GOLF CAME TO BEECROFT IN 1906
1906 saw the birth of golf in Beecroft on the Copeland Road site now occupied by the Pennant Hills Golf Club
Just twenty years after the arrival of the railway marked the beginning of Beecroft as a village, a group of residents, led by newly arrived 28 year old Dr. Mark Cowley Lidwill, decided to build a golf links close to the village.
The Beecroft Golf Club was officially formed in May 1906 (the first anniversary was held on 11th May 1907) with Mark Lidwill being elected as President. The first recorded competition held on the Copeland Road site was in October 1906 on a nine hole course in the north-east corner of ‘Smith’s Bush’.
The western 30-40 acres of the land fronting Pennant Hills Road had only ever been used for farming and cattle grazing, while the eastern portion was only used to graze cattle and had been cleared very little. As with the current Pennant Hills golf course, several holes crossed the Devlin’s Creek gully and most holes were bordered by tall trees. No other details of the layout have yet been found.
A brief history of the land at Copeland Road, Beecroft—site of Beecroft GC and later Pennant Hills District GC followed by Pennant Hills GC
Rowland Hassall, carpenter by trade and lay preacher, arrived from England via Tahiti in 1798. Governor John Hunter welcomed Hassall, along with his fellow missionaries. In 1799 the Governor granted Hassall 100 acres of land at Pennant Hills which he named “Kerby Corner”, almost certainly named after the area in which he lived in Coventry. This is the same land which the Pennant Hills golf course now occupies.
The land stayed in the hands of Rowland Hassall and his heirs until 1861 when ownership passed to James Smith and then to his son Edwin. At the time of the establishment of the Beecroft Golf Club the land was known by the locals as “Smith’s Bush”.
In 1906, ownership of the land passed from Edwin Smith to a group of five businessmen. This change of ownership ultimately led to the exclusion of the playing of golf on the land for several years.
Beecroft GC entered a Pennant team in 1907
Within a short time after its formation in 1906 the Club became affiliated with the Suburban & Country Golf Association, entering the Second Grade Pennant competition in 1907. From a membership of 50 players they were able to field a team of eight players to make an impression in a field of eight Clubs, including Concord, Manly and Killara; while the other four Clubs no longer exist. The team, led by Len Osborne (three times Club Champion), included Bill Chorley, Dr. Lidwill, Gordon Vernon & Oscar Wines.
Disaster struck Beecroft GC leading to its disbandment
The Club made great progress in its first four years with a new clubhouse and a growing membership, until seemingly unexpected disaster struck in 1910 when the owners of the land withdrew the Club’s permissive occupancy. After attempting to re-establish on another site the Club withdrew from the Golf Association in May 1912 and totally disbanded before 1914
A NEW BEGINNING FOR GOLF AT BEECROFT
Pennant Hills lays claim to being the fourth oldest Golf Club in Sydney still playing on the same turf
2006 will mark the Centenary of Golf at Beecroft, making it the fourth oldest Sydney golf club occupying its original site. Research has determined that among Sydney golf clubs only Royal Sydney, Killara and The Australian can lay claim to be still playing golf on the same land that they occupied prior to 1906. Some will argue that the discontinuity during WWI and following years make 2023 our Centenary but it should be noted that even The Australian Golf Club, widely recognised as Sydney’s oldest golf club, was inactive for seven years during its early development.
1923 – Golf returns to Beecroft
The idea to build a golf course at Beecroft was again the brainchild of a local doctor. This time it was Dr. Arthur Christian Holt who had moved to Beecroft in 1913 while Dr. Mark Lidwill was still practising there part-time as partner of Dr. Rygate, to whom he had sold his practice when he established his specialist practice in Macquarie Street in 1910. As was the case with Dr. Lidwill and the Beecroft Club, Dr. Holt was elected to the first Presidency of the new Club. Arthur Holt would have been well aware of the history of the Beecroft Golf Club. As prime mover he influenced a number of prominent residents to attend a meeting in the Beecroft School of Arts on the 10th September 1922 to float the idea to the Community of forming a Golf Club in the neighbourhood.
The meeting was chaired by Robert Vicars and at the end of the enthusiastic discussions a committee of three was formed to locate a site for a golf course. It had been agreed that nothing more could be done towards forming a club until land was secured for the purpose.
The first step was to find a site on which to build ‘golf links’
The Committee spent three months, almost entirely on weekends, searching for a suitable site which was close to the village and railway. Any land that was available at the time was far too small for the dreams of a full eighteen-hole golf course. No doubt thoughts were given to acquiring several adjoining properties to accumulate land adequate for their purpose.
As the only large parcel of land close to the village of Beecroft, the appointed Committee inspected ‘Smith’s Bush’ but considered it to be ‘unsuitable for their purpose’. No doubt the committee saw problems in creating a golf course on such hilly terrain with a forest of trees and a nasty gully running across the eastern section. Perhaps they may also have felt there might be some kind of jinx left from the Beecroft Club’s demise.
By chance, the western portion of the original Hassall Grant land that had been cut off by Pennant Hills Road was put to auction on Saturday 4th November 1922. Either at the auction or shortly afterwards, Robert Vicars made contact with the owner of the land, James William Meader, and made an offer to buy the eastern portion of the land. The outcome of these negotiations was that Meader agreed to accept an offer of £4750 for the 97 acres (approx.) and granted Robert Vicars an option to purchase at that bargain price.
Robert Vicars ensured the future of the new Club
Robert Vicars’ foresight and business acumen showed clearly how the embryo Golf Club could procure and secure control of the roughly 100 acre bushland covered block of land which had been the site of the Beecroft Golf Club founded in 1906. Suddenly it seems the Committee could see that Vicars’ plan made the site ‘quite suitable’ for their purpose.
Robert Vicars is revered as one of the Founders of our Club. He was made a Life Member in 1947 and the clubhouse now includes a ‘Vicars Room’ as one of its lounges
PENNANT HILLS DISTRICT GOLF CLUB FORMED IN 1923
What to call this new golfing facility?
What to call this embryo Golf Club? It would be easy to assume the first suggestion was to call it the “Beecroft Golf Club” as it was being formed by the Beecroft community and the land was close to the Beecroft village. The address of the land was in fact Pennant Hills Road, Pennant Hills, not Copeland Road, Beecroft as it is now known.
Among those who were prominent in the community and at the first meeting were Cliff Broughton, Gordon Vernon and Henry Chorley. All of these gentlemen had been members of the old Club and so everyone involved would have known the history of Beecroft Golf Club and knowing of its failure they hesitated to reinstitute that name. After considerable discussion the Committee chose the name Pennant Hills District Golf Club.
The Pennant Hills District Golf Club was formed in 1923
As was the case with Dr. Lidwill and the Beecroft club, the instigator Dr. Holt was elected as the first President and Pennant Hills District Golf Club Limited was incorporated on 26th February 1923.
Initially a nine-hole course was constructed, mostly by members working at weekends. This was always understood to be a temporary layout to be played on until the full 18 holes were constructed to a design provided by Tom E Howard, 1923 Australian Open Champion. The 18 hole course was opened for play on March 22nd 1924.
The principal golfing Journal of the day, “Golf in Australia”, reported in its April 17th 1923 edition:
Pennant Hills District Golf Club – One of Sydney’s New Courses
On Saturday, March 22nd the full course of eighteen holes was opened for play. The links are, as well as being the prettiest around Sydney, also the most interesting to keen golfers. The first hole is played over a deep gully with a creek running through it, and to the novice the first shot presents all the excitement of a great adventure. Members have been known to spend the afternoon in the gully on a voyage of discovery, and it is rumoured that a treasure-hunting expedition, properly equipped, would meet a rich reward. The present scribe has personally contributed largely to the buried treasure. The last hole is also played across this gully, but members appear to have profited by experience on their return, or else have developed more power in their elbows but this hole can be an easy three or a bad twenty.
The rest of the course presents its fair proportion of easy situations and difficulties, and it is noted with pleasure that the quality of play in general has much improved, although experts note a tinge of blue in the atmosphere, and corresponding warmth in the temper of players.
There is still room for new members. When residents awake to the charm of their own particular links and understand what an excellent and congenial crowd meet there, it is confidently believed that it will not be long before the “house full” notice will be necessary.
Situated on the high lands overlooking Beecroft and on the main Pennant Hills Road, the links present a most charming and delightful natural picture. With an area of 97 acres, ample room is provided for a most excellent course of 18 holes.
CONNECTIONS WITH THE OLD CLUB REMAINED
Beecroft residents embraced the return of golf to their suburb
By 1923 Beecroft had grown from a small village to a suburb, although to this day the residents treasure the village atmosphere. Beecroft was just recovering from the deprivations brought about by the Great War and residents were overjoyed to have access to another form of family weekend pastime.
While all of the serious golfers would have found somewhere to play during the lost years there were some who returned to play at the Copeland Road links.
Among them the following members had previously played at the Beecroft Golf Club:
- Gordon Vernon who served 13 years on the PHDGC Committee; won the 1928 Osborne Shield; won the B-Grade championship in 1931 and was made the first Life Member of PHDGC in 1936
- Cliff Broughton who was made life member of Pennant Hills GC in 1955
- Bill Chorley who served on the Committee at PHDGC
- Henry Chorley who served on the Committee of PHDGC
Other early members who returned included Edward Alcock, Oscar Wines, Rev Angus Ogilvie, Bob Quodling, Ted Sherring—and their families.
The Osborne Shield – a link to the past
Leonard (Len) J Osborne was the best golfer in the early days of golf at Beecroft. He was the Beecroft Club Champion in 1907, 1908 & 1909 and represented Beecroft in the Suburban Champion of Champions at Royal Sydney in 1909, incidentally the event was won by Eric Apperly who played off scratch, while Len’s State handicap was 7.
In 1924 Bill Chorley donated a shield that he named the “Osborne Knockout Shield” for matchplay competition between sixteen qualifiers playing off scratch “to perpetuate the memory Mr. Osborne, who was one of the pioneer golfers of the district”. For the next fifty years this annual competition was competed for. In 1976 it was replaced on the calendar by the Captain’s Cup. It is a pity that the shield does not still hang in the Clubhouse but unfortunately it has been lost.
The golf course continued to grow
Pennant Hills is perhaps unique in that no course architect can claim to have been the designer. In the years between 1923 and 1934 the course developed slowly and when the current sixth hole was added in 1934 the concept was complete. Apart from lengthening and adding bunkers, no dramatic changes have been made in the last seventy years. In 1934 the course was 6261 yards long while today it is 6475 yards (5921 metres), an increase of just 214 yards.
The course is not long by modern standards but par is well defended by trees, bunkering and variable lies created by its hilly terrain. At no time in its history has the course record been lowered below 63; against par 71.
Pennant Hills Golf Club Limited was formed in 1937
The word ‘District’ was dropped from the name in November 1937 when the shares and debentures of all previous shareholders were redeemed and Pennant Hills Golf Club Limited was formed, with the land being owned by the Golf Club as opposed to a landholding Company.
The current members of Pennant Hills Golf Club recognise the debt they owe to the founders who had the foresight to secure the land. There should be little doubt that those founders would be amazed by the quality of the course that has evolved from their vision and proud to know that we still have a most friendly family oriented Club, yet with a course that is always a challenging test of golf.