This book (available 31st July 2010) published by Carreg Gwalch features 18 golf clubs that tell the story of golf in Wales. These chapters are;
Tenby, Royal Porthcawl, Monmouth, Pwllheli, Newport (Gwent), Llandrindod Wells, Caerphilly, Southerndown, Wrexham, Vale of Llangollen, Dinas Powys, Tredegar and Rhymney, Pyle and Kenfig, Llanymynech, Rhosgoch, Penrhos, Dewstow and Celtic Manor.
Extract from Chapter 1:
“Tenby is a bustling town on the southwest coast of Wales with an unusually high concentration of pubs. ” http://www.worldgolf.com
Tenby, Dinbych-y-Pysgod (‘little fort of the fish’) in Welsh, has existed for a long time. It lies on the coast of southern Pembrokeshire, 27 miles west of Carmarthen. The first mention of the town was in a ninth-century bardic poem. It grew in the twelfth century. The Norman castle was built to keep out the Welsh. In the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it was a major port. After this, however, the town slept until the railways woke it.
By the early nineteenth century Tenby had become a pretty, historical town with a busy fishing community. Victorians were keen on health, and ‘taking the waters’ was a great Victorian passion. The growth of the town and the tourism went hand in hand, and the trickle of tourists in the first half of the nineteenth century became a flood as the railway arrived at Tenby in 1863. By 1888 it was a tourist-driven town. Amongst the visitors to tenby at this time were novelists Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and George Elliot; the artist J. M. W. Turner; and Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and friends.
There were hotel-owners and business-owners in the town who were keen golfers themselves and eager for something extra to attract their customers to the area. Setting up and developing the Club was a mixture of business and pleasure for them. In Tenby, as in a number of Welsh seaside towns, golf had a dual purpose: as well as the tourism angle, the Club became a focus for local businesspeople to relax, play and meet.
These days Tenby still pulls in the tourists. They come to walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, or to go across to Caldey Island to see the perfume-making monks, and the town itself has an annual Arts Festival. Not too far away is Laugharne, of Dylan Thomas fame. And of course, there is always golf …
Tenby is believed to be the oldest Golf Club in Wales. It was established after a meeting on 31 September 1888 in the Town Hall, when six people decided to form a Club. The first membership fees were 10/6d per year or 5/- per month (equivalent to £273 or £130 today).
However, there is some evidence that golf had been played at Tenby as early as 1875. A passage in Laws of Markets and Fairs published in that year refers to court proceedings being adjourned whilst the court officials took time off to play golf.
The first Club competition was held on 21 October 1888, when thirty-three gentlemen and ladies took part and a Mr. T. A. Rees was the winner with a gross 51, net 41 off a 10 handicap (9 holes).
The Club prospered in the early years. In 1889 there were ninety recorded members. In 1892 there was sufficient money and optimism to employ a groundsman. There is a record in 1911 of comparative wages: whilst the Professional was paid 15/- a week, the green-keeper was paid 35/- per week.
The Club developed in the late Victorian era. A number of improvements were made to the course and exhibition matches are recorded. It was also the time when Tenby played home and away matches with Ashburnham in 1896. This, the oldest surviving Welsh fixture, is still played today.
In 1907 James Braid developed the full eighteen-hole course which was opened at the Easter meeting that same year.
More alterations were made between the war years. It is recorded that part of the course was landmined in 1940.
There have been a number of clubhouses over the years, even one in the town. The current one was opened in 1966 at a cost of £40,000. Over recent years this has been refurbished and extended. It is also one of the most modern-looking clubhouses in Wales.
With the help of partners such as the Ryder Cup Legacy Fund the Club are working hard at improving facilities and attracting more members. The fund will help Tenby Club develop a three-hole short course specifically designed to make golf more accessible and enjoyable for juniors and newcomers to golf. There will also be better practice facilities. This is essential as the Club holds more prestigious tournaments. In 2010 the Club will host the Welsh Amateur Championship and the British Ladies Championship.
With the support of Golf Development Wales the Club Professional, Mark Hawkey, has introduced ‘taster sessions’over the past year. At a subsidised cost of around £1 a person over 150 potential new golfers have had the opportunity to try golf out and see if they like it. Following on from this the Club has encouraged more people to join by considered more flexible membership deals with three-month trial memberships or six-monthly memberships.
So, whilst Tenby is justifiably proud of its heritage and its unique place in Welsh golf history, David Hancock (Secretary) sums up the approach: ‘It’s about not living in the past, but keeping moving forward.’ ………..