Royal Jersey Golf Club

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Royal Jersey Golf Club


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Piles of vraic on the edge of the course


History

From the club website The club was formed in 1878 when a number of residents decided to lay out a small course on the land that is known as Grouville Common. The rules and regulations of the club were approved at the first meeting in December that year. The club received its Royal warrant in 1879 from Queen Victoria.

The club continued to flourish in the early years, moving to the present clubhouse in 1908, following a number of venues including the 'Golf Inn' now the Pembroke Hotel, behind the 16th tee.

During the two world wars golf was suspended and during the German Occupation the course was turned into a minefield. The remnants of the German invasion can be seen alongside the opening hole where two gun emplacements are situated.

The course has gone through many changes in its history and the present layout has been in existence for approximately 20 years.

Golfers

Jersey, and in particular the Royal Jersey, has a rich history of players coming from the Island. The most famous is Harry Vardon, arguably the greatest ever English golfer. His haul of six Open Championship wins is still a record. His two US Open Championships means he is one of only three Englishmen to have achieved this feat. The other two are Ted Ray, another Jerseyman who was also the first ever Ryder Cup captain, and Tony Jacklin, who lived in the Island in the 1970s.

Vardon and Ray were part of a group of professional golfers who were known as the 'Jersey School'. They sprang from the Caddies Competitions run by the committee of the club. These men learned to play the game on the course but were not actually members. Apart from Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, there were Harry's brother Tom; William, John and Phillip Gaudin, all of which placed in Open Championships; the Renoufs and Aubrey Boomer. The first international match was England v Scotland, and the English team fielded no fewer that four Jerseymen, all from Grouville.

Other notable players with links to the Club - Tommy Horton was the Head Professional at the Club for 25 years, a Ryder Cup Player (1975 and 77), Captain of the PGA and five times European Seniors Award of Merit winner; Carol Le Feuvre, an amateur golfer, played in the Curtis Cup in the early seventies; Martin Gates, a European Tour player for eight years and more recently Olivia-Jordan-Higgins, who played on the LPGA Symetra Tour and recorded her first victory in July 2013.

1894 article

A 1894 newspaper article about the Royal Jersey Golf Club gives an insight into the club 16 years after it was formed. It is from the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph written by Ernest Lehmann - entitled ‘Golf in Jersey’.

The article begins:

“The golfer in search of a locality where he may pursue his favourite game in winter under pleasant conditions may well bless those benefactors of their fellow men who some 15 or 16 years ago planted the flag of golf on Grouville Common. No happier selection could possibly have been made, for the Common is an ideal golf course, consisting of undulating ground of the proper sand, with fine, close turf, broken here and there by whins and sand bunkers.”

His reference to the ‘fellow men’ relates to the founding of the club in 1878 by F W Brewster and seven other founding members, who together sought permission to use the Common land for this purpose and organised the laying out and construction of the course.

Mr Lehmann went on to mention the Jersey Eastern Railway which “will take the happy golfer from Snow Hill in some 20 minutes to Grouville Station, which faces the first teeing ground, and which is but a stone’s throw from the clubhouse – a delightful proximity.”

There is little doubt that the opening of the railway line in 1873, providing quick access to the eastern part of the island, was a large factor in siting the golf course at Grouville. The clubhouse was housed for 30 years in an existing inn, originally called the Royal Oak, whose name was then changed to The Golf Inn and is now The Pembroke.

The article goes on to reveal that the approach of the train on the return journey from Gorey was signalled by an electric bell in the club-rooms, so that golfers could, after their rounds, always consume their last “wee drap o’whisky” in comfort. His description of the course at that time is very colourful:

“I know no green where such pains and penalties wait on the inaccurate approach. Most of the greens are on natural plateaus, surrounded by every sort of trap that nature and man between can devise for the terror of the player. Bunkers yawn for him, Martello towers frown upon him, iron targets (used for the rifle shooting) defy him.”

While most of the article applauds the course, he did have some criticisms:

“Though the club have secured the sole rights of golf, they are by no means in sole enjoyment of the Common and cannot therefore deal with the greens in the drastic manner required by some of them. First and foremost there is a body of ‘tenants’ who have rights of pasturing goats and sheep, scores of which are dotted about, tethered with long ropes to iron pegs driven into the ground. These form very lively hazards, and if the ball lies near one of them it is necessary for the caddie to hold the beast by its rope to prevent its dancing round the distracted golfer like an animated teetotum. Then, besides the right of pasturage, the tenant has also the right to spread seaweed or vraic on the Common. This he does with a vengeance and ingenuity most perplexing to the player, as vraic hazards are constantly springing up in new and unexpected places. Then there are the riflemen, who are particularly lively in summer and who, on their shooting days, practically cut off the first five holes. Lastly there are the three race meetings each year over part of the course, the trampling of the soft ground by the horses making hazards for the drivers at the thirteenth, fourteenth and seventeenth holes.”
Aerial view of the links in 1951
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