THE EARLY YEARS OF ORSETT GOLF CLUB 1899 - 1919


From "The First One Hundred Years" The Story of Orsett Golf Club", abridged by Hazel Austin. This article is reproduced with the co-operation of Orsett Golf Club and the author David Hamilton, the well-known writer of many informative books on the popular game of golf.

In 1904, the subject of ladies becoming members was brought up and adjourned.

At the AGM in 1905 the previous minutes couldn't be read because the Secretary had left them in the back of his cart. At this meeting it was agreed, after a series of objections, that ladies could be members, although rules were implemented which prevented the ladies from playing on Medal days, not before 2.30 pm on Saturdays and not before noon on the Sabbath. The first lady members were Mrs B Donald, Mrs Seabrooke and Mrs Asplin.

By 1906 it was proposed that the course be extended to 18 holes and that a better clubhouse be provided rather than the existing wooden shed. In 1907 Francis Whitmore, recently promoted from Captain to Major, was re-elected President, the groundsman was given a salary increase to 18 shillings per week and the Greens Committee was asked to negotiate an agreement with Messrs Squier to use the course for several years rather than on a yearly contract. It was also agreed that a horse, previously hired, should be bought to ease the work of the green-keeper.

In 1908 the first green-keeper resigned following a dressing down by the Rev. Sedgwick about working the course on Sunday although the vicar himself was out looking for balls. Negotiations with Messrs Squier were not going well and membership was dropping. A Special General Meeting was called in October, chaired by Major Whitmore, who outlined the terms that Messrs Squier required in order to grant a further tenancy of the ground. These were that the Squiers would have the right to graze cattle on the land, that grass burning would be limited and only done with the Squiers' permission, that horses would not be turned out to grass, and that the rent would be �20 per annum. Negotiations continued without much success so it was resolved to wind up the Club at the end of 1908.


Orsett Golf Club in 1977 by RD Ayton
(from The First One Hundred Years)

Enthusiasm for a local golf club was not diminished and thanks to a purchase of the land by Francis Whitmore and the considerable generosity of local business men, the 'Grays and Orsett Golf Club' was formed in 1910. The club had three green-keepers, including Fred Braisden who came in August 1910 and stayed for 50 years. He was engaged as green-keeper and club professional and it wasn't long before the original nine holes were back in playing order with the help of club horse, Dobbin.

In those days, course maintenance was carried out mainly with manual tools and cutters. Hand mowers were pushed diagonally across the green which left the surface with longer grass than we see today. Worm casts on the greens were removed by the swishing of long-handled witches' brooms that were made by the greens' staff. Aeration was carried out to a high standard by the use of wooden rollers with two-inch spikes made by the local Smithy.

Within four years life at the Golf Club changed again as the First WorId War loomed. Fred Braisden and other younger members volunteered at the outbreak of hostilities and older members made every effort to keep the course in shape. Plans to build a clubhouse in the form of a pavilion were put on hold until after the war. The club was closed for about five years and part of the course was used by the Royal Flying Corps as a landing strip. Fred Baisden' s return after the war saw the steady improvement of the course. A notice in the Grays and Tilbury Gazette of 26 July 1919 stated that the Club was being reformed and new members were invited to join at a fee of three guineas. Compensation from the War Ministry plus generous contributions from members and friends enabled the first club house to be built consisting of asbestos sheet panels with the joints covered by strips of wood. The appearance was enhanced by the addition of a white, wooden paling fence to which members could tie their horses or lean their bicycles. The clubhouse had a sparsely furnished lounge with a bar, locker room, ladies and gents' WCs, an office/committee room and later, another room for light refreshments. A window was used to serve the caddies' refreshments courtesy of 'his' golfer. This usually consisted of a packet of cheese biscuits, a 'cartwheel' arrowroot biscuit and a glass of ginger beer. This benefit was only bestowed if the caddie was required by the golfer in the afternoon. Fred Baisden was also served through this window because, according to the custom of the day, he was not allowed in the clubhouse.

From those early days the club has gone from strength to strength and celebrated 100 years in 1999. David Hamilton's excellent book ''The First One Hundred Years" gives a detailed history of the Club, including reminiscences and anecdotes from members. The following quote from John A. Smith, the Centenary Captain, sums up Orsett's place in the realm of golf: "The development of the Club over the years has resulted in a championship golf course and one of the leading clubs in the county and known throughout the country."

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