Halifax Golf Club

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Club History

From small acorns great oaks grow.

…but rarely can a Golf Club have blossomed so completely in the space of a few short weeks.

On March 30th 1895, the following advertisement appeared in both the weekly Halifax Courier and daily Halifax Guardian:

‘Golf. Wanted all Gentlemen interested in Golf to attend a meeting at the Mechanic’s Hall on Wednesday evening next, at 8:30, in reference to the formation of a Halifax Club’

Three gentlemen in particular: Dr John Oakley JP, Dr D T Macauly and Mr Walker Ward were the prime movers behind that initial meeting. Mr Algernon Firth, later Sir Algernon, was elected the first Captain of the club at a meeting on April 24th.

A professional by the name of George Lowe from St Anne’s was appointed; his brief was to assist with the green-keeping as well as being the Club Pro.

The original 12-hole course, located in Lightcliffe at Cliffe Hill Park, was formally declared open on Saturday 20th July – just 15 weeks later!! It appears there were about twenty-three “rules” of the Club at the time, one of them being that red jackets must be worn when playing the golf course.

In 1900, the Club was forced to leave the Lightcliffe site due to the lease being terminated by the landowner. An alternative site at Shibden was offered by Mr John Lister, who had inherited the estate following the death of Ann Walker (of Gentleman Jack fame) in 1854. Ann having assumed ownership upon the death of Anne Lister in 1840. The Club did not stay long at Shibden, the Members deciding in November 1900 that the Club couldn’t continue in the prevailing circumstances.

Following another newspaper advertisement, 100 acres owned by the Halifax Corp Water Board at Ogden was identified as a potential new site, and a rent of £26 per annum was agreed. A 9-hole course was set out by Alex Herd, the professional at Huddersfield GC, and the new course was opened in May 1901. There was no Clubhouse at Ogden at the time, Mr John Bairstow organising the use of a room at the Reservoir Lodge.

The present purpose-built clubhouse and the extended 18-hole course were officially opened on October 2nd 1902 by way of an exhibition match between Harry Vardon and Alex Herd. It was originally hoped that a golfing celebrity – particularly the Prime Minister, A G Balfour, would do the honours for the now 350 members. In view of the influential members of Halifax society involved in the club, it was probably not such a wild notion. Balfour, apparently only pulled out at the last minute due to work commitments. Three times Open Champion, Harry Vardon, based at Ganton and reigning Open champion Alex Herd were a pretty good alternative. The Halifax Guardian reported the day was mostly fine but rain fell at times. Harry Vardon won the match posting a morning round 79 against Herd with an 80. In the afternoon Vardon shot a 76 with Herd returning a 77.

By 1905 the course had been further altered, and on September 8th 1906, a second match took place - James Braid, Open Champion in 1905 and 1906, played J H Taylor, five times winner of the Open between 1894 and 1913. They played a 36 hole match over the ‘mark two’ Ogden course and according to the Halifax Courier and Guardian

“this match created much interest in the North, especially amongst the members of Halifax Golf Club, owing to the fact that every member was anxious to see what score these two great players could do the new ‘mark – two’ Ogden Course in. Some guessed 71 or 72. Others said they could not do it”.

The Ogden cognoscenti weren’t too far off the mark. J H Taylor produced the round of the day, a 74 in the second round to tie the match.

Herbert Riseborough was the professional at Halifax Golf Club between 1906 and 1914. He played in several Open Championships while at Ogden, including the 1907 and 1911 events at Hoylake and Sandwich won by Amaud Massy and Harry Vardon. On each occasion the club paid £5 towards his expenses and members made private donations.

Around 1912, after the Northern PGA visit to Ogden, changes were made to the course. A golf expert by the name of Dr Alistair McKenzie of Leeds was called upon to inspect, report and make any suggestions. This he did and the construction of the present second hole, a 130 yards par 3, was his recommendation. McKenzie was the first secretary at Alwoodley Golf Club Leeds, but has achieved lasting notoriety for his design input at Moortown, Alwoodley, Cypress Point America and Royal Melbourne Australia. His enduring monument is the U S Masters venue, Augusta National, which he designed with the great Bobby Jones. The trade mark of McKenzie design is the tricky two-tiered putting greens that carry his name.