Towards prosperity

The year 1960 began promisingly. The club was asked for the very first time to host a meeting of the Notts Amateur and Professional Alliance. This was quite an honour then. Unfortunately, it was rather spoilt soon afterwards by comments in the Nottingham Evening Post from a Newark member that 'the course was not in good condition and that we could not do the catering for such a meeting.' This obviously caused a lot of irritation and attempts were made to identify the guilty party and have the report corrected.

Probably the comments were not too wide of the mark. The club was certainly experienc­ing catering difficulties at that time. The Smiths had left in the spring of 1960 and Mrs Bakin who took over was in very poor health and died later that year. Mr Smith had also been the Greenkeeper so there must have been problems on the course. Les Bakin did not take over until July 1960. For all that, things must not have gone too badly. The Alliance visit was later declared to have been a success. Newark subsequently became a big supporter of the Alliance. In those early years Micky Bridgman was always an enthusiastic participator at Alliance Meetings.

Of course, the board had always had ambitions to improve the facilities but was hampered and frustrated by lack of money. What money there was just about enabled them to maintain existing facilities. At times, not even that! Then quite suddenly things were transformed by the great upsurge in the popularity of golf from the early 1960s onwards. Almost at once hopes and plans that until then had been distant dreams became not too distant possibilities. A proper water supply to the greens, improvements to the condition and layout of the course, more green staff, more and better machinery, living accommodation for the Steward, a full time Golf Professional (with a shop), a full time Secretary (with an office), better practice facilities, a properly surfaced driveway and car park.

All these were to come about in the space of just 20 years. Certainly, they could not have been achieved but for the extra revenue from a rapidly increasing membership. Equally a larg­er membership to some extent forced the pace of change. Having said that, money was sel­dom wasted but invariably spent wisely and after much careful thought and planning. We con­tinue to benefit from the many improvements initiated from 1965 to 1980, some of which  were opposed at the time by those who were happy with the status quo.

But to take matters in some proper order, in 1957 there was a playing membership of just 157. By the beginning of 1962, it had increased to 255 (men 196 ladies 59). Then in less than a year it jumped to 336 and by 1964 had reached 386. A decision was then made to set a limit of 400. Later this was raised from time to time because of the need for more money to carry through the various improvements. For example, 48 new members were elected as from 1 January 1971 to increase the membership to 450, and in April 1974, no less than 52 applicants were accepted. A strict waiting list was introduced in 1975.

The board then decided that a radius of 12 miles wouild be adopted for country membership and that country members should not exceed one third of the total. Country membership for a man cost just £6.6.0. compared with the full subscription of £10.10.0. This category of membership was eventually abolished in 1967. In that same year, age discounts were introduced: 'All members reaching the age of 65 and having been in full membership for the past 10 years shall have a 25% reduction in subscriptions.' What generous times!

Block membership dated back to the war years. It included RAF Newton, Swinderby and Syerston and also the Newark Division of the County Police. These arrangements had pro­vided a useful source of income during difficult times. One by one, with the closure of the RAF stations they have ceased but we still have the police block membership. Staythorpe Sports and Social Club had block membership from 1960 to 1966.

Club finances were further helped in the early 1960s by the installation of a fruit machine. This proved to be a big money spinner. Just how big can be seen from the fact that in 1963/4 it produced a gross income of £1,250. The total subscriptions for that year were only £2,693 and the green fees just £375. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before a second machine was introduced. Inevitably, they attracted the attention of thieves. There were several break-ins which caused a lot of damage.

With the increased income, the first project chosen was an extension of the club premises in 1961 to provide accommodation for the Steward and Stewardess. Previously one of the houses at the side of the 1 Oth had been used but these houses were both in a very poor state of repair (as is obvious from the 1963 aerial photograph). This deterred would-be applicants. A tender of £1,564, plus architect's fees, was accepted from J F Beckett for the clubhouse extensions, which were completed and occupied at the end of 1961. Modern cupboards were fitted in the club kitchen as was a formica topped table! (The Stewards accommodation was enlarged in the late 1970s to provide an extra bedroom and a self-contained kitchen.)

In February 1961, the board unanimously agreed to accept the opportunity of a visit by Dai Rees to the club on Friday, 24 March 1961. Dai Rees was one of the top golfers then and a Ryder Cup Captain. On the afternoon of his visit, he played 15 holes with our Professional Leslie Bakin, Micky Bridgman and a Mr Digby from Nottingham. In the evening he gave a film show, a lecture and a demonstration. His inclusive fee was £20. Just imagine what one of the top European Tour professionals would charge for such a visit today! Of course, in those days, our professionals mostly played only in tournaments in the British Isles and there were none in the winter months.

In 1962, the Professional's shop (the present trolley shed at the side of the driveway) was altered and improved. Electricity was supplied for lighting and heating. The exterior was ren­dered and concrete slabs laid along the sides of the shop (still there). In the same year, a brick and pantiled trolley shed was built. This building was enlarged 12 years later to provide a shop for the new full-time Professional and an office for the newly appointed full-time Secretary.

A licence to bore for water was granted in August 1963 and by the following spring a new water supply to the greens was in operation. Within two months, notices had to be posted ask­ing members not to switch off or move sprinklers when they were in use. 

Until 1960 the clubhouse had remained very much unchanged since it was built in 1935. There was a small men's locker room in the area roughly between the trophy cabinet and the right-hand corner of the bar. Next to this was the men's bar, which was separated by a wall from the main lounge (clubroom) which had the inglenook fireplace. There was a serving hatch from the bar to the lounge. Beyond the lounge was the ladies room and the ladies lock­er room. In the mid-1960s, a new locker room was added for the men and this was used as such until the early 1980s. This room is now used as the Spike Bar and for snooker.

The car park was then for the first time properly surfaced and drained and in 1970 oil fired central heating was installed in the clubhouse and all the electric fires were removed.

In the mid-1970s, a development sub-committee was set up to draw up proposals for improving the clubhouse. The members were Gordon Hunter, Neville Armitage and Derek Needham. One proposal in 1977 was that the wall separating the men's bar from the main lounge should be taken down. This met with very strong opposition. The wisdom and neces­sity for it was questioned and on one occasion it was even voted out. Ladies in earlier days had never been allowed in the men's bar but by the 1970s attitudes had become more toler­ant and they were allowed in after 7 pm on Saturdays and Sundays! The wall eventually came down and no doubt the lives of the gentlemen were enriched! The 1970s ended with the build­ing of a new ladies locker room and an extension of the dining room.

Gordon Hunter and Neville Armitage had been elected directors in 1968. Neville was Match Secretary from 1965 to 1974 and was a member of the Green Committee from 1969 to 1976. Gordon chaired the Green Committee for 18 years up to 1989 and from the start always ensured that the course was given proper priority in the board's spending plans. He was constantly looking for ways to improve the condition and appearance of the course and seeking to acquire the necessary machinery. Under his prompting and direction, very signifi­cant improvements were achieved during those 18 years. On countless occasions, Gordon gave up his time to help the greenstaff with work on the course.

A first important step was taken in 1963 when it was decided to plant trees on the front nine holes. A total of 2,400 Scottish Pine were planted of which 2,000 were donated by Gordon and 400 by Jim Woodman. The planting was done mainly by Gordon, Neville and Roy Ragless. Of course, not all the young trees survived but quite enough did! How well the sur­vivors look 32 years later - the trees that is!

Then, in 1969, plans were drawn up for improvements to the course including drainage of those parts which frequently became waterlogged. The course was regularly closed because of flooding. It was so bad early in 1969 that the Steward and Stewardess cancelled their hol­iday plans to make up for lost time and money. The drainage work was completed the same year. Further work remained to be done over the next 10 to 15 years to improve the drainage in other parts.

In 1970, a turf specialist was called in and took samples from the greens. On his advice, a programme of mechanical hollow tyning and top dressing was begun and this has continued down to the present day. The following year the club bought its own hollow tyning machine, new tee and apron mowers and a machine to slit the fairways. Things were on the move!

An automatic watering system to the greens was installed in 1972 with pop-up sprinklers and a Triplex Greens Cutter was bought in 1973 for £2,500, a very big and bold outlay at a time when the full subscription for a man was just £23. 

In 1974 the building which housed the tractors was in a dangerous condition and liable to collapse at any time. To replace it, Gordon donated the Nissan Hut, which the greenstaff still use. He and Neville Armitage fetched it from Tuxford on a borrowed lorry.

At the beginning of 1976, Gordon outlined suggestions for the alteration of the first 9 holes. A firm of golf course architects, Cotton, Pennick, Lawrie & Partners, was engaged and Donald Steel and Jim Arthur from that firm made an advisory visit. They suggested that a number of the greens should be lifted and reconstructed and that the tees should be enlarged and in some cases resited. They also recommended the planting of some trees in strategic places around the course. They were against 'unnatural mounds'.

The spring and summer of 1976 were abnormally dry and hot, so much so that the course was closed to visitors for several months and not re-opened until September. The Steward and the Professional had to be compensated by the club for loss of income.

At the beginning of 1977 work started on altering the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth greens and the first, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth tees. Some tees were resited and nearly all were enlarged substantially. A number of greens were lifted and resited but with a better and more contoured construction. All the new tees and greens were in play by the start of the 1979 season.

For the benefit of members who joined after 1977 this is how the course was before the changes:

1st hole: The tee was on the present practice ground just past the trolley shed which used to be the Professional's shop. The first green has not changed but there was a line of cross bunkers about 120 yards in front of the green. The outlines are still visible.

2nd hole: Not changed until 1980 when the green was lifted and reconstructed. It used to be quite flat.

3rd hole: The green was flattish and sloped away from front to back so that balls tended to run off into the wet ground at the back.

4th hole: The medal tee was where we now have the yellow tee. The green was quite flat.

5th hole: The green was about 20/25 yards to the right of where it is now, where a group of sturdy conifers now grows. The site of the present 5th green was actually a rubbish tip before. Could this explain why so much rubbish continues to be played at this hole?

6th hole: The tee was the tee we now use in winter when playing the 6th. The green used to be in the area just past where the winter green is cut.

7th hole: Unchanged. (There used to be a bunker on the right about 220 yards from the tee but it was filled in at another time.)

8th hole: The tee was where the Ladies tee now is. In earlier times it was over in the cor­ner near the greenkeepers cottages, where we have a winter tee.

9th hole: The tee was the forward tee we use in winter. The green was just in front of the present 1st tee. There was a small practice area over on the left of the 9th from about the 150 yard marker down to the present 9th green.

10th hole: The tee for this hole was alongside the present first tee and can still be clearly seen. 

In 1978 Les Bakin was still the Head Greenkeeper though no longer the Professional. He had two assistants. The senior one was Malcolm Grand, who was appointed in March 1978 and subsequently took over from Les. The junior member of staff was Roger Gresswell who began his employment here in May 1977 and happily is still with us almost a quarter of a cen­tury later.

Wilf Cocking had been appointed Honorary Secretary in January 1961 at a salary of £75 plus £25 expenses and courtesy of the course. He was the sub-postmaster in Northgate, Newark. Most of the club's paperwork was conducted from a room in his premises there. By 1965, his salary had been increased to £200 a year and he had further small increases over the next few years. Then in 1973 Wilf announced that he was retiring as sub-postmaster but was looking for another full time job. This meant he could not continue as honorary Secretary. The decision was quickly taken to offer him the position of full-time Secretary (our first) at Newark from 1 July 1973 with an annual salary of £1,500. The following year he had a brand new office here! In total, he served the club for 20 years until his retirement in December 1980 and is remembered with affection.

In 1968 came the first mention of an electric cart. Permission was given to a Mr E N North but with many provisos. He had to indemnify the club 'against any loss, damage or injury to himself, and members or staff including any loss, damage or injuries caused by the collapse of any bridges on the course over which the cart might travel.'

The Winter League competition had become so popular by 1968 that it was decided to have two leagues, the winners of each to play each other. In 1969, Brian Waites, the Notts G C Professional, set a new course record of 69 at Newark and the same year Jack Fryer set a new amateur record score of 70.

Judging from the Honours Boards, Gordon Hunter, Bill Lorimer, Micky Bridgman and E J 

Page were among the leading players from the mid 1950s to the midl960s. From then until the beginning of the 1980s, Jack Fryer (Club Captain 1970) was arguably the best player in the club. He may not have had a classic swing but it was very effective and his chipping and putting were quite exceptional. He won the Scratch Cup seven times between 1966 and 1981. No one else has won it more than three times. Pat Mumby says that during these years if Jack did not actually win the competition he invariably won best gross. Pat himself won the Scratch Cup in 1974 which, he says, was his proudest moment in golf. One of Jack Fryer's oft-quoted remarks to nervous putters was 'if you think you are going to miss it, you seldom disappoint yourself.' Other extremely good players of the Jack Fryer era were John Paull, Tony Radley and Gerry Drakes.

Jack Fryer had also played professional football for Nottingham Forest in the early 1950s. Harry Foster, Club Captain in 1973, had also played professionally for Doncaster Rovers before the second World War. Gerry Drakes, another past Captain, opened the bowling for Lincolnshire in the Minor Counties during the late 1950s and 60s.

Another 'first' came in March 1974 with the appointment of Malcolm Lambert as full-time Golf Professional. He had been an Assistant Professional at Royal Mid-Surrey and could hit a golf ball a prodigious distance. The year after he came here he was granted leave of absence to play in the British Open. Misfortune struck in 1977 when fire destroyed his shop and the Secretary's Office; later he had a break-in at the Portakabin he was using as a temporary shop. However, its an ill wind because the opportunity was taken in the rebuilding to make the Pro shop bigger.

A new Club tie was ordered the same year blue with two gold diagonal stripes and the Club crest in three colours. The cost was £1.25. It was also decided to rent a colour TV for one year.

The Seniors section was formed in 1977 and were said to play regularly on Mondays and to have arranged a few inter-club matches. Things have come a long way since. Tim Hambling remembers that in the days before the laws became so strict 'in matches against Torksey, for example, you never got away until 1.00am or 2.00am.' Jim Woodman was usually the last to leave even if it was an away match 'so you didnt want to travel in his car'.

When Les Bakin's first wife died in 1960, Elsie Fryer returned to look after the catering for a couple of years. As mentioned earlier, her husband Sid was on the greenstaff for over 20 years until his retirement in 1974. They lived in one of the cottages. Neville Armitage says there were times when Elsie and Sid didn't feel like coming across to the clubhouse 'so you couldn't get a drink'.

Mrs Fryer resigned in 1963. Mr and Mrs Riley came and stayed for three years. They were followed by the Wilkinsons, who were very well thought of and are still remembered. When they left in 1972, their replacement immediately caused problems and was dismissed after five months. It took another few months to get him to move out of the flat. Two more replace­ments came and went fairly quickly, the Marshalls and the Bells. Members of the House Committee had to take it in turns to look after the bar when we had no staff. George Hindson and his wife were appointed in 1976 and stayed for four years.