John Wright – Captain, 1972 and 1978, and President, 1983 to 1987

This is a transcription of a conversation John had with Graham Lawrence on 8 January 2007.

I started playing golf because a plasterer called Kenny Dugan, who played at Rowlands Castle, came along one day to a building site where I was working with a set of golf clubs. We chucked a tarpaulin over some scaffolding and started hitting some golf balls. I thought to myself that this was easy so I joined the public course at Portsmouth. That was in the early sixties. West was the pro then and I played for a couple of years there. I tried to get into a private course but, in those days, they weren’t interested in you if you didn’t have a handicap.

One day in 1965 old George Smith, that’s Kay’s husband, and Bill Trivess proposed and seconded me to join Corhampton. The subs were seven guineas. I played my part in the club and George Smith talked me in to going on to the Committee which I did. Bill Wilson was captain in my early years at the club. In those days we had nine holes with alternate tees. The tees were only postage stamp size, about five yards square. Between 1968 and 1970 I renewed and enlarged all the tees. I was in the building trade so I had all the machinery to do the work.

Round about 1970, Peter Reeves proposed, at a meeting, to extend the course. The ground to the right of the 16th fairway and all the ground where the new four holes are came up for sale for £20,000. In Dennis Pink’s time they could have bought the whole farm for £18,000. Most of the old members were against the expansion. The subs were very cheap in those days. It was a family-like club, very sociable. The ladies used to muck in and do all the sandwiches and teas. We had very good relationships with clubs like Waterlooville and Alresford. Bohunt Manor at Liphook was another club we had good relations with. You had to live within the area of Liphook to join the artisans section.

We used Barclays Bank at Bishops Waltham as our bankers. They also used to be our trustees. When the ground came up for sale the bank was very slow in their actions. We had to have a lot of EGMs to get permission to buy the land. The older section in the club were dead against it. There was even talk of getting an injunction to prevent the purchase of the land and extend the course. Eventualy we got the proposal through with a two thirds majority which was required in those days. However by that time, the bank had messed around so much and the owners of the land wanted to sell it which they did to the person who lived in Steynes Cottage, by the sixth tee. We decided to use all the extra land, now occupied by holes 4, 17, 18 and the practice area for the new holes. We used to wander around the course and plan how we could put in another nine holes. We used a golf course architect, Mr Lawrie, who took our suggested layout and designed the extension around it with the consequence that his layout was very similar to ours. Then there was a lot of fuss about whether we could afford it or not. I think the course extension cost about £27,000. We applied for a grant from the Sports Council and we got one for £5,000. So for the Club it cost £22,000 for eleven new greens and various new tees. Lawrie and Pinnock employed the contractors to build the course extension. Tug Wilson was made course manager. He was one of the few older members, along with George Smith, Mike Lutman and Peter Dacombe, who was all for the extension. During the building of the new greens, tees and fairways the course continued to be played on without interruption. Gradually over the years the greens have been enlarged. We used to have temporary greens on the fronts of the permanent greens.

They were going to open the eighteen hole course without building a new clubhouse which was ridiculous. They needed to increase the membership to try and recover the costs of expansion and all those extra people wouldn’t be able to fit into the little hut of a clubhouse. It was suggested we went for a new clubhouse but the money-conscious on the committee said we couldn’t afford it. We got estimates for a trimmed down clubhouse. It would cost £44,000. Tony Pogson and I came up with a scheme of having 40, 20-year memberships at £500 each. The subs then were £30 per year. Even with the high interests rates then, the 20-year membership seemed like a very good investment. It was offered to all club members although not a lot took up the offer. I took one for myself and one for my son. John Harris, the butcher had one although he didn’t play golf. Likewise my partner, Morrie Hibberd, took up the offer. Wally Pinhorn bought one. We raised more money by imposing a £50 levy on the members. The idea was that members for ever would pay for the clubhouse. If they left they could draw their £50 back. New members coming in would pay the £50. In that way we raised all the money for the new clubhouse.

Because we’d had so much fuss with Barclays Bank as trustees we decided to have our own trustees and to change banks. We changed to Lloyds, in Fareham. Henry Legge, the Lloyds bank manager, gave us a good deal. The committee decided that four older members would become the trustees of the club. I think the first four were Harry Lewis, Bob Linnell, Fred Banting and Frank Lindley. I thought it was a good idea because it meant the committee could not do anything rash because it would be prevented by the trustees.  That was the theory anyway.

People used to picnic along the roadside of the first fairway because it was open to the road. We dug a ditch to prevent cars from driving on to the course. Later Tug Wilson planted the hawthorn hedge along the roadside.

We used to have a 36-hole match against Bohunt Manor. It used to take place on a Sunday because the only time we could go up there for the return fixture was a Sunday.

In the early seventies there were Sunday morning players and Sunday afternoon players and it was an unwritten rule that one year the captain was elected from the morning players and the next year he would be chosen from the afternoon players. I used to play in the afternoon and Sid Knight played in the morning. Alan Haigh used to play in the mornings. Saturdays and Sundays was the only time the club members got together. It was unmanned on weekdays. There was an honesty box for green fees. Sid Knight was put up for captain and John Heathcote thought he had more support than Sid so there was a vote. I think that was the only time there was a challenge for the captaincy. John Heathcote won and took Sid as his vice-captain. Sid took me as his vice-captain and I had Alan Haigh as my vice-captain. During Sid’s year the extension to the course came up but didn’t get resolved but the building of it started during my term of captaincy and was completed during Alan Haigh’s term as captain.  After the new holes were opened we used to spend time in the evenings collecting flints and repairing divots.  

The original bye-laws were rewritten when the course became eighteen holes. John Sneezum rewrote them.

In 1972 we used to have an Open competition over eighteen holes. We’d get a couple of entries from each of the nearby clubs but most entrants would be from Corhampton. I decided to put up the Invitation Trophy. Any club member wanting to enter had to play with a visitor. That would mean that half the players were visitors. The first time it was played, Mike Lutman played with John Whitbread who was the captain of Waterlooville. The only competition that John won in his life was my first Invitation Trophy competition yet his name does not appear on the board at Corhampton.There were about 200 members during my first term as captain. In those days we had to limit the entry to the Annual Dinner Dance to 220. It was held at Gauntletts which was above where the Curzon Cinema used to be in Waterlooville. The second one of mine was held at the Rock Gardens at Southsea. The dance was sometimes held at Kimble’s in Southsea. All the dinner dances were very popular and over-subscribed. We were known as a very sociable club.                          

The salver presented to me at the end of my first term as Captain

In those days the Honorary Secretary and the Captain virtually managed the club, Frank Lindley being the top man. Frank was an important man on Droxford Council. Fred Banting, a local builder was a big buddy of Frank so a lot of building contracts went Fred’s way. Although Wally Pinhorn, another local builder, put in an estimate, the powers that be decided to go with someone they knew better so Fred Banting built the clubhouse. He made a very good job of it. Since it was built it has been extended at both ends and a new stairwell installed. All these extension were done by Bob Goble. Whilst the new clubhouse was being built we used the bungalow as a club house. The lounge was used as a bar and the bedrooms were used for changing rooms.  The committee used to take turns serving behind the bar.

I was very wrapped up in my golf and I felt a bit guilty about leaving my wife as a golf widow so I got her to play. She wasn’t a particularly good golfer but she was very sociable. She was very well liked. In 1978 the Ladies Section asked her to be Ladies Captain. At that time I didn’t want to be Captain again. I’d done my stint and, as Captain, you always get lot of brickbats but very few bouquets. I was going to sit back and support Stella in her job as Ladies Captain.

I was up at the club playing in my own Invitation Trophy.  I’d been playing with Wally Pinhorn and in the bar Bob Harvey said he was having difficulty finding a suitable vice-captain. He asked me and I declined. He kept pestering me and at the end of the evening after a few more drinks and some support from Wally Pinhorn, I agreed and so I became captain at the same time as my wife. For his support I co-opted Wally on to the committee and he did a lot looking after the greens. He was very generous towards the club.We used to have the AGMs at the end of March. The first fixture was against Bohunt Manor. The incoming captain was still vice-captain when the first fixture was played. We used to have Captain’s Day in July. By the time he had got up to speed with the captaincy he was kicking his heels until the following March, apart from the Annual Dinner Dance and the New Year celebrations. When I became captain for the second time it was decided to change the AGM to November. Alresford held their AGMs in November. This meant as captain you got settled in easily and could determine the next year’s diary before the first fixtures. You could sort out how much the subs for the next year were going to be. The Captain could also finish his year on a high whereas before he finished in March not having done much since the New Year’s celebrations.

The salver presented to me at the end of my second term as Captain

Originally the only shelter we had on the course was the old cricket pavilion which stood near the old second green. The new second green was put in to make the hole longer. I built the shelter by the fourth tee. There is another shelter at the back of the fifth green. Jim Firth built the shelter by the tenth tee which is dedicated to Peter Dacombe who did a lot for the club.

The Hut built by John Wright at 4th Tee

John Wright Club Captain 1979 Plaque in Hut

During Bob Harvey’s year the water problem was solved by sinkng a bore hole and the following year the automatic watering system was installed.When Frank Lindley died in 1983 I was made President. I also took over Frank’s trusteeship. In those days the Committee would make proposals to the members and the members would tend to agree. I think it was Sid Griffiths who first asked me to be president. I retired in 1986 and I wanted to travel.  I’d have family in Australia and I’d bought a property in Spain so I gave up the presidency in 1987.        

The salver presented to me at the end of my Presidency

What has to be remembered is that if the membership after the war had not taken up debentures to save the Club there might not have been a Corhampton Golf Club today.