This is a transcription of a conversation Bob had with Graham Lawrence on 12 January 2006.
I’d played football for Swanmore ever since I was a boy of fourteen in 1949. I was with Swanmore for 51 years as player, captain, secretary and chairman. I had a knee injury in the late fifties so I looked around for another sport to play. I joined Corhampton Golf Club when Dennis Pink was captain for the first time in 1961. We were a very young three ball when we started, the other two being Jim Smith and Malcolm Beattie, who used to play football for Southampton. We gradually got more involved with the running of the club as we played with people like George Hall, Philip Payton and Harry Lewis, most of whom were committee members. We used to play on Sunday mornings. It was very competitive but a lot of fun. After the round we’d gather in the old clubhouse. The only water into the club house was from rain gathered off the roof into a tank that was half in and half out of kitchen. The roof was made of asbestos but fortunately we all survived. I used to drive up in a car to the club as did the others. I think my car was a Morris 1100 or something like that. After that I had a Ford Zephyr. Jim lived in Swanmore. He had an A40. Malcolm lived in Bitterne. He used to call on me as a rep for a heating company – OBC (Oil Burner Components) which is how I got to know him. I had a heating installation company for Shell in Swanmore. We put in a lot of oil-fired central heating systems all round the area.
I had golf lessons with George West at the Portsmouth Municipal course, down Eastern Avenue. Everyone knew George West. I used to have a good hour session with him once a week. He sometimes used to make you hit the ball off a square of concrete. He said if you hit the ball properly you won’t mess the clubs up. At the time George was one of the best golf teachers in Hampshire.
There weren’t many lady players around when I started. They were only allowed to play on Sunday afternoons or that’s how it seemed.
Sometime in the sixties we started our golfing trips. The first one was to Scotland. There were five of us, Jim, Malcolm, myself and two others, Ron Laing and Mike Tyrell. We actually towed a caravan all the way up to Scotland. We all slept in it and played golf around Edinburgh. One of the fellows, Ron, also in the heating trade, was born in Haddington so we played golf there. That was the first of our golf trips which subsequently went on for 32 years. Barry Searle joined later and he played with us for about twenty odd years. We started off putting £10 a month in a kitty to finance the trip but eventually we ended up putting in £40 a month. We made the trip for the last time in 2004 with Barry Searle and Alan Brett, ex-captain of Basingstoke. Unfortunately Barry died in 2005 so we stopped. On one occasion we stayed in a site caravan at St Andrews. We played Troon once. It cost £11 for a round including lunch. We’d drive up Wednesday night, all through the night, play Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, then drive home on Sunday afternoon. We were very keen golfers. I really needed another holiday to recover from the expedition.
When we first laid water to the course, in the early sixties, it came from the farm on the left hand side at the top of Park Lane. We had a 1.5 inch polythene pipe moled in from the water meter to just south of where the bungalow is now. One branch of the pipe went into the bungalow and the other branch went into a storage tank to be used for watering the greens. The tank held about 1000 gallons and was sited close to the end of the old clubhouse. I remember Ron Crockford almost blew himself up. The tank had an electric pump which exploded one morning and Ron burnt his hand . Eventually the water pipe was taken across the edge of the eighteenth green into the copse where it went into a tank which I built. It was made from a set of corrugated iron sheets bolted together to form a circle which was fixed to a concrete base built by Tug Wilson. the greenkeeper. Inside was a butyl liner which overlapped the top edge and was held in place by rope. The tank held about 8000 gallons. We installed a valve in the pipe which enabled the club to be supplied with water during the daytime. The valve was on a time switch so that the storage tank in the copse could only be filled at night time. Having built the tank we then installed the necessary pumping equipment. George Smith built a mole plough in his workshop with which we could take a water pipe to various points on the course to provide irrigation for the greens. The implementation of this irrigation system was supervised by Tug Wilson.
Tug Wilson was an ex-naval man married to Norah. His first name was Bill. He planted all the trees along the roadside of the current fifth hole. Tug also planted the hawthorn hedge down the roadside of the first hole and along the Corhampton to Bishops Waltham road.
As there was not really enough water for the club’s needs we went about getting a bore hole sunk. In order to get a bore hole sunk the club had to apply for a licence. which it did in March, 1965. The club had to advertise the quest for a licence to abstract water in two newspapers. So as not to upset the local community the papers in which the scheme was advertised were the Manchester Evening News and the London Gazette. There were no objections. We had a water diviner come and tell us where the bore hole should be sunk. He used a Y shaped piece of hazel which really did twist up when he got to the spot where he suggested the bore hole should be sunk. He said we’d hit water at 270 feet but it would be in shale and we would need to go to more than 400 feet to get a better flow. Eventually a company, Green and Carter, from Winchester turned up at the golf club with this fairly antiquated equipment to sink the bore hole. A man with a piece of string felt the weight of the drill going down the hole. It wasn’t actually drilled but pounded by a large metal rod. He could tell by the feel how far down the hole was going. He was obviously very experienced at what he was doing. The hole was 6 to 8 inches in diameter. I think there is a piece of flint about 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick that was brought up from the hole. It should be in the clubhouse somewhere. An electric submersible pump was installed at the bottom of the bore hole. When the water first came out it was completely white, being full of chalk. We piped the water to the old storage tank by the club house.
George Davis and his partner Norman Francis of Meon Valley Metals used to run company sponsored Pro-Ams at Corhampton and Arlesford where they were also members. They were keen members of the PGA. They provided all the prize money. It used to alternate between Corhampton and Alresford. Once it was played at Waterlooville. I was once in the winning team at Alresford. The event became the PGA championship. Entry was by invitation only and you were given a totally free day of golf. It moved permanently to Alresford because they had better catering facilities and a marquee could be erected close to the clubhouse.
George Davis was captain when the new club house was opened and he arranged for Bernard Hunt to open it. George paid for Bernard out of his own pocket.
In 1978, John Harris, our professional, introduced me to Donald Case of the Southern Region PGA and we talked about holding our own Pro-Am. Donald met the committee and we agreed to hold our own Pro-Am. The reason we didn’t hold it in conjunction with the Hampshire PGA was that they did not have enough professional golfers on their books. Peter Swan of the Hampshire PGA objected to our giving prize money to professionals outside of Hampshire so he wrote a newspaper article which was published in the Echo. I felt that if people were paying good money to play with a professional then it had to be a fully fledged professional and not just an assistant pro who might even have a higher handicap than they had. I telephoned the Echo and they allowed me the right to a reply in which I said that when Hampshire PGA had 40 professional on their books then we would consider arranging our Pro-Am with them and not the Southern Region. For our first Pro-Am the prize was £1000. It was a self-funding event. The entry fees and the sponsors money paid for everything. We always endeavoured to break even. One reason for holding the Pro-Ams was to promote the club over a wider area than just Hampshire which we achieved. We had a lot of Ryder cup players join in our Pro-Ams. I once played with Mike King and Ken Bousfield. We always had a good entry from lots of pros as far as Kent, Dorset, and North London. It was always good for the club – bar and restaurant takings increased. We had Pro-Ams right up to the centenary in 1991. They stopped because it became too difficult to find sponsors for the event and raise the money to hold it. We held the Pro-Am in conjunction with the Hampshire PGA in 1990 because doing it with the Southern Region PGA would have cost too much and by then Hampshire had enough fully qualified professionals. For the centenary event we held it over two days with a qualifying round on the Tuesday with the Pro-Am on the Wednesday. There was £10,000 in prize money. We had a lot of good pros for the event. Most were at the level just down from a tournament pro. David Regan from Byfleet won it. He always played in our Pro-Ams. I remember one young pro taking a driver and half a wedge to get to today’s tenth green. Some of the pros used to stay at the Hurdles when it was owned by David Silvester.
In the late 1980’s we had a meeting of past captains to discuss the centenary celebrations and who would be captain during the year. I suggested that we should not have a new captain for the centenary because we needed someone who could handle all the captain’s normal duties easily and devote a lot of energy to the centenary celebrations. The next thing I knew it was me who had been chosen. I was completely shocked. I was not expecting it. I selected a centenary committee consisting of Clive Williams, Sid Griffiths, Barry Searle, and David Silvester. We met once a month. We instigated the two hundred club. Two hundred people put £1 a month in to the club. 51% went in prize money and the rest went into the centenary fund. As a member of the two hundred club you were entitled to two free entries to the barbecue, and to the dinner in centenary week. You also had a chance of winning the £100 monthly prize money. I had experience of running such a scheme as I had already run a two hundred club for Swanmore Football Club.
The marquee which we had for ten days was brought in new from Germany. It had cost £300,000 to buy and the company hired it to us for £21,000. It took them 10 days to erect and 5 days to take down. It had four bars and catered for 600 people. It became our clubhouse for the ten days.
The clock on the club house was provided by the Senior Section. I arranged for the purchasing of it and its installation. It’s a metre wide and is controlled by a radio signal automatically so it is always accurate.
I’m still meeting people who come up to me and say how much they enjoyed our centenary celebrations. They certainly were the best of any of the other clubs in the area. Of course we were very lucky with the weather. A marvellous time was had by everyone.
The club was presented with many gifts from other clubs to honour our centenary. We had a clock from Ashford, a club from Sandown and Shanklin, and the picture from Alresford Golf Club. There was a plaque from the Southern Region PGA which was presented to me, when I represented Corhampton Golf Club, at a PGA dinner in Guildford. I do hope all these gifts can be put on display at the clubhouse one day.