A History Of Haste Hill Golf Club
Part 3. Haste Hill Golf Course Through World War II
A greenkeeper's cottage was completed in 1938, sited on the edge of the course, along Chestnut Avenue. Little is known about the property that Mr Horace J Smith, the head green keeper since the course had opened, would have moved into. The 1939 Register details Horace as living in a property along Chestnut Avenue name ‘The Bungalow’.
There was a bit of disagreement at the May council meeting over the provision of a £50 refrigerator for the kitchen at the Haste Hill Clubhouse. One councillor felt that by the council making the purchase, the ratepayers were effectively subsiding a private catering concern. She went on to request that any councillors with season tickets or other links to the golf course should not be allowed to vote on the proposal. The chairman felt it should not make any difference to the subsequent vote, which went in favour of supplying the appliance.
Bert Pearson by this time had begun a new hobby, breeding Springer Spaniels and showing them at a number of dog shows. Not without success, he picked up a number of prizes, including a ‘VHC’ (very highly commended - effectively 5th place prize) for his dog ‘Renrut Jack’ at Crufts. He also had dogs named ‘Hastehill High Spot’ & ‘Hastehill Queen’ that went on to win awards at the Watford dog show in 1939.
The political situation in Europe was clearly not 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 the rules of etiquette, upon the completion of their rounds. Common issues included, not raking bunkers, laying clubs in the sand, not repairing 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.
By the middle of 1938, World War II was seen by many as almost inevitable. Recruits to the recently created posts of ARP (Air Raid Precautions Warden), first-aiders, anti-gas helpers & decontamination squads, were trained in Haste Hill Pavilion. Training took place up to five nights per week. ARP’s were also holding their regular meetings in the pavilion. An impressive total of 1500 volunteers were recruited to the posts, in the local area. On at least one occasion a home office van that had been converted into a mobile gas chamber, was brought onto site. The ARP Wardens passed through the chamber as part of their training, being exposed to, amongst other gasses, Lewisite, Mustard Gas & Chlorine Gas.
ARP’s were instructed to practice wearing their gas marks as much as possible, in everyday situations, so they were always prepared in the event of an air raid. Embracing this instruction to the full, they even scheduled an ARP's match for that July at Haste Hill, planning to play the full 18 holes in their gas masks. It raised quite a lot of local interest but perhaps unfortunately the Chairman of The Fire Brigade & ARP Committee, stepped in to forbid the competition going ahead. The Chairman, R J Page felt, 'It was not considered advisable'.
After an association going back to almost its inception, including two years as Club Secretary, two as Captain and holding a place on the NAPGC Executive Committee, A S Lowe left Haste Hill, to become Captain at the newly formed Rickmansworth Golf Club. The club was based at Rickmansworth Municipal Golf Course that came into being when Rickmansworth Urban Council purchased Moor Park Mansion and surrounding acres from the Moor Park Estate, in 1937. Purchased to prevent further house building on the land that was home to three golf courses, the East, West & High Courses, the site was then leased to Moor Park Golf Club, except for the East Course that became Rickmansworth. Known before the sale as ‘The Ladies Course’, it is now affectionately labelled ‘Tricky Ricky’. The course had quite an opening with Sandy Herd joining Bill Laidlaw for a Scotland vs England opening match against Ernie Whitcombe & John Henry Taylor. Moor Park Golf Club, had been playing on the courses since 1923 and bought the Mansion as well as the West & High Courses from the council in 1994. It is perhaps the close proximity of Rickmansworth & Moor Park, where Harry Colt had designed all three courses that led to the incorrect belief that Colt had also been the architect at Haste Hill.
By September Haste Hill clubhouse had been set up to act as a casualty clearing station / temporary hospital in the event of air raids, with alterations made to the living quarters of the club professional, Bert Pearson and his wife.
In October, with work well underway to extend and improve the course at King’s End, The Ruislip Association wrote to the council to insist that facilities at the renewed course should be upgraded to the level in place at Haste Hill.
Despite everything, the council were being congratulated on the condition of the course, at this time, with one single figure handicapper writing to the Golf Management Committee stating that he played around 10 different courses a year and yet 'seldom do I find one where the fairways and greens are in such good condition.'
Hostilities grew ever more inevitable and in January 1939, Bert Pearson was himself inducted as an ARP, a role he performed throughout the war. Then, February saw past Club Captain MG Reynolds elected to the committee of the National Association of Public Golf Courses (NAPGC).
Further large additions & alterations at Haste Hill became less likely, not just due to the likelihood of conflict but also as on Saturday 2nd September 1939, the council opened the reconstructed Ruislip Golf Course. Britain went on to declare war on Germany the very next day, Sunday 3rd September. The Ruislip course was again designed by Sandy Herd and the former King’s End Farm House, which stood almost opposite the White Bear Public House continued in use as the pavilion. The previous owner, Mr George Weedon had stayed on to manage the course, on behalf of the council, whilst the alterations were completed.
The following March, upon the renewal of season tickets the council gave holders the option of playing both Haste Hill and the newly completed Ruislip course for an additional fee of 10s 6d.*
Uxbridge Urban District Council had completed 10 holes at Harefield Place when that course opened on Saturday 11th May 1940. Seemingly popular as a course architect, Sandy Herd had once again been asked to submit a design for the course but it is not clear whether this was the layout adopted. It is known a Colonel Hotchkiss, assisted by Course Manager & Professional Percy Woods managed most of the work. The Middlesex Agricultural War Committee had insisted the course should be ploughed over but the Council successfully argued the facility would be a boost to morale and were only made to hand over the land set aside for the 8 holes that remained to be built.
In April 1941 The Middlesex Agricultural War Committee again sought to enforce the Cultivation of Lands Orders 1939. The Council were instructed to allow local farmers to graze their sheep on Haste Hill golf course and so invited those in the area to apply for the appropriate rights. However, with the course being an open site, farmers decided it was not viable to do so as they should have to employ shepherds to keep an eye on their animals.
The Council were concerned the Committee may insist the offer was extended to herds of cattle. This would have caused far greater damage and necessitated the closure of the course until such time as the Act was rescinded. In view of this the council decided to purchase 150 sheep of their own to keep on the course. It was a decision seen as cost-neutral as it was felt the sheep could be sold for a profit at the end of each ‘season’ and a new flock purchased. Whether this ever went ahead is unreported.
You may have thought the Haste Hill area was a little remote to have seen much of the air raids during the war but in fact there are records of 24 bombs being dropped in the close vicinity of the golf course.
Between 7th October 1940 & 6th June 1941, the bomb census states that to the North & East of the course, 2 bombs were dropped in the vicinity of The Drive, 2 close to Pinner Road, 1 near to Rickmansworth Road and 1 near to Chestnut Avenue. To the South, 3 are recorded as landing near Wiltshire Lane and another 3 close to Aspen Grove. Along the Western side, another was dropped by Ruislip Lido, officially recorded as near to Reservoir Road whilst a further 11 are recorded as landing around Duck's Hill Road. Looking a little further afield to include the whole of Northwood, Northwood Hills, Ruislip, Harefield, Pinner & Hatch End, the number of bombs recorded increases dramatically.
Two bombs were dropped on the 18th green of what was described in the press as a ‘well known golf course’ in the area. Some of the clubhouse windows were blown through and the roof damaged, whilst people were in the lounge, enjoying their lunch. Golfers dived for cover when they saw the plane approaching or heard the bombs detonate. Reporting restrictions appear to have prevented the course being named, although in truth it is unlikely to have been Haste Hill. Far more likely, it was Sandy Lodge or Pinner Hill, with the courses being very near the Northwood Headquarters, that had been completed just a year or two earlier. It is said that the bunker next to the eighth green at Pinner Hill was originally a bomb crater, with a further two bombs dropping on the course, during the war. The clubhouse at Pinner Hill was used by the RAF for recreational purposes and the WAAF slept in Nissan huts erected near the ninth green. It is also known that Moor Park Golf Course was bombed in late August 1940.
By July 1941 it was clear more of a sacrifice would be required of Haste Hill & again under the Cultivation of Lands Orders, applications were invited for the ploughing of 36 acres of land on Haste Hill Golf Course. Again it is not recorded this went ahead but given the acreage stated, it seems quite likely it spelt the end for the 9-hole pitch & putt course.
On Sunday 20th July 1941, tragedy struck at Haste Hill as 30 year old golfer, Eric Simister was killed when he was hit by the undercarriage of a plane. A later military record entitled ‘No. 306 "City of Torun" Polish Squadron, RAF Northolt’, stated, ‘At that time, the base commander was receiving rather serious complaints from the local golf club. Players were complaining that too many flights by the Polish Wing were being flown directly over their golf course, and that it became quite a nuisance to them. This was intensely contested amongst the base personnel, with many pilots simply outraged by the fact that they cared more about a game of golf than the people who defended their country, and by the same token, someone's freedom to play the "bloody game". Although being on leave, P/O [Pilot Officer] Leon Hubert Jaugsch took the squadron's Tiger Moth (no. T7301) belonging to the base Headquarters for a joy ride. Probably stirred on by this recent controversy, he wanted to teach some players a lesson who were playing an evening round of golf. He made several passes at a couple of the players with one of them refusing to lay flat every time the Tiger Moth's wing flung, just above their heads. Every pass, Leon Jaugsch flew a little bit lower and the player still stood straight and proud. Eventually he flew too low and literally decapitated a prominent figure of the local community. The pilot was jailed and never flew again for the RAF, whilst every effort was made to hush up the incident.’
Polish Airmen had faced prejudice when they first arrived in the UK, having fled their homeland following the Nazi invasion and such an incident would have done little to help the situation. It appears the efforts at suppression were broadly successful with Flight Lieutenant W G New stating to the later inquest that Jaugsch had been instructed to give a young Air Cadet from Watford his first experience of a trip in a Tiger Moth Bi-Plane, although low-flying was contrary to general orders. Performing loops, stall turns and low dives over the course the pilot claimed to have ‘misjudged the distance to the ground’ and stated that he usually flew aircraft with retractable undercarriages. He further stated that although he knew such manoeuvres were forbidden, he wanted to ‘give the lad experience’. The inquest heard that many golfers and locals out walking had to jump out of the way of the oncoming aircraft with Eric, a resident of West Avenue, Rayner’s Lane a little slower to react than the rest.
Witnesses did confirm there were two people aboard the plane, stated it had been flying around for a couple of hours but perhaps surprisingly did not mention that Eric’s head had been taken off. The inquest returned a verdict of Accidental Death. Clearly not jailed for long, if at all, Jaugsch later served with the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was disbanded in 1947. Married to a British woman, Jaugsch later settled in the USA, where he became a citizen. He passed away on 8th April 1984 and is buried at Los Alamitos, California.
A Haste Hill team triumphed 9½ - 8½ in a match on Sunday 26th July 1942, played against a team representing 13 Battalion Home Guard. Despite the Home Guard having been on night exercises the night before the match, they clearly gave a solid account of themselves.
In 1942 & 1943 Ruislip Northwood Council took out adverts in local newspapers to encourage people to take their holidays locally. A number of events and ‘specials’ were arranged with local businesses and attractions for the weeks following the August Bank Holidays, which were at that time, at the start of the month. The theme for 1942 was ‘Summer Holidays for Workers’. Special One Week Tickets were available to play Haste Hill with exhibition matches and competitions being part of the draw. In 1943 the theme was ‘Holidays At Home’ with advertised events including competition days and an exhibition match between Bert Pearson and Sandy Herd with guest professionals CS Denny from Thorpe Hall GC & A H Padgham from Sundridge Park GC joining in.
Alexander ‘Sandy’ Herd passed away on Friday 18th February 1944. Still living locally at the time, but having retained his broad Fife accent, Sandy had developed pneumonia, following an operation, at the age of 75. Born in St Andrew’s, Scotland on 24th April 1868, the Open Championship was the only major golf tournament in which Sandy chose to compete. Winning in 1902 at Hoylake he had also finished runner up on 4 occasions and in the top ten a total of 20 times. That 1902 Championship had a dramatic finish with Herd taking a three shot lead into the final round but carding an 81 over those last 18 holes. Harry Vardon and James Braid both missed medium length putts at the final hole, that would have forced a playoff, and Herd took the Championship, the first champion to have won using the Haskell rubber-cored ball. His Open appearances spanned a hugely impressive period of 50 years. In 1920 he became the oldest runner-up at the age of 52, a record which stood for 89 years, until Tom Watson’s 2nd place finish in 2009. Last making the cut in 1927 & with his final appearance at the finals in 1933, he competed right up until 1939, when at the age of 71 he failed to make it past the qualifying stage. His golf career started with short stints at Royal Portrush, Blundellsands & Loughborough, before being made the golf professional at Huddersfield, a position he held from 1892 to 1911. He then moved to Coombe Hill and finally onto Moor Park. As a golf architect, Herd designed or co-designed golf tracks at Harrogate, Heysham, Lees Hall, Malden, Pannal, Peel (Isle Of Man), Ulverston, Wakefield & Woburn Sands, as well as of course Haste Hill, Ruislip & drawing up the original design for Harefield Place. He was survived by his wife, four daughters and two sons who had also both become professional golfers. His brother Frederick won the U.S. Open in 1898. Sandy Herd Court, a street in St. Andrew’s is named in his honour.
After 16 years at Haste Hill Bert Pearson retired from his role as Course Professional & Manager in 1945, once the war had ended. His efforts were key to the success of the course, notably assisting in the design of the extended 18 hole course and later the 9 hole pitch & putt course. He had also donated an impressive silver cup to be awarded as the prize for an existing, annual Mixed Foursomes Competition, which had been running from at least as early as 1930. Sadly the trophy has since been lost and the Pearson Cup no longer appears on the club calendar. He & his wife were very popular amongst the members who presented him with a cheque to show their gratitude.
Bert was succeeded by Mr John G T Doe from Bournemouth, who was also to donate a cup to the club, which is still played for, to this day. The council had advertised the position of Professional at Haste Hill across the country with adverts known to have appeared in the press in Aberdeen, Yorkshire and down on the South Coast. The position paid a salary of £2 2s per week and also a £1 1s per week War Increment, plus emoluments.
*The currency systems prior to decimalistion 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
British Newspaper Archive, Harrow Leader, Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette (Advertiser & Gazette), Hillingdon Gazette, Hayes & Harlington Gazette, Harefield Gazette, numerous publishing dates.