was not too promising, ominous clouds betokening rain. Fortunately, however, these gave way to glorious sunshine which rendered the scene on the course all the more picturesque."
The Founders’ Walk
by Don Evans
The journalist John Duncan in one of his many fine articles on Welsh Golf Clubs, articles that were first published in The South Wales Daily News during the early part of the twentieth century, mentioned the difficulty of assigning to any one individual the credit for the formation of any particular club. He went on to say “To this rule, however, as with other rules, there is one exception, and in dealing with the history of the Southerndown Golf Club I have not the slightest hesitation in giving the name of Mr J AAlexander as the founder. I would indeed term him the Father of the Club, did not such a designation ill befit an individual of such perennial youth."
John Alexander had long cast the eye of an expert golfer over Ogmore Down, with its short crisp turf, its bracken, gorse and sandy hollows. His original idea had been to form a course at Southerndown Village and, indeed, a few holes were actually laid out on Cymla Common. Mr Alexander had the zealous support of Mr H O Irvine (agent and sub-agent of the Dunraven Estate), Mr J I D Nicholl, Mr W R Randall, Mr W A Williams and Mr Hubert Alexander on this project. The various tenants of the land under consideration also promised their cooperation. However, St Brides Major Parish Council were obdurate in their opposition and eventually the scheme was thrown out.
A short while later John Alexander turned his attentions to the site of the present Southerndown course. John Duncan once commented that early in 1904 he was dragged over the Down by Mr Alexander with that redoubtable individual making various suggestions for the site of a golf course. During the walk he was perpetually pestered, it seemed, with the same question “What is there to prevent this being one of the finest courses in the British Isles?"
Chief among those associated with John
Alexander and the foundation of the Club in those early days was Sir John Moxon of Newport. He took part in the early Cymla negotiations and his profound legal knowledge was of great assistance in overcoming difficulties in obtaining the Licence from the Duchy of Lancaster. Mr Isaiah Verity, a highly regarded local figure, helped to placate the Commoners who had grazing rights over the Down.
The licence from the Duchy of Lancaster was for a term of 31 years (from 1904) at a rental of £50 per annum. The lessor was the Duke of Lancaster, later King George V, and the original area to which the Club had rights totalled 420 acres.
In the event only about half of this acreage was ever used. Mr D T Alexander, who was well known in South Wales (and father of Mr John AAlexander), was in the business from the beginning and it was to him that the original Licence from the Duchy of Lancaster was granted. This Licence gave the Club authority to lay out a golf course, to make greens and bunkers and to play over the course.
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