In 1891, a group of golf enthusiasts from the Windermere area invited George Lowe, the professional at Lytham St Annes Golf Club, to visit the Lake District. He came to examine a site in the area known as Cleabarrow Fells, near Bowness-on-Windermere, for the purpose of creating a golf course. He reported:
“I beg to report after seeing the ground you propose for a golf course, that it has every chance of being an excellent course. I am confident of being able to lay out an admirable 9 hole course…From what I saw in our short survey, I believe that I could play the nine holes as the ground is at present and not lose the ball, which is different to most others I have assisted in laying out.”
At a meeting held on 14th March 1891, the club was inaugurated, and a lease for the land was entered into with the owners, the Church. One acre of land was purchased on which a clubhouse was built. There were 34 gentlemen members. However, ladies were admitted a year later and the membership increased to 94 men and 36 ladies. The first Captain of the club was Mr S.H. Fleming.
Success and extension
The Club was most successful and after 18 months of being played as a 9 hole facility, it was extended to an 18 hole course. The professional from 1912 to 1935 was Ernest Hazelhurst.
The Great war and beyond
Success continued and even the Great War, 1914 – 1918, only slowed the Club’s progress. The number of visitors using the facilities in 1918 was reduced to 817 but by 1922, the number was back to 3,100. Green fees in 1923 were 3s 6d (17.5p) on weekdays and 5s (25p) at weekends. The Second World War, 1939 to 1945, had a sorry impact on the Club. Once again, the course was reduced to nine holes, but this was due to the lack of staff as the steward, the professional and the greenkeeper were all serving in H.M. Forces. We did not have the staff to maintain an eighteen hole golf course. The membership was reduced to 45, 2 of whom were ladies.
Par 3 1/2?
The records show that in 1920, the course measured 4,320 yards with a par of 72. It is interesting to note that not all holes had a par of 3, 4 or 5. No! The first hole was a 4 and a half, the eighth was 3 and a half, and there were two 3 and a half holes in the second nine.
A return to 18 holes
It was in 1946 that play resumed over eighteen holes, although it is recorded that the lower half of the course was in a “very rough state”. The financial state of the Club was not strong and in 1953, as an “economy measure”, the professional’s employment was terminated. It was around this time that 100 acres of undeveloped land was sold, thereby removing some of the pressure from the Club’s impoverished resources. The services of a professional were reinstated in 1954.
After this “shaky” period, the Club, once again, started to look forward to better times and in the 1960’s the sum of £10,000 was spent on the clubhouse. Improvements were also made to the course – work was carried out to five teeing areas and to the construction of two greens. This work attracted applications for membership and the numbers went from 383 in 1965 to 525 in 1973. A healthy growth has continued; a few years ago, the waiting time for admittance to playing membership was in the order of six years.
100 years of play
By the turn of the century, it was becoming apparent that many of the greens were becoming unplayable after periods of prolonged rainfall and that with constant use over 100 years, the surfaces were sinking in the middle. The only sensible solution was to completely rebuild all 18 greens and the putting green to USGA standards.
The first phase of construction was completed in 2003 and proved to be so successful that the members authorised the General Committee to go ahead with rebuilding the remaining greens. The work was completed in December 2005 at a total cost of £750,000.
To the Current Day
This radical decision to implement the greens improvement gave the members and visitors a full course that can now be played on for the majority of the year. For periods during the year when the new greens are not used, play is transferred to purpose made winter greens that have been constructed during the past ten years.