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Chorley Golf Club

History

There are two aspects to the History of Chorley Golf Club as might be expected from the design of the Clubhouse.

The Hall o'th'Hill at its present site was built in 1724 although the design of the building puts it in an earlier period. According to tradition, the original site is believed to have been on the moated site at Bretters Farm near the twelfth. Transporting buildings in this way was not unusual in the 1700s as other examples have been found in Lancashire. The original Hall was a much larger building facing south. The west wing was demolished and replaced by the new hall now facing west, as it is today.

The Hall, in its current position, was built by Thomas Willis who died in 1727. The ownership of the Hall was passed down through the generations of the Willis family and in 1890 was owned by Henry Randolph d'Anyers Willis born in 1834.

There were a number of previous Lords of the Hill which are detailed in the book "THE HALL THAT CLIMBED THE HILL" by George Birtill who did, for many years, make a significant voluntary contribution to diverse areas of the local community.

With such a History there have been a number of theories to explain the Hall o'th'Hill Ghost - a lady in green wearing spectacles, seen in the vicinity of the stairs or cellar, which is part of the original hall. She is known by many as 'Debora' which, as it turns out, was the name of one of the daughters of bishop Pilkington who founded Rivington Grammar school and was connected with the estate in the sixteenth century.

And so in 1897 the first Chorley Club opened at Hall o'th' Hill as a nine hole course. The course became favourable with professionals of the day and it was pointed out that there was more ground in the vicinity on which a further nine holes could be produced.

The club is mentioned several times in the Chorley Guardian up until 1902 when the annual general meeting was mentioned.

The club then appeared to have been moved to Queens Road, Chorley. The land for the course was on the Astley Hall Estate but is now occupied by Parklands High School and playing fields. However, this was still a nine hole course and as the club gained popularity, the members wanted 18 holes.

After numerous negotiations and searches for land capable of producing an 18 hole course it was eventually decided to purchase the Hall o' th' Hill estate. In February 1925, J A Steer, the Blackpool South Shore professional agreed to complete his design for an 18 hole course for the sum of £25.

In June 1926 the course was opened, it would have been earlier but for the General Strike. J A Steer, one of the foremost architects in the country (courses at Bradda, Port Erin, Fairhaven and Blundellsands) summed up the course as "agreeably indulating without being very hilly."

The layout of the course is in two loops with starting places at the first and tenth, with the ninth and eighteenth greens close to the clubhouse. When there are two possible starting holes there then came the argument of "Which way round". This still poses questions for members today and will probably continue into the future.

By April 1940, membership of the club stood at 84 men and 42 ladies. The times were reflected by granting courtesy of the course to visiting members of the forces, while members of the club who were also serving in the war had their subs waived. Some of the course fairways had to be broken up to render flat areas of ground unsafe for landing aircraft by the enemy.

Needless to say, the club finances did suffer during the war but due to the generosity and capability of some of the members, none more so than G B Fletcher (Captain during the War), the bank overdraft was similar to that of June 30, 1939. However, much work was required to reinstate the course to its former glory.

A new committee was formed later known as the council comprising of five members all putting up money to help finance the club. It was decided that the the five directors should function as a finance committee to whom all expenditure would be deferred. By July that year, the course was restored to 18 holes.

By 1951 the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs reduced the Standard Scratch Score to 72 and interest from visiting parties became prominent, thus indicating the progress made to the course.

The visiting parties were to be charged 4 shillings per player (20p for those who don't remember 'old' money). Through the next years the course and facilities continued to improve and by 1960 membership stood at 128 men and 73 ladies. The sixties saw many improvements to the course and to the rulings regarding safety procedures while playing the course.

The eleventh tee was moved and a protective screen set up to the left of the sixteenth tee following a "near miss". This showed an increase in the amount of traffic the course was taking and further measures started to be taken to protect the course. By 1972 there was a waiting list of 30 members even though subscriptions were increased vacancies being filled by selection as they occurred.

By now the course was well established and although improvements were made to the course, as is still the case today, attention turned towards the clubhouse. The clubhouse is a listed building and as such any alterations have to be in keeping with the tradition of the building. To support an increasing membership, facilities within the clubhouse are also important.

Although golf at Chorley is very sociable there is no doubting the competitiveness amongst the members and more attention is paid to playing golf than attending social functions. Revenue to the club had not been good from social events. Facilities had to improve and during the seventies this was done. The internal make-up of the clubhouse was improved including the introduction of a Games room housing a full size snooker table.

In 1989 the president, George Birtill, opened a new extension to the clubhouse thus allowing internal changes to the facilities of the clubhouse. A new bar was constructed on the first floor which allowed the gents and ladies locker rooms to reside on the ground floor. The restaurant was moved and the whole club redecorated. It was said that the club was now entering a new era. Good teamwork throughout the development of the club has been prominent throughout the years. Much of the work to produce such a club has been volunteered by members past and present and still the work continues. A new irrigation and drainage system has been installed and another extension to the clubhouse was built in 2000/2001. This has brought the facilities at the course to rank amongst the top in the North West and has made the membership very proud.

More recent developments have included the addition of a new bar on the lower floor in 2018 giving ready access to food and drink from both the course and once players had finished their rounds. This opens out onto a terraced patio where visitors and members can sit to appreciate the views of the surrounding countryside and this also overlooks the 9th and 18th greens.

The Professional shop has also been developed to incorporate a swing room using the latest technology (see Professional pages) to allow for indoor tuition and practice.





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