Category Archives: History

Fred Findlay (1872 – 1966)

a golfer who led an interesting and varied life

This is a summary of a research article by Steve Doorey and Michael Sheret in the September 2013 issue of Through the Green, magazine of the British Golf Collectors Society. The full article, which describes the research processes and references to the sources of evidence, may be obtained by contacting Michael or Steve via the website (see ‘Contacts’.).

Fred Portrait of Fred Findlay in his later years, reproduced by kind permission of Farmington Country Club

Fred Findlay, like his father, was a professional soldier and served in the British army for 22 years. He was an accomplished musician, a skilled exponent of the cornet. He rose to the rank of Sergeant-Bandmaster.

He played his early golf at Montrose, a classic old links on the east coast of Scotland. He was good enough break the course record in 1898 with a score of 71 on a course measuring 5609 yards, long by the standards of the guttie era. Towards the end of his time in Scotland he spent 18 months as the professional at the Royal Albert Golf Club, now known as Royal Montrose. Near the end of 1909 he migrated to Australia mainly for the health of his son Freddie, who probably had tuberculosis, a disease rife in the cold, damp, industrial towns of Scotland.

In January 1910 he was appointed professional at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne. Like professionals of his day Fred was, apart from teaching duties and running a shop, also the starter, caddie-master, curator of the green and club maker. He made his mark in many ways. The History of Metropolitan praises him particularly in his starter role. With a firm hand and a courteous manner, Fred brought much needed discipline and order to the competition days. Playing opportunities for professionals were interrupted by World War I. Fred’s tournament record was unremarkable but his scorecard for his round in December 1918 is preserved in the Metropolitan archives: 68 strokes, 11 under bogey, on a course measuring 6079 yards.

Then in 1922 he resigned amicably from his position at Metropolitan and in the following year took himself off to America. There, at the age of 51, he quickly established himself as a successful golf architect working in the Virginia area. He is credited with being responsible for the design of 41 courses. His masterpiece is undoubtedly the north/south course at the Farmington Country Club. In his twilight years Fred lived in a cottage on the Farmington property. In his nineties Fred was still scoring below his age around Farmington, but he probably devoted more time to poetry and painting, two of his abiding passions.

Our research solved two mysteries about Fred’s career. Golf historians generally thought that Fred had no experience in golf architecture before going to America. This was not the case. In 1914 he designed a course at Ararat in Victoria. Very little is known about this course. It has not survived. In 1911/12 Fred laid out a 7-hole course in a public park in Healesville Victoria. This was abandoned in 1919. On a larger property and with better financial backing Fred built his second course at Healesville. Originally a 9-hole course, it has undergone many changes since Fred’s time. It is now owned by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria and in 2012 was ranked a creditable 55th in Australia’s best courses.

The second mystery was what inspired Fred at 51 years of age to give up a secure position at Metropolitan and move to America. Prior to our research the conventional wisdom was that he was influenced by his older brother, Alex Findlay, well established in America as a top class golfer, golf architect and all-round golf entrepreneur. While Alex may have had some influence on Fred’s career in America we do not think he was the major influence. All the evidence points to his son-in-law, Raymond “Ben” Franklin Loving, as the main influence on Fred’s move and subsequent career in America. We don’t know what brought Ben to Australia originally, but he married Fred’s daughter Ruth in Australia in 1924 and took her to Virginia, where Fred, Ben and Ruth were very close. At the beginning of his golf architecture career in America Fred and Ben were partners in the business. Later Ben became the General Manager at Farmington and stayed in that position for 44 years.

FredandFreddie Fred with his son Freddie at the Metropolitan Golf Club, reproduced by kind permission of Mrs Beverley Abeline, great great granddaughter of James Findlay, Fred’s brother. The family’s move to Australia was driven by Freddie’s poor health. Freddie, a promising young golfer, died in 1912 just 16 years old.

Beverley Aberline, great granddaughter of James Findlay, Fred’s brother, for sharing her family scrapbook with us.
Richard Tweddle, RACV Corporate Solicitor, for sharing his research notes on Healesville golf course with us.
Neil Crafter gave us extracts from The Architects of Golf by Cornish & Whitten (1993). This was important in sorting out courses designed by Fred alone, those in partnership with Ben Loving, those in partnership with his grandson Buddy Loving and those designed independently by Buddy.

Non-Conforming Hickories

An issue explored by Michael Sheret and Perry Somers

One of the co-authors of this article, Perry, found himself in the middle of controversy1 in October last year when he wanted to play with his hickory clubs in the Australian PGA Seniors Championship, held over three rounds at Killara Golf Club in Sydney. As readers of TTG will know, Perry plays frequently with his hickories and using them he is capable of turning in scores of around par. 2011 was the centenary year of the PGA of Australia. Perry’s reason for wanting to play in the tournament with his hickories and dressed in plus fours and jacket was to contribute to the PGA’s celebration of its 100th year.

The organisers of the event had some doubt as to whether Perry’s hickories would be considered as conforming clubs. From the PGA the matter was put to Golf Australia, the governing body of golf in Australia with responsibility for administering the rules of golf. For whatever reason Golf Australia felt it necessary to get a decision from the R&A, and photographs of Perry’s clubs were duly sent to St. Andrews. Somehow Perry’s notes, which should have accompanied the photographs, did not reach the R&A. The notes would have explained his reasons for wishing to play with hickories in the tournament and described how they gave no advantage over other players.

The Decision

The reply came back from the R&A Rules Ltd (Equipment Standards) with regard to the submitted photographs of the iron clubfaces. These clubs ‘would not conform to the modern rules’ because the grooves ‘are nor parallel – they are slightly radiating’ and ‘Appendix II, 5a (sic) states that the grooves must be straight and parallel’2. As one can see from the photograph of Perry’s mashie, this is a perfectly correct ruling from the R&A. It is indeed the only answer to the question: Is this club conforming or non-conforming under the current rules of golf?

However, the ruling by the R&A brings up three issues:

  • Was there some way that Perry could have competed with his hickories?
  • Are the modern clubs currently in use that are non-conforming under the same Rule?
  • What are the implications for hickory golfers?
Competing with Non-Conforming Clubs

This is a difficult issue. The conditions of play for the Australian PGA Seniors Championship stated clearly that the competition was to be played under the Rules of Golf and any local rules in force on the day. It is interesting that the R&A did not specifically say that Perry’s hickories could not be used in the Championship. So what could the Championship Committee done to allow Perry to compete with his non-conforming hickories?

A simple solution would have been for the Committee and the sponsors to set up a competition within a competition, Under such an arrangement Perry would play with his hickories alongside the other players but would not be competing for the Australian PGA Seniors Championship. He would be competing for a separate prize pool, say a prize of the same value (with perhaps an upper limit) as his score would have won in the main event. this is a simple solution, but an unsatisfactory one on several counts.

The Committee might have considered an exception for Perry under ‘equity’ or a ‘local rule’ or the ‘condition of the competition’ and allowed him to compete in the main event. These terms, however, appear in the Rules of Golf, which make it clear that their use must not override a Rule of Golf. Suppose the Committee, as an addendum to the conditions of the competition, stated that: ‘As a special exception for this tournament, a player may use wooden shafted clubs manufactured before 1935, provided that the Committee is satisfied that they give no advantage to the player over modern clubs as specified in Appendix II of the Rules of Golf’. We are quite confident that there would have been no protest from other players in the field. but we wonder how the ruling bodies in golf would view such a statement.

Modern Clubs

The Rules of Golf are written to be unambiguous. Therefore they can be interpreted literally, as in the case of the radiating grooves. We believe that at the present time there are new clubs on sale and modern clubs being used by thousands of golfers that are non-conforming under the Rule: ‘Grooves must be straight and parallel’.

Perry’s Mashie


Modern non-conforming


The photograph shows a popular modern iron by a major manufacturer. Most of the grooves are parallel from heel to toe, but the two white grooves run from crown to sole. The club face has two sets of grooves, one at right angles to the other, the very antithesis of parallel. The clubface clearly does not meet the criterion: ‘Grooves must be straight and parallel’.

It might be argued that the two crown-to-sole grooves are permitted under Appendix II, 5 Club Face; d. Decorative Markings ‘. . . . Decorative markings are permitted outside the impact area.’ This argument is, however, invalid on two counts. Firstly, the two grooves are not decorative, they are put there as an alignment aid. Secondly, they are not outside the impact area. The term ‘impact area’, although used in different parts parts of the Rules, is not defined with any great precision.We note that impact area and point of impact are two different things. The point of impact may be a little off centre but, as the ball flattens under compression, the impact geometry changes from a point to a roughly area with a diameter getting on for 1.68 inches. A little off-centre initial impact would at maximum compression easily include the two crown-to-sole grooves.

We are conscious that the above reasoning concerning modern clubs will strike some readers as somewhat pedantic. We would argue that it is no more pedantic than pointing out that some old clubs have grooves that radiate slightly. To quote Richard Tufts: ‘Golf is a complex game and we must anticipate that the Rules will reflect this fact.3 We might add that interpretation of the Rules is an equally complex affair.

Implications for Hickory Golfers

We see no problem for purely hickory events where players may be using clubs that are non-conforming under the strict interpretation of the current rules. BGCS stipulates that clubs must be from the hickory era, up to and including 1935.4 It might be wise to add a clause that they should be clubs that were conforming to the standards applicable in the year of manufacture. In purely hickory events it is unlikely that scores will be used for national handicap returns and unlikely that appeals regarding the Rules will be made to the R&A Rules Committee.

There are likely to be problems for players who use their hickories for all their golf, both at club and higher levels. Radiating grooves are fairly common in hickories, as are criss-cross grooves and other imaginative patterns. At club level it is likely that the match committee would, we believe, regard the lone hickory player as rather eccentric and would not get in a tizzy about whether his or her clubs were conforming or not. For hickory players who play at higher levels, where the rest of the field is using modern clubs and is bound strictly by the current Rules of Golf, there are definite problems.

There is, however, a fairly simple solution. Between 2011 and 2012 things changed with the new edition of the Rules of Golf, 2012-2015. Note 1 has been added to Appendix II 5c: ‘The groove and punch mark specifications above indicated by an asterisk (*) apply only to new models of clubs manufactured on or after 1 January 2010 . . .’. Unfortunately, an asterisk does not appear next to ‘Grooves must be straight and parallel’, but it would be reasonable for the R&A Rules Committee to put one there. That would, at a stroke, remove the principle reason why so many hickory clubs are considered non-conforming under the current Rules. As for water irons, rake irons and niblicks with concave faces . . . well, that is another matter.


  1. 1. Users of Facebook can view a short news segment made by the Australian Channel 10 Television about the controversy. Key in ‘Hickory Golf Passion’ to bring up Perry’s Facebook page. The video is titled ‘It’s a crazy world!’ and was posted on March 9, 2012. Bear in mind that there was a great deal of editing of the total material recorded. Viewers will see a good example of a common reaction to the R&A ruling, namely to castigate the R&A. That was not the action of the authors of this article. Once the R&A was put in a position of having to give a ruling they had no choice but to give a correct ruling according to the Rules. our reaction was that there was something of an anomaly in the situation. the rules regarding club design were made sure that clubs are not ‘substantially different from the traditional customary form and make’,. The rules with regard to grooves are clearlt intended to prevent excessive backspin on iron shots to the green. We do not think the current club specification are intended to prevent players from using old-fashioned hickories with rather ineffective groove patterns. We were concerned about ways in which Perry could have been allowed to use his hickories in the Australian PGA Seniors Championship. We were also concerned at how the R&A ruling would affect hickory play in general, especially given that the ‘hickory movement’ is a growing one.
  2. 2. The Rule is in fact Appendix II, 5 Club Face; c Impact Area Markings; (i) Grooves, dot point 2 in the 2008-2011 edition and dot point 1 in the 2012-2015 edition. The Rule is clear: ‘Grooves must be straight and parallel’.
  3. 3. Tufts, RS. The Principles Behind the Rules of Golf. Pinehurst Publications, 1961, p7
  4. 4. Through the Green. BCGS. June 2009. p5

(This article first appeared in the September 2012 issue of ‘Through the Green’, the journal of the British Golf Collectors Society, and is reproduced with the kind permission of the Society, and the authors).

Development of Golf in Tasmania

In The Mercury of July 21st, 1892 a report on the committee meeting for the Tasmanian Racing Club, at Elwick racecourse, in Hobart’s northern suburbs, mentions,

“A letter was received in reference to the use of the grounds at Elwick for a golf club, but it was decided to ask for more information before coming to any decision in reference to the matter”.

In The Mercury of November 7th, 1895, under the heading ‘A week in Carnarvon, the beauties of Port Arthur’, was the following extract,

“Carnarvon boasts of having started the first golf links in the colony, and as at present, the only one in the south.”

On June, 4th, 1895 the Launceston Golf Club became Tasmania’s first club; the Reverend W. H. Webster was appointed Secretary / Treasurer. Mr Edmund King granted permission for the use of his ground above the South Launceston reservoir, they also played on Lawrence’s paddocks. The Club’s first matches were played on Saturday, June 8th, 1895. Dr. Gutterridge was President. The Club flourished for two seasons before interest subsided, partly due to the distance of the course from town and only a few dedicated enthusiasts were left playing on Lawrence’s and Newstead’s paddocks. Efforts were made in 1897 to find links closer to town.

Another club was established in Launceston in July 1899, playing on links at Mowbray Racecourse, before moving to Kings Meadows in June 1901. The Mowbray Golf Club would later be called the Tasmanian Golf Club and finally, as it is currently known, the Launceston Golf Club. Their course appears to be the oldest in the state.

In March 1896 a club was formed at Devonport, playing on ground owned by Mr G.E. Harrap. The links were formally opened on April 25th, 1896. By 1900 a second club, the Mersey Golf Club, was operating on the eastern side of the river. Sheffield followed soon after, forming a club in December 1896, Mr Roberts and the Hope brothers being among the founding members.

In September 1898 the Longford Club began playing at the local racecourse and then later at Mr T.C. Archer’s estate, Woolmer. In 1903, The Mercury was reporting:

“that there were thirteen golf courses within the same number of miles of Longford.”

The Sassafras Club started in October, 1899, playing over links on Mr John Rockcliff’s estate, Westfield. In 1900 the Club’s links moved to two paddocks owned by Mr Charles Rockcliff.

In the south at Hobart, Mr Macfarlane laid out a short course, approximately 1½ miles in length, at the rear of his property, Newlands on Augusta St, New Town. He sent out circulars to prospective members and a club was formed in April 1896. Dr W. Giblin was foundation Secretary. The Club was in existence until 1907 when the Newlands property was sold for building lots. The members of the Newlands club commenced play at Mr H. Wright’s property Grove, at Glenorchy and the name changed to the Grove Golf Club, which survived until the First World War.

By October, 1896 Newlands was organising to visit the Jericho links and the Tinderbox Bay golfers. A small course was also in existence in 1897 at Bellerive. The Lindisfarne Golf Club commenced in August, 1900 at Beltona.

The Hobart Golf Club was formed in December, 1900, on the Blink Bonny estate at Sandy Bay. The Club lost these links when it was commandeered by the Defence Department and an internment camp was created when war broke out.

In 1916 the Rosny estate was purchased and a 9 hole golf course was laid out to the design of C Fawcett and Mr L.A. Cluff. The Club was granted Royal status in 1925.

In the Midlands, in August 1897, golf clubs were sent up from Hobart for the newly formed Bothwell Golf Club. Play soon commenced at links on the Dennistoun Estate. This Club didn’t last long and another club was formed in 1902. The Club played first on the Logan estate until 1910, then temporary links were used at Cluny estate.

Research by GSA member Ross Baker has found a reference to a course, and play, at Ratho in August 1901; this is the earliest documented evidence of a golf course at Ratho.

Oatlands Golf Club was formed in April, 1902 after members of the Club had been playing on the paddocks of Messrs. Sturgeon and Jones the previous year. Also in 1902, the Midlands Golf Club was formed in Ross playing on the Chiswick links.

Other clubs playing golf in Tasmania prior to 1914 include Deloraine 1898, St Leonards 1899, Evandale 1899, George Town 1900, Ouse 1902, Swansea 1903, Swanport 1903, Glamorgan 1904, Brighton 1905, La Trobe 1907, Stanley 1909, Ulverstone 1911 and New Norfolk 1912.

The Northern Tasmanian Golf Association was formed in 1900, and the Southern Golf Union in 1902; together they inaugurated the first North and South matches and State Amateur Championships in 1902. The Tasmanian Golf Council commenced in 1908.

In 1902 Mr H.N. Giblin won the first men’s state championships and Miss D. Nicolas won the Ladies’ event. Eustace Headlam won the first Tasmanian Open Championship. Early Tasmanian success at Australian Amateur championships includes Miss Elvie Whitesides in 1906, Clyde Pearce in 1908 – as well as the Australian Open that year, Mrs Harrison in 1913 and Len Nettleford in 1926 and 1928.

James Hunter from Edinburgh was the first professional in Tasmania and was attached to the Hobart Golf Club; during his time there he laid out the Sandy Bay links. Amongst his pupils were Clyde and Bruce Pearce. James Herd was the first professional in the north of the island working for the Launceston Sports Depot.

In more recent times, 1954 Australian Amateur Champion, and GSA member, Peter Toogood has won the Tasmanian Open eight times and the Tasmanian Amateur ten times, among his many achievements, and was the founder of the Australasian Golf Museum at Bothwell; well worth a visit for anyone interested in Tasmanian and Australian golf history