Category Archives: History

History Nugget Answers Vol 1 No 1

Answers to recent questions posed by our History Sub-Committee provide some interesting history of the game and rules of golf.

The last question has particular relevance to the most recent US Open staged at Chambers Bay where the USGA found it necessary to clearly mark the perimeter of the greens.

Question #1. How many Opens (British) did Peter Thomson win

Five: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965

Question #2. How many Opens (British) did Norman von Nida win

None, though he was often in contention. His best performance was tied third in 1948.

Question #3. At the Australian Open in 1951 what was the area of the 18th putting green at Metropolitan?

A good and an acceptable answer is 1256.64 square yards (or 1050.71 square metres) that includes the area occupied by the hole, 18.06 square inches (or 27.42 square centimetres). In fact the other seventeen putting greens at Metropolitan had the same area, as indeed did every putting green in Australia.

In 1951 the putting green was defined as the area within 20 yards of the hole. (Area of a circle = πr2, for those who remember their school geometry, 20 yards being the radius). This was a left over from the club rules of the R&A in 1875, when the area around the hole was generally indistinguishable from the fairway. In 1952 the definition was changed to one we would recognise today, namely an area especially prepared for putting.

The point of asking this question was to remind golfers that many of the rules in golf have changed radically over the years. For the pedants even that wonderfully precise figure of 1256.64 square yards is not good enough for two reasons. First, humps and hollow on the green add more area of grass than would be if the green were flat. Second, in 1951 water hazards and bunkers within twenty yards of the hole, wherever it may have been cut, were not considered part of the putting green.

The history of the Rules of Golf can be explored on , which has transcriptions of the Rules from the earliest, 1744, to the present.

Relevance to the latest US Open at Chambers Bay

During the time when all greens were declared by way of radius from the hole, golf course maintenance equipment was also far less precise than it is today. Playing surfaces were often maintained by grazing animals. In many climates, there was no difference in grass variety between that grown on the fairway and that grown within 20 yards of the hole.

Chambers Bay Golf Course is an example of how many courses today are cultivated with similar grass varieties and with only a subtle change in blend of grass from fairway to green in order to achieve an acceptable putting surface.

And so they are left with great difficulty in recognising an area especially prepared for putting. The USGA was forced to mark the perimeter of the greens to accommodate the current rules of golf. That is, the area of the green needed to be recognisable so players could mark, clean and replace their balls on the green.

Sydney Golf Courses in the 1930s – What course is this?

There is a wonderful series of aerial photos held in the collections of the State Library of NSW showing a number of golf courses in Sydney in the 1930’s. Some photos can be dated a little more accurately than others by the presence of certain buildings.

The index to the photos is not totally accurate and AGHS would like to see this corrected when we are satisfied with the corrections.

The featured photo of this post (shown above) is photo 11 in the index and is definitely not Concord as labelled.

We’d appreciate your comments/conclusion on this. Please use the form below to let us know where you think – or know – the mystery golf course is – or was – situated. If you can convince a judging panel that your identification of the course is correct, a sleeve of Australian Golf Heritage Society mesh replica golf balls is all yours.

The index page to the images can be accessed here (“Contents List” tab) and a larger view of the photo above can be found here.

The index published by the State Library alongside our current thinking is contained in the table below:

# State Library Record Corrections/Comments
1-2 Avalon GC
3-4 Avondale GC
5-6 Balgowlah GC
7 Bayview GC
8-9 Brighton GC North Brighton – closed circa 1948 upon re-routing of Cooks River for Sydney Airport expansion
10 Concord
11 Concord ?? See larger copy above
12-13 Dee Why GC  Cromer Golf Club
14-20 [Eastlakes] The Lakes Corrections:
Eastlake and New Metropolitan (Bonnie Doon – Pagewood) Clubhouses – circa 1937 since the Clubhouse at New Metropolitan has only just been completed. It was constructed 1937
15 Eastlake and The Lakes
16 Eastlake and The Lakes (with North Brighton top of frame)
17 New Metropolitan (Bonnie Doon – Pagewood), Eastlake in foreground
18 The Lakes, Eastlake and The Australian top LH corner
19 New Metropolitan (Bonnie Doon – Pagewood) upside down
20 New Metropolitan (Bonnie Doon – Pagewood) south paddock
21-22 Elanora GC
23-25 Kensington The Australian GC
26-27 La Perouse NSW GC
28-29 Long Reef
30-31 Manly
32-33 Mona Vale
34-35 Moore Park 35 with The Australian top of frame
36-37 Mosman Middle Head – 1922-1940
38-39 Northbridge, Willoughby Council
40-44 [Pagewood] Bonnie Doon Bonnie Doon GC but on the Arncliffe site – now Kogarah GC. Most of this site was resumed for Sydney Airport expansion 1948
45-46 Palm Beach
47-48 Pymble
49-50 Rose Bay Royal Sydney GC
51-52 Roseville
53 Ryde District  Ryde-Parramatta Golf Club
54 [Unidentified] The Australian GC

26 July 2015                                                                                                                    Name: Ross Howard

Comment: Great idea, luv the concept of finding “old” courses. I have two possibilities, either Herne Bay or Greenwood.

Am I close ?

Ross – Herne Bay was the original name for the Sydney suburb of Riverwood, and the Herne Bay course was in the vicinity of Salt Pan Creek. There is a very short history of the course – including a photograph –  here. Herne Bay was taken over by the U.S. military in 1943 for use as a hospital.

Greenwood was the third course built by Waverley motor mechanic Francis Crowe (the others being the old Liverpool course and the Riverwood layout at Georges Hall). Greenwood was on Walder Road at Hammondville, and the bottom of the course fronted the Georges River. It was subsumed by urban sprawl in the 1970s, although the New Brighton Club have made known their intention to build seven holes on parts of the old Greenwood site.

The photograph is neither of these courses. Nice try though.

12 August 2015                                                                                                                    Name: Leon Old Golf

Comment: Some of these pics were used in the circa 1938ish publication Golf Courses of NSW , strangely some of the pics in the publication are not in the collection held by the State Library of NSW.

Leon – The collection seems to be incomplete. There is – for instance – a lower quality photograph of the same mystery course:

Not Concord again (click to enlarge).

that is neither considered part of the collection nor properly catalogued, even though it is undoubtedly from the same series of photographs.

The big question is whether the mystery course is included in your ‘Golf Courses of NSW’, and whether it is correctly identified. A sleeve of Australian Golf Heritage Society mesh replica golf balls is a stake here!

30 August 2015                                                                                                                    Name: Ross Howard

Comment: OK, my third & last attempt is to nominate Kirkham Lane !

Ross – Strangely enough, we were talking about Kirkham Lane at the Museum today. The discussion centred around the ability of golfers – of various vintages – to recall course layouts from many years ago, and one of the participants recalled the hole at Kirkham Lane where he scored his first hole in one. No name, no pack drill.

Kirkham Lane was in the general vicinity of the Nepean River and Narellan Creek at Camden, so the requisite water course box is ticked. However, the site of the course was, and still is,  primarily rural in character.

The housing development around and about our mystery course says one thing . . . not Kirkham Lane. You are – however – to be complimented on your knowledge of defunct Sydney golf courses.


Current Research Directions

Recent research published by AGHS members: A Famous Rules Incident in 1907. A full copy of the article can be obtained by contacting the History Sub-Committee via the About menu. The article gathers primary source evidence to describe and discuss in depth a bitter controversy at the Australian Open.

Research underway by AGHS members includes an in depth study of the Lakes Open. This tournament was run and financed by The Lakes Golf Club. It was played over four rounds from 1934 to 1974 and was one of the most important tournaments on the Australian golf calendar with a very large prize pool for its time.

In 1951 the Australian Open at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne was won by Peter Thomson by four strokes over Norman von Nida.

Question #1. How many Opens (British) did Peter Thomson win?

Question #2. How many Opens (British) did Norman von Nida win?

Question #3. At the Australian Open in 1951 what was the area of the 18th putting green at Metropolitan?

Answers soon on the website and the next issue of The Brassie.