A History Of Haste Hill Golf Club

 

Part 2. The Development Of Ruislip - Northwood Municipal Golf Course

 

The Ruislip-Northwood Municipal Sports Ground opened at Haste Hill on Saturday 27th July 1929. Chairman Of Ruislip-Northwood Council Mr Mitchell declared that the sports ground completed a chain of open space extending from Northwood, across Ruislip & Eastcote. He hoped ‘there would always be a friendly feeling between Northwood & Haste Hill Golf Courses’, and hit a drive off the first tee to declare the 60 acre, 9-hole course open. Mr T R Parker, a local Councillor, pivotal in the agreement to grant the local community a public golf course, then hit a brassie (2-wood) shot. This is the Mr Parker who in 1933 donated a trophy, we still play for today, The Parker Cup. Sir Charles Pinkham, Alderman, and Chairman of Middlesex County Council then struck a mashie (approximate to a modern pitching wedge) and the last shot was played by Alderman Mr H Marlow-Read, Vice Chairman of Middlesex County Council.

 

The first full round of 18 holes (twice around the course) was then played as a fourball by;

 

Sandy Herd, architect for the course, Open Champion of 1902, Open runner up on several more occassions and the golf professional at Moor Park.

 

John Henry Taylor who was another local resident and a huge supporter of public golf courses He felt strongly the sport should not be just the preserve of those that could afford the fees at private clubs. Taylor was The Open Champion of 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909 & 1913, was Britain’s winning Ryder Cup Captain in 1933 and a co-designer of Pinner Hill.

 

Robert ‘Bob’ or ‘Bert’ Pearson was the first course professional and manager at Haste Hill, he lived upstairs in the clubhouse, with his wife. His duties extended to providing catering and waiting staff for the pavilion and collecting green fees from the golfers as well as teaching the game.

 

 Mr H R Metcalfe, council surveyor for the course and manager of the contractors that laid down the sports ground.

 

This first match ended in a, possibly diplomatic, draw.

 

In addition to the 9-hole course, there was putting course that stretched across from a line just inside the current entrance gate, across what are now the 13th tee boxes & the 12th green and over to the footpath. It would have been quite an impressive size probably reaching down as far as the stockade fence in which the golf carts are now stored. As well as golf, there was a cricket pitch, in the summer that covered most of what is now the 11th, 12th & 13th holes and the practice area alongside the 10th. It is noticeable just how flat the area is, around those holes. There were also three tennis courts & in the winter, the cricket pitch was turned over to Football & Hockey.

 

The Pavilion as it was originally built was just the central section of what exists today, without the wings at each end and was only around 80% of its current depth (as can be seen by the columns in the main bar area, that are the original front wall. There certainly would not have been much in the way of services for golfers, in the pavilion as golf was still very much seen as a sport you just turned up, played and off you went, after 18 holes. It is more likely to have been primarily changing rooms for the sports pitches. There were, however lockers for hire & golfers could use the changing rooms. Some refreshments were available.

 

That first summer of 1929, was very hot & dry with the course considered to be in poor condition as a result of the drought. Irrigation was provided by a 20 year old, ‘Shand Mason Steamer Pump’ that had been recycled from a fire engine, when the vehicle was retired from service, locally. It is not clear exactly where this pump was set up or how, precisely it was used.

 

The course was a pay & play course from the start but annual season tickets were also available. There was a rather more formal process to getting a season ticket, at the time with an application being made to and considered by the Golf Management Committee, set up by the council and made up of council employees.  Season tickets were renewable on 1st April each year. The prices were; 7 day season ticket £3 13s 6d, 5 day season ticket (no weekends or public holidays) £2 12s 6d. Pay & play prices were 18 holes 1s 6d, whilst a day ticket was 2s 6d. The council also offered a 1 week pass for 7s 6d and a 1 month pass for £1. Until 1936, the course even opened on Christmas Day, until 1pm. In today’s, decimalised currency the price of the 7 day season ticket would equate to £3.68 and a single 18 hole round would be 13 pence. Players could also hire a locker for an annual fee of 7s 6d. Robert ‘Bert’ Pearson, the club professional offered lessons at the rate 4s for 1 hour of instruction or 2s 6d for 30 minutes.*

 

By 14th October 1929, 39 applications for season tickets had been made and all were successful. This date is key to the history of Haste Hill Golf Club as a meeting was held that evening to elect officers to a Committee Of season Ticket holders. A committee of four were elected: Mr W P Edwards, Mr A A Stirling, Mr J C Bolton and Mr E Braddon (also recorded as Bradden) was appointed secretary. The season ticket holders were asked to assist in the running of competitions, selection of teams to represent the course and make recommendations to the Golf Management Committee in relation to course improvements & maintenance.  Although the group where not to be formally known as a club, in view of the council’s stated aims to keep the course open to all and offer no preferential treatment to any individual or society, they are clearly the first officials of Haste Hill Golf Club in all but name.

 

It was quite quickly suggested the course should be extended, particularly in view of the lengthy wait times to play and the levels of congestion on Sundays, with golfers playing the 9-hole track twice, to complete a round. It was also known that the public course in Harrow, sited at Preston Road was shortly to close, to be turned over to housing. It was, though, not all plain sailing in these early days.

 

The sports ground did have its issues early on, with a proposal in March 1930 to turn a site adjacent to the Golf Course into a rubbish tip. There was to be an access road, to the tip, through the golf course. During a meeting, at the end of that month – the council refuted a claim that they had decided to allow controlled tipping at Haste Hill. Councillor Mr T A Kenyon proclaimed, ‘the golf links is self-supporting and if it was possible, would be turned into an 18-hole course’. Many considered the extension of the course to be a sweetener to allow the tip proposals to get through and it took until August for the idea to be outright rejected. It appears though that the extension to the course was practically a done deal, just a couple of months later. In May the Council had decided that In view of the sporting teams being displaced by the extension of the course, they were to purchase land in Chestnut Avenue. This to provide the clubs with new facilities, there was also agreement to purchase a further 8.5 acres of land on Haste Hill to replace the public land, lost to the course.

 

There was still a degree of disquiet at the loss of the public space to the original golf course with many people refusing to keep to the footpaths laid around the edges and crossing the holes as they pleased. There were also representations made to the local newspapers that the ‘special treatment’ afforded to The Drive was unreasonable in view of the poor condition of other local roads, such as Chestnut Avenue. By December of 1930 there had been reports of illegal shooting on the course and local horse riders stood accused of damaging the greens and fairways.

 

Meanwhile, the golf course continued to be a success. In May 1930 a Mixed Foursomes is the earliest competition that seems to have been recorded, a Mr J. Austin returned a record card at the course, with a score of 71, whilst Sandy Herd was made an Honorary Member of Haste Hill Golf Course in August. By the end of September The Walter D Friend Cup had been played for the first time and a visiting golfer from North Harrow had hit the first recorded hole-in-one at Haste Hill, on the 5th hole, now the 8th but at that time played in reverse to what it is now. The course ran at a loss of £280 (or £800 dependent on who you believe) in the first year but it was such a success that a further, southern access road was being considered, likely to be from Chestnut Avenue, or possibly even Wiltshere Lane, that extended much further into the woods at that time.

 

By the start of the 1930 – 1931 season, at least two football clubs called what now appeared to be universally known as Haste Hill Golf Club, their home. Northwood United FC (now Northwood FC) & Oaklands Gate FC were entertaining sides such as Roxeth United, Wembley Town & Harrow Sheet Metal Workers. The ground was also home to Northwood Cricket Club.

 

The course was on target to not only achieve its target income of £890 but not less than £1400, for the year 1930. There were by this time 104 season ticket holders and with 201 rounds of golf played per week including those by pay & play golfers, the course was on target to achieve profitability in year 2.

As a result, in January 1931, a two hour council meeting ended with agreement to extend Haste Hill Golf Course. The suggestion by the Golf Course Management Committee was that 12.6 acres of adjacent land be purchased for £1,800. This was again not without opposition due to half of the Haste Hill open space being lost to the extension. The proposal was described as a luxury by opponents and 'a boon to people who could not afford the fees at other courses', by supporters. Somewhat ironically, some locals considered the extension to be a punishment for the dump not going ahead.

 

After leading the group by committee for 18 months, in April 1931, the ‘Committee of Season Ticket Holders’ elected their first Captain, Mr E G Baker.

 

The plans to extend the golf course, including turning the use of the sports fields over to use as part of the golf course, went to an inquiry, held on behalf of the Ministry of Health in July 1931. A month later, the Ministry sanctioned the extension. With the impending eviction of local football & cricket clubs, Haste Hill Golf Club played charity comps in support of Northwood Cricket Club, to assist with the purchase of a ground of their own, raising the princely sum of £3.

 

By October 1931, with football still being played at Haste Hill, the Golf Member’s Committee (as they were by then known) urged the council, at their monthly meeting, to press on with the works to extend the course. Harrow Golf Course at Preston Road had closed and many players were looking to become members at Haste Hill. The council in turn proposed to restrict membership to local residents as the course had become so popular and it was the council picking up the costs, after all. The council did however report that not only had the required land been purchased but that the further purchases, agreed the previous May, were completed.

 

The work, began shortly after with Sandy Herd again appointed course architect, this time with the assistance of Bert Pearson. In early 1932, with the work in progress, there was huge public outcry about the closure of the public land to be handed over to the golf course. Complaints were raised about the positions of footpaths and suggestions made for paths across holes. There were also many complaints about the barbed wire fencing being erected to surround the course, likening it to that of a compound for prisoners. It would have looked much like the fencing along the A40 side of Northolt Aerodrome. Mr R J Page, a council employee who was a big supporter of the course & club, later suggested the money being paid out for fencing would be better spent on improving the greens. The fence ran along the footpath from the corner behind the now 12th green to the brook on what is now the 1st hole. Then in March 1932, with the cost of season tickets set to rise, following the course extension, the council announced that patrons would be able to pay for their passes in instalments.

 

A report in the local papers on Friday 6th May 1932 reported that ‘Assisted by showers the new nine holes at Haste Hill Municipal golf course, Northwood, are in excellent condition, and although no definite opening date has been fixed, it is expected that the full eighleen-hole course will be ready for play toward the end of June. Despite the limited acreage available, the old nine-hole course with the addition of the adjoining playing fields and a portion of Haste Hill, have been utilised in an ingenious manner to accommodate a full eighteen holes. Sandy Herd the Moor Park professional, assisted by Bert Pearson  professional at the course, have been responsible for the lay-out of the extended course. Regular users will find many changes ......... The extension will do much to relieve the congestion that takes place especiallly at weekends and should still further enhance the popularity of the course.’ The extension of the course meant the putting course was reduced to a putting green and would have been pretty much where the car park is now situated, up to the stockade fencing, within which the golf carts are now stored overnight.

Soon after the full 18 hole course was completed, the idea of a second entrance, from the south was abandoned.

 

The 18 holes opened on Wednesday 20th July 1932, at 6pm with the bogey (par) for the course set at 76 and after a total outlay of £8360. It seems it was with a little less fanfare than the first course opening although a huge crowd gathered to witness the first round of golf, played again by two Open Champions. (Imagine the crowd today, if Padraig Harrington & Mark O’Meara turned out to play a round at Haste Hill.) The first tee shot was played by Mr J A Hutt, JP & chairman of the Ruislip-Northwood Councill, with the first match following straight after, played between Sandy Herd, Ted Ray (1912 Open Champion, 1920 US Open Champion & the golf professional at Oxhey) & Percy Baxter (golf professional at Northwood), together with Bert Pearson.

 

In December of that year, the Season Ticket Holders held their first annual dinner, which was a great success and the 15th green (now the 5th), was taken up and relaid.

 

The issues with the public crossing the course as & where they chose continued into 1933, such that the committee requested the council have the 13th tee (now the 3rd) raised so a view of people on the two adjacent holes was possible. There were wait times of up to 2 hours to start a round at the weekend and with these large numbers a procedure of placing a ball in a chute positioned at what is now the 13th tee box had been adopted to identify the order for players to tee off.

 

Some of the season ticket holders where looking for the council to formally recognise the group as a club and address their concerns over the conditions in the pavilion. Disharmony was such that in July 1933, Captain E Nichols resigned, to be replaced by M G Reynolds (also recorded as Mr P C Reynolds in some texts).  Soon after the change, the Committee requested the council have the course affiliated to the English Golf Union, in order that it could be assessed for a standard scratch score and therefore the handicaps of players be made official. Thie course was affiliated, later in the year. The committee also put forward proposals to the council that they be allowed to form an officially recognised Golf Club.

 

As a result of the success of Haste Hill, in August 1933, Pinner Parish Council proposed to Hendon Rural Council that Pinner Park should be turned over to a Municipal Golf Course but the idea clearly gained no traction.

 

The difficulties for Bert Pearson to manage the large numbers of players attending Haste Hill were recognised by the council when they decided to install automatic ticket barriers to take payment. It is, though not clear whether these were ever installed and if so, where they were positioned.

In November of that year, the council introduced a special rate of 6d per round, for unemployed residents. Just one player took advantage of this concession, in the first three weeks it was in place.* With a degree of frustration over  the system for starting, the course moved over to a system of issuing a numbered ticket, upon payment of green fees. Corresponding numbers were then displayed on a board at the 1st tee (now 13th) to indicate who was next to tee off. Anyone playing the back 9 first was requiired to swap their numbered ticket on retuning to the clubhouse, and join the queue.

 

Meanwhile, the committee of season ticket holders deemed the Pavilion was completely inadequate and described conditions as ‘akin to the black hole of Calcutta, at the weekends’. Their representations to the council brought success and at their November meeting, the council approved plans for alterations and additions to the pavilion at Haste Hill. Commenced in March the following year, these works included the addition of wings to each end of the pavilion as well as the addition of a verandah across the front of the original, central section. The left hand wing housed a ladies' lounge , ladies' cloakroom & the new pro shop, whilst the men's lounge and cloakroom was in the right hand wing. The kitchen facilities were also upgraded, as was the accomodation, upstairs. The Committee of season ticket holders reiterated their desire to form a club and requested the provision of ‘quarters’ at the new pavilion. Once completed. Bert Pearson,  was advised the rent for his accomodation in the renewed pavilion would be set at £60 pa, inclusive of electricity & water but not gas. He was to continue to receive any profits from the sale of refreshments on condition that he provide the services of two full-time waitresses. Alcohol was not served in the pavilion at this time and no plans were in place to alter that. With much of the planting in the area still relatively recent, the view from the pavilion was considered remarkable with visitors apparently able to see all the way across to Ruislip Lido.

 

In January 1934 an interesting competition was held, a 16-a-side match between a team led by the Club Captain and a team captained by the Club Secretary. Each player played a singles match in the morning and then took  part in a foursomes match in the afternoon. An annual fixture the number of team members seemed to vary each year. Meanwhile, the Club Championship was played over 72 holes, with two single rounds played over a couple of weekends then those that made the cut, playing a further 36 holes in a single day to wrap up the tournament. A number of the curret trophies that the club play for today were already in existence with the Rowley Cup, Parker Cup, (Walter D) Friend Cup all having started life in 1933. Some of the competitions were restricted to season ticket holders only, effectively the club members, with a number of others being open competitions.

 

In the first half of the year, the council decided an upgrade was needed to the water supplies, for the course. With a number of West London courses closing down to make way for housing, the council wanted to ensure the greens could be treated correctly, so as to attract as many of the displaced golfers as possible. Later in the year, the 'pipes, pumps & plant' required to pump water directly from Ruislip Reservoir were laid at a cost of just under £700, supplying water to each green, for the first time.

 

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the golfers though, with the council putting forward a proposal, in June that year for the addition of a bowling green, to be constructed in the north corner of the course. The proposed position would have done away with the putting green, shortened the course and entailed 7 or 8 months of disruption. Haste Hill was approved at a council meeting as the most suitable location, despite local opposition from bowlers and of course golfers, who preferred a site at Northwood Recreation Ground, on Chestnut Avenue. The Chestnut Avenue site had previously been set aside for exactly that purpose but construction there would have meant demolishing tennis courts and reducing the children’s play area. It was suggested that ‘with acres of spare ground at Haste Hill the course could either be rearranged or a further 9 holes added, on adjoining land’. Bert Pearson suggested shortening the 1st hole and placing a bowling green behind the 1st tee. There was talk of building the bowling green in front of the clubhouse and even building the bowling green at Northwood recreation Ground and then turning the putting green at Haste Hill over to tennis courts.  It took until August 1935 for the final decision, that the green be laid down at Northwood Recreation Ground, with no changes at Haste Hill.

 

In December 1934 the council formally rejected the proposals by season ticket holders to form a club. They did not feel it appropriate to hand over a room in the pavilion for use by a club and felt they could not give season ticket holders that had formed a club, any preferential treatment on the course. They also insisted that if any club was formed in the future, they required that a council official sit on the club committee. It appears likely by this time that the council were aware an unofficial club had existed for a good while. 1934 also saw Haste Hill golfers compete for ‘The Morning Post Trophy’ & again in 1935. It appears much like the Daily Mail Competitions of today, The Morning Post was absorbed into The Daily Telegraph in 1937.

 

Continuing to attract crowds at the weekend and with Uxbridge District Council constructing a Golf Course off Harvil Road, Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council as they were now known, continued improvements to the course at Haste Hill. In May 1935 the Council approved in principle the addition of a 9 hole pitch & putt (relief) course, adjoining the existing course. Subject to the exact position being agreed, £450 had been set aside in March for this purpose. It took a while to work out all the details but construction of the relief course was formally approved in November that year, with Sandy Herd and Bert Pearson once again being appointed architects. Further improvements saw a starters hut constructed by the 1st (now 13th)tee box and  it was also agreed a shelter should be constructed by the 8th (now 17th) tee box . It would appear to be at the site of the shelter that until recently stood at the back of the current 9th tee box. Changes were also made to the 1st (now 13th & 14th) & 2nd (the current 11th), although it does not appear to have been noted, what exactly these changes were.

 

Later that year, Haste Hill Golf Course was used as a site for a Beacon to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, with the council presenting the club with a silver cup, 'The Jubilee Cup', to be played for each year, by club members.

 

In March 1936, Club Secretary A S Lowe was appointed to the Executive Committee of the NAPGC, a position he held for at least five years. After serving as Club Secretary for 2 years, Mr Lowe swapped places with Club Captain A T Smith just a few weeks later. In June 1936, with the construction of the 9 hole relief course at an advanced stage, police were requested to include the area on their regular patrols following a number of serious acts of vandalism, 'by boys'.  On Saturday 19th September 1936, the relief course opened, a par 3 course, it was added to ease congestion and prevent the loss of revenue to the soon–to-open Uxbridge Public Golf Course, which at that time was under the control of a separate council. The course was built on land to the west of Chestnut Avenue, adjoining the course and a portion of Northwood Recreation Ground.  Little is known about the course, other than the 1st hole was 65 yards in length and the second 125 yards. 1936 was also the year Haste Hill Golf Course was affiliated to the NAPGC.

 

At the start of 1937, proposals were put forward to make further alterations to the 1st (now 13th &14th) & 2nd (the current 11th hole), although again, the exact details of the changes appear not to have been recorded. The suggestions were to ease congestion at the beginning of the course.  It would appear the alterations were carried out as it was also put forward that the 12th hole (now 8th) be reversed and played downhill due to the number of balls being hooked onto the 13th (now 3rd) tee box and running onto the 17th (now 7th) green. A possibly unique achievement was accomplished in February 1937 when Mr E Nichols (club Captain for 1932 & into 1933) won the Parker Cup. The Nichols family of keen golfers held all of the trophies, bar the club championship, offered to members, at once. Mr Nichols beat his own nephew, Mr W H Nichols who himself went on to become club captain in 1939, in the final. The previous year the Nichols family had already won what were considered the three major trophies, at the club. This year also saw Haste Hill Golfers compete at home in the qualifying round of the News Of The World PGC competition.

 

A greenkeepers cottage was completed in 1938, and is believed to now be a private residence on Chestnut Avenue, ‘Pine Tree Lodge’. Bert Pearson by this time had begun showing Springer Spaniels at various dog shows, with noted success, picking up a number of prizes. The political situation in Europe wasn’t the only cause of consternation at the time as in August the Council had 2,000 pamphlets printed entitled ‘Etiquette Of Golf’. These were handed out to golfers who were perceived to have broken etiquette, at the completion of their rounds. Common issues included, not raking bunkers, laying clubs in the sand, not reparing divots & pitch marks and talking whilst an opponent was making a shot. It also addressed slow play, reminding golfers not to linger on greens to complete scorecards and allow other groups through when searching for a ball. Finally it advised groups that a Greensome must give way to all other forms of match, single players held no standing and all penalties should be revealed to an opponent as soon as possible.

 

*The currency systems prior to decimalisation used '£' for pounds, 's' for shillings and 'd' for pence. There were 12 d or pence to a shilling and 20 s or shillings to the pound. You will probably have worked out there were 240 d or pence to the pound. To give you a chance at comparison, with 20 shillings to the pound, a shilling is considered to be the equivalent of 5 pence, in today’s money.

 

Sources.

Local knowledge

British Newspaper Archive, Harrow Leader, Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazzette (Advertiser & Gazzette), Hillingdon Gazette,  Hayes & Harlington Gazette, Harefield Gazette, numerous publishing dates.

 

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