Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

History Revisited - teeing off a history of sport in New England

A PLEASANT WALK SPOILED: Jim Belshaw's research led him to discover fascinating aspects of the history of golf in Armidale
Did you know that there have been three very different Armidale golf courses? I didn’t until I read Pat Chapman’s history of the Armidale Golf Club 1899-1981.

Organised golf was played in Armidale from at least 1893, although the Armidale Golf Club itself was not formed until 1899. The Club’s first golf course meandered through the paddocks along Dumaresq Creek from near Markham Street as far west as Douglas Street.

That first course had its own problems. Plucking balls from the tar filled effluent from the gasworks was usually a smelly job, There were also problems with landholders and indeed with angry bulls, making ball recovery difficult.

Matters came to a head after the First World War when a series of wet seasons with consequent long grass made the course virtually unplayable. Finally, the Armidale Golf Club leased the grass rights on the race course from the Armidale Jockey Club with the tea rooms as club house. The new nine hole course opened in 1922.

I blinked a bit when I read this, for the race course grounds were multi-purpose space, including Armidale’s aerodrome. Indeed, it was a remarkably crowded space catering not only for gallops, golf and aircraft, but also trotting, coursing, cricket, soccer and hockey. 

Mrs A R J Woller found this out first hand when she was forced to take refuge in the horse stands after fleeing from a wayward aircraft which had struck hockey posts on takeoff!

In 1927, the Armidale Golf Club committee was charged with acquiring a sufficient area of land for an 18 hole golf course. This was quite a brave decision, for the Club had only 40 pounds in the bank.

Searching, the committee purchased from Frank Pearson a block in a commanding position overlooking Armidale from the southwest. The price? A thousand pounds!

To fund the purchase, the Club launched an oversubscribed debenture issue paying 6 per cent interest. Repayment was to be by an annual ballot, with 10 per cent of the capital to be repaid. 

You couldn’t do this today, of course. The Armidale Club issuing debentures? The rules wouldn’t allow it. 

During the depression of the 1930s, those holding the debentures hoped that they would not be selected for repayment in the annual ballot. Investments yielding 6 per cent were very hard to find.

The site that the Club purchased is that we know today. It remains one of Armidale’s major community assets, one that many of us know and have greatly enjoyed.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 May 2015. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015.

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