Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Golf

A newspaper report of 28 April 1906 announced that a number of golfers had decided to establish a golf course and Mr William Chorley had offered to make one of his paddocks in Cheltenham available [1]. The first President elected by the residents was a local doctor, Mark Cowley Lidwill who lived in Lorne, Beecroft Road Beecroft (now part of Arden). Dr Lidwill held a State handicap of 9 at the ‘old Strathfield Club.’

Despite this offer of land, ground was instead actually cleared at Smith’s Brush, which fronted Pennant Hills Road in the approximate location of the current Pennant Hills Golf Club. Smith’s Brush had been part of a grant to Rev Thomas Hassall and so contributed to part of the locality known as Missionary Corner – for which see another article on this web site. In the early years of the twentieth century this land was owned by Edwin Smith and purchased from him by a group of 5 men led by George Washington Eaton of Eaton’s Hotel at Pennant Hills [2].

The first recorded gathering to plan a new golf course was in November 1906.

In 11 May 1907 the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate reported:

“The first anniversary of the Beecroft Golf Club was celebrated on Saturday. In the afternoon there was an attendance of fully 60 at the grounds, where there was an approaching and putting competition between the ladies, and also the gentlemen. Mrs Carlos won the ladies contest and Mr Vernon the gentlemen’s after a very exciting contest with Dr Lidwill. Afternoon tea was provided by the ladies, and partaken of with relish. The gentlemen members had dinner in the evening at Mr Little’s, Dr Lidwill occupying the chair, and Councillor C Churchill Tucker the vice chair. Several songs were rendered during the evening, and altogether a very enjoyable evening was spent.”

L J (Len) Osborne won the first 3 championships in 1907-9 and represented the club at the Suburban Champion of Champions held at Royal Sydney in 1909.

At the same time as the sport of golf was being established at this course, the five founders were seeking a liquor licence for the club. There was no licensed premises in Beecroft at this time. In considering a liquor licence application it was necessary for consideration by the Liquor Licensing Board to be given to local opinion. In 1907 and again in 1910 over 75% of the residents voted against liquor licences in the Village. The application of the 5 men was therefore refused and they promptly advised the club that they were selling the land knowing that as a consequence, the club must close.

The club did close in Beecroft but sought to re-establish itself at new premises bounded by Pennant Hills Road and Stuart, Campbell and Calga Avenues at Normanhurst. These grounds were not however considered suitable for competition matches and in May 1912 the club was disbanded.

In September 1922 a new doctor had arrived in Beecroft, Arthur C Holt, and he called a meeting at the School of Arts to form a new committee to establish a golf course. In November of the same year, Robert Vicars of Yallanbee in Cheltenham (presumably frustrated by dithering on the committee) purchased 100 acres at the present site for 4,750 pounds (less than half of the price back in 1915) and offered the land at the same price to the new club. The land was almost the same parcel of land as had previously been acquired. The members immediately established a company, issued debentures and completed the purchase. Having to distinguishing themselves from the previous (now defunct) venture which had been known as Beecroft Golf Club, they called this new enterprise Pennant Hills District Golf Club.

Shortly thereafter, in 1924 the first Ladies Committee was established.

The club continued to grow and in 1930 appointed Cecil Tonking as its first full time Secretary. Another club officer was E J Hyde who also served as President of the NSW Golf Association from 1950 to 1955. As the social life of the club grew one very popular event was the holding of a ball. These were being held in the club house in 1939 with up to 315 people.

In 1923 the club paid T E (Tommy) Howard for ‘professional services’ which comprised laying out a new course and supervising its construction. He also became the first ‘professional’ at the Club. Tommy had been the NSW Amateur Champion in 1919 and 1921. He also designed Strathfield and The Lakes courses. His work for Paennant Hills Golf Club lasted well – and for far longer than originally intended. The design of the course was not as frequently reviewed as the Club may have liked because it was impacted in the last thirty years of the twentieth century by a series of proposals for (and then construction of) a number of new roads on its boundaries. This detrimentally impacted on redesigns for the courses during this period.

After Tommy Howard, club professionals included Neville Johnston, Bill Davidson and Ian Alexander.

The most famous and talented of all golfers at this course was Anthony Yale (Tony) Gresham. A Beecroft lad, he had originally came to golf as a result of his father who was a club member. Tony Gresham was 25 times Pennant Hills Club Champion as well as going on to win the NSW, Australian and World Amateur Championships from 1959 to 1999. Tony also held, sharing with Kel Nagle, the course record of 63. Edwina Kennedy has probably been the most outstanding women’s player having won the British, Canadian and Australian Women’s Championships between 1976 and 1987.

During World War 2, and in particular throughout 1942, military authorities took over half of the club house as a casualty clearing station and this was later converted to a convalescent hospital. At the height of the alert for a possible Japanese invasion of Sydney, some 250 men were camped on the course. Once the possibility of the Japanese invading Sydney Harbour passed, the demand for this facility passed.

The sandstone entrance gates of the Club were erected in 1956 as a memorial to members who served in World War 2.

There have been a number of non-golf related incidents of excitement on the course. In 1972 a light plane crashed at the third tee. One of the passengers died. Then in 1986 a hot-air balloon had an unplanned landing on the course.

The original club house was built in 1823 and was rudimentary. Apart from smaller works, major new building work or renovations were undertaken in 1929, 1962 and 2019. A liquor licence was also first obtained under the 1946 Act.

[1]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 April 1906.

[2]      The five men were: Herbert Garratt, Robert Gaut, Charles Commerford, Michael Deery and George Washington Eaton.

 

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