The first indication that golf would be played in St. Davids is this extract from the St. Davids and District Guardian, dated 2nd August
'ST. DAVIDS RAILWAY: The Act of Parliament conferring Powers to construct a Railway, has already been announced, having been passed. We learn from an authoritative source that the undertaking will be at once proceeded with. Mr C.E.Baker, one of the promoters of this railway, visited St. Davids recently for the purpose of arranging for the erection of a house near St. Davids Head for occupation in connection with the railway, and we believe next year a Golf Club will be started, to play over " the burrows near Whitesands Bay with a clubhouse near the sea.'
Clearly, this took some time to come to fruition but the Club was Instituted and play began in 1903. The railway never came, only getting as far as Letterston. I believe the only vestige left is the City Inn which was built as the Railway Hotel.
As the extract from The Golfing Annual: vol XIX of 1905/6 shows, we were busy advertising Green Fees of 1/- per day, Annual subscription of One Guinea, with conveyance by mail cart or by 'bus thrice a week.
In 'Golf Addict Invades Wales' (published in 1969) by George Houghton, he interviewed Morris Mendus and Des Hampson regarding the Club. Both gentlemen were Chemists In St,Davlds, Morns following his brother John Mendus and Des following his father-in-law Morris.
Although not the Secretary at the start of Proceedings in 1903 John Mendus took the green fees at his Chemist's Shop on the Cross Square and this continued through both Morris’s and Des’s tenure as Chemists and Secretaries of the Club until the early 70s.
Club records available in 1969 recall the accounts for 1904 thus:
Printing 7/-, Flags 7/-, Joe and brother (cutting greens and rolling) 3/-; Use of Reading room for meetings 1/-. Paid to Major Phillips for extra labour 10/-. The income for the year was slightly more.
Morris Mendus said 'I joined the club as a boy. By 1904 the club was securely in business.'
FIRST MATCH AT ST. DAVIDS
Apart from entries in the Golfing Annual for the next 5 years and the photograph which has pride of place at the top of this history, little is known about the club's activities until the reporting in the St Davids and District Guardian of 2nd August 1929 of its first match, played against Newport; the match was halved 7 -7. The report also detailed that the course had been laid out more than twenty years before by the late Doctor W.W.Williams and Colonel T.Bleddyn Rees of Newport (Mon).
Documented hopes of a long term lease agreement with the landlords did not materialize, but not long after the first match, the provision of a clubhouse was thought necessary and so an order was placed with Messrs.Sutdiffe of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, for a 20'x1 0' timber chalet with 20 lockers along the back. The price was £45.18/-. This clubhouse served the club well for almost 40 years and saw many presentations outside on competition days. After its demise as a clubroom, when the old Haverfordwest clubhouse was erected as our clubroom in 1969 (still going strong, but showing its age), it did service as a green shed right up to 1984 and was only demolished to make way for the shower, toilet and Ladies' changing block in 1988. A men's and ladies' toilet was added to the rear of the old chalet and again was in use up until 1984. The mowing was done by horse-drawn gangs.
In the St Davids Official Guide of 1933/4 an advertisement for the club describes it thus:- Holiday Golf, sporty 9 hole course, bracing position overlooking Atlantic, Whitesand Bay and St Davids Head. Green Fees -2/- per day, 15/- per fortnight and 20/- per month. I particularly like the 'sporty' description.
The Driver Coronation Cup (the Club Matchplay championship) was presented in 1937 and is celebrated in one of the few photographs we have of the era. Here the first winner is presented with the superb trophy by the donor and his wife, Mr & Mrs A.C.Driver.
In 1938 and '39 moves were afoot to resite the golf course to neighbouring land. The land on which the present course was situated was to be excavated for sand to build StDavids Airfield. There was agreement on a lease of 38 acres and even the position of the Clubhouse had been agreed.
AGMs were held in 1940 and '41, and there are accounts for 1942, but it would appear that after that the war intervened and thoughts of moving the course and indeed of golf at all, were definitely not in the forefront of anybody's mind during the war years. There were losses of life amongst members and their families. In 1942 income was £32.5/9d, expenses including hire of horse for 3 days (15/-) were £21.11/3d. Green fees totalled £3.1 5/6d. No more is known of the club in the1940's. Whether any golf was played is doubtful and the land that had been agreed on was left to the Friends of the Cathedral. The excavated land was gradually reinstated as the course we know today.
Mr. Jack Bateman, a former Club Captain (1964) and now in his Nineties wrote to the secretary and gave this account of life on the golf course immediately after the 2nd World War.
" Before the 2nd World War of 1939-1945 the St. Davids City Golf Club provided a very pleasant and popular 9 hole links which was very well supported by the local poulation, both male and female. During the early part of the war, however, the local landlord -Mr. Evan Evans, was required to hand over the course so that sand could be provided for the building of the Armaments Depot at Trecwn, near Fishguard. As a result the entire surface was destroyed and when the war was over the course was in complete ruin with the surface covered in weeds and brambles and with huge boulders left over after the sandy surface had been removed.
However it was not long after the end of the war before the local golfers set about calling a meeting to decide what, if anything, could be done to reinstate the golf course. I, just having retired from the R.A.F.attended that meeting with most of the citizens who were interested in playing golf including Alderman I.O. Martin (Locally known as I.O.), Brigadier Pim, the local Bank Managers shopkeepers and many others who wanted to restore the Golf Clousr to it's former pristine condition.Among those I remember are D.C. Evans (Baker) John Smith ( Grocer), J.N. Thomas (Manager of Lloyds Bank, Mr. Hughes ( Manager of Barclays) and Jim Evans of Caerfai, universally known as "Jim Bach", and very many others I cannnot recall. It was an interesting meeting with conflicting views. I remember Brigadier Pim was convinced that the course was beyond conversion. While Alderman I.O. Martin was in favour of trying to make the course playable once again. and it was largely because of his insistence that that it was decided to attempt to make the course playable once again. Later he and his workmen spent many hours clearing away many boulders from various parts of the course to the Western hedge boundary and once again it became possible to imagine a future St. Davids Golf Course. Originally Jim Bach planned the first 3 holes.The first down the field along the Whitesands road which had not been touched. The second across the corner of the property adjacent to the course to a small new green, and the third to the corner of the course which became the 9th green.
Gradually over the next few months the number of holes increased until we could boast a new nine hole course. The original membership, of which I am probably the oldest if not the only surviving member, rapidly increased in number and with an annual membership of £2 the course provided excellent recreation and exercise. There was a large membership of Ladies who ran their own competitions and provided teas for all when the men entertained golfers from other clubs, and ran their own competitions for cups. If I remember rightly the first competition organised was the "Driver Cup" which I eventually won beating J.N. Thomas, the manager of LLoyds Bank at the time, in the final. I still have a small cup in the house some where but I'm afraid I can't find it but it was probably in the early fifties (records show 1950). Over the following 30 years I played golf regularly, particularly after my retirement in 1974, and on most afternoons you would find The late Fred Jefferies and Basil Williams, Joe Garner and myself playing a four baller. I must say I enjoyed my golf but never improved on a ten handicap. However over the years I won a number of prizes including several Captain's Prizes.The other day I found tankards dated 1953 & 1971 which I believe must have been Captain's Prizes, and there were other occasions but I cannot recall the dates.
To get back to the early days, while Jim bach was very busy improving the course and providing new holes, one of the draw-backs was the presence of sheep who unfortunately seemed to prefer the greens, and one essential ritual was clearing the sheep droppings for the ball's path on the green to the hole. For many years the sheep had done a good job in helping the fairways to improve but it was decided that they would have to go. Alderman Martin and myself were commisioned to inform Glasnant Evans of Porthmawr, who had once been one of my pupils in school, to remove his sheep from the course. I felt sorry for him but unfortunately if the greens were to improve it was essential that the sheep would have to go.
Thereafter the course continued to improve and provided excellent recreation & excercise for it's increasing membership. Mr Morgan Davies, the owner of Bon Marche in Cardiff and his family were regular members when they came down early summer, and the number of visitors using the course continued to increase year by year.
I cannot remember when we started to having matches with other Golf Clubs but I do remember enjoying the occasions. We played Newport, Haverfordwest, Milford, Pembroke and at least once Cardigan, at home and away and every occasion, win or loose, usually the latter, was thoroughly enjoyed.
Now that my golfing days are over I can only feel grateful for the relaxation and enjoyment that membership of the club afforded me and I can only hope that it continues to give pleasure and relaxation to an increasing membership for many years to come."
J.M. (Jack) Bateman
What was described as "The first Annual Dinner" was held at the Dyfed Cafe, St. Davids. Obviously the Balls held previously did not count as dinners!
The Golden jubilee Dinner was held at the Dyfed Cafe, St Davids
I.O.Martin presenting W.O. Hughes (captain and first winner) with the jubilee Cup in 1953 outside the first dubhouse. Also in the photo, J.H.M.Bateman, Miss C.M.Rees, Mrs Bryn Rees, Dai Evans (Dai the Crust). Who's that little lad?
Rent on land was £25 per year on an annual lease; no play was allowed on Sundays. According to the Rate Assessment document, 'the club only functions in the summer, has a small membership of 25 and is not for profit The dubhouse is small and only used as a cloakroom and shelter. Approximately £60-£70 is spent annually on cutting and maintaining the course'. 9 Hole Course now 2650 yds, par 33.
Membership subscription for the 16 men was £2, ladies (7)£1.
Membership subscription in 1960 was £3.0/-. Interclub membership was offered with Haverfordwest and Newport for a further £1.0/-. What a good idea that sounds.
Green Fees continue to be paid at the Chemist prior to play. Locker charges raised to 2/6 per year. Two members started playing golf on Sundays, in contravention of the unwritten agreement -nothing was said, so Sunday golf became possible. In 1963 the club celebrated its Diamond jubilee with a Dinner held at Warpool Court Hotel on 8th November. The price was 12/6d. There was an official presentation to the Hon. Secretary, Mr W.Morris Mendus recognizing 32 years service as Secretary. He was also elected as the first Honorary Life Member, to be followed by John Mendus of Pembroke and two Ladies in recognition of their contribution to the dub; the first of these was Mrs Mildred Driver, the wife of the late A.C.Driver, past President and donor of the eponymous Cup. Mrs Driver was joined in being honoured by Mrs Fred Skinner of Cardiff.
By 1964 an odd job man was paid to help with grass cutting etc. The first water pipes were laid on the course with the help of a local farmer's homemade mole plough, while the greens were still being cut by members with their own mowers.
In 1969 the old Haverfordwest Clubhouse was acquired and erected on present site. It is still in service as the clubroom and men's changing.
A new lease was agreed; 21 years, including additional fields (the present 8th fairway) Rent £4.50 per week.
The Club became affiliated to the Welsh Golfing Union.
Membership subscriptions were:-
Gentlemen -£10; Ladies -£6; juniors -£2.
Green fees -£1.00
In 1975 the cost of cutting fairways was £20. Cutting greens -£10 per cut.
The first part-time groundsman was appointed. The Club went through 17 incarnations of part-time green keepers over the next 5 years.
The Club bought its first tractor for £100 -Committee vote 6-3 in favour. You've got to move with the times!
By 1977 the Course was now Par 66, standard scratch 63, length 4914yds.
The Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1978 by concentrating on the playing side of things, with St Davids City Open held for first time on Spring bank holiday Monday and we entered the Three Counties (Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire) Friendly league -still going as the Dyfed league. The dub also entered the Super-six league -scratch matches between Dyfed Clubs.
An extra 17 acres were added to the lease on seaside of course, down to Sandy lane to make 50 acres in all. The extra land allowed the development of the present 4th and 5th holes later.
The Greenkeeper was now increased to three days per week.
In the 70s and 80s we were indebted to neighbouring farmers who lent us their equipment and storage space, without whose help we would have struggled.
In 1980 Johngo Phillips was appointed assistant greenkeeper and 4 months later he was offered full time post -22 years later he is still employed as Greenkeeper and his contribution over the years has been much valued. Course was now 5172 yds.
The 80s were a busy and competitive time for the club, and Winter Alliances were instigated between South Pembs, Milford Haven, Haverfordwest and StDavids., which are still going strong.
Tees were extended and improved until a full 18 tees completed and 9 Ladies' tees, whose course now is 4184 yds, par 66.
By 1983 Subscriptions had jumped to £55 per annum, and we were in the position of being able to afford to construct a Greenkeeper's shed. john Evans was elected Dyfed Captain and Chris Snushall was selected at County level. john Evans and Huw Morgan qualified in successive years as members of the Ford Amateur International Welsh Team to play against England, Scotland and Ireland at Lytham St Annes.
In 1985 the dub bought a fairly new fangled machine called a Ransomes Triplex 171, a ride-on mower for cutting the greens. This was a huge expense and decision for the dub in those days -£7487.00, half of which was grant aided. There was an E.G.M. in order to make a decision.
The Club reached the Welsh Team Championship Finals (last 16) for first and only time. Travel to Ashburnham with caddies and supporters.
This was an exceptional time for the dub. We held the first of several National Trust Celebrity Golf Toumaments for the Acom Trophy presented by Brian Huggett the famous Welsh golfer, with invited sporting and entertainment celebrities, sponsored guests who enjoyed golf and dinner afterwards at Whitesands Bay Hotel. Max Boyce entertained us royally at the height of his fame and it gave us enormous pleasure to playa round of golf with the likes of leuan Evans and Mark Wyatt as I did, and proudly show off our course.
The programme is reproduced below. You may be able to recognize a few signatures.
Among the celebrities for that first tournament were:- Max Boyce, Rod Morgan, David Richards, Bleddyn Bowen, Malcolm Dacey, Brynmor Williams, Clive Norling, Onllwyn Brace, Mark Wyatt, Clive Rowlands, Peter Rees, Albert Francis, Phil Carling, Terry Holmes, David Barry.
In 1986 we extended the 5th Green to form two tiers. Our first double green.
The first St Davids Day Tournament held and is now an important part of fixture list, really kicking off the season. The following year the new 4th and 5th holes opened, a long Par 3 hacked out through bramble and bracken and a long awaited Par 5 -they had been 3 years in the making. Course now measured 5465 yards Par 68, subsequently to be lengthened by the construction of the 8/17th fairway to complete Par 70 course. All the course extensions and improvements were carried out by member volunteers and our green keeper. length now 5961 yds. In 1989 the refurbished and extended Clubhouse opened at Easter incorporating showers, changing, toilet, clubroom and ladies changing facilities.
The majority of the works had been carried out by a few members, all in the building trade.
For the 8th fairway a small taskforce laid more than 5000 sq.yards of turf on successive evenings and weekends.
Throughout the 80s and early 90s the club took part in many commercially sponsored tournments; the winner in the qualifying round at home going on to play the National finals at courses such as Royal Porthcawl, Royal StDavids, Tewkesbury Park, The Monmouthshire, Ashbumham, Aberdovey, Langland Bay. Other Competitions were knockout match play, individual or team. The following list of sponsors may surprise some and bring back some happy memories:-
Clerical Medical, Scottish Amicable, Honda, Ford, Rover, Renault, Vauxhall, Europcar, Fiat, Lancia, Saab, Teachers, William Lawson, jamesons, Glenlivet, Whyte and Mackay, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Daily Telegraph, Dunhill, Marley, Martini, johnnie Walker, Scottish Mutual, Scottish Widows, Volkswagen, NPI, Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Disabled, Marie Curie Cancer and more.
It is undoubtedly a fact that the competition to qualify for the chance to play on a national stage made us all much better and more competitive golfers than we may be today, when we have far fewer of these national competitions. It is a shame that the era of such sponsorship appears to have passed.
The ladies' section became affiliated to ladies Golfing Union in 1990. 18 ladies tees. ladies course now 5089 yds par 71, SS70.
In 1991 Gethin James was elected Dyfed Boys Captain and Gethin James and Carwyn James selected for Dyfed Colts and Gethin also for the Dyfed Youth side.
Course improvements were on-going and we employed a part time green keepers asistant for 3 days per week.
The Club Team qualified for the National Finals of the Vauxhall Team Classic at Cradock, Brecon. This meant travelling up the previous day in a minibus leant by a local Vauxhall dealer and an overnight stay in Brecon. The captain will not mind being reminded of the diesel that was put into the petrol bus with obvious
Gareth Lewis as Captain and Dafydd Richards (Junior Captain) about to drive-in on New Years Day 1993, with a good crowd to watch. In 1994 the new 3rd Green and fairway brought into play in July after construction by our own hands in October the previous year Course now 6117 yds, Par 70, SS 70.
THE NEW CENTURY
A new lease was signed which will hopefully secure the club's future for a long time to come.
2002 St Davids City Golf Club held the National Eisteddfod golf tournament when St Davids hosted the National Eisteddfod.
Centenary celebrations include Centenary Opens, a celebrity /members Centenary Golf Tournament, Centenary Dinner and The Centenary Cup, several Centenary Competitions throughout the year and the publishing of a members' diary and brief history.
The club have great plans for the future and trust that our ambition to become an 18 hole course will be fulfilled before we are too old to enjoy it!
As well as the companies mentioned previously, the Club are indebted to our long term sponsors of the Open, namely James Williams (brewers), and Munts the Jewellers. Individuals who have given cups over the years have also made a significant contribution to our golf -thank you.
Ladies: Very few records are available concerning the ladies section of the Club. It would appear that from the very beginning a Ladies team existed; affiliated to the LGU in 1990 the ladies section is small but thriving and they continue to playa very active and full role within the club.
Juniors: The Juniors have benefitted over the years from support of club members and the dub as a whole, but particularly in the 80s and 90s the contribution made in this department by Colwyn Phillips and Eirvil Evans should be recognized. The Juniors of the past spent whole summers playing golf and taking green fees; some members have played continuously since their junior days, others moving away; but all were well grounded and enjoyed their golfing upbringing in St Davids. We encourage Juniors to playa full part in Club activities and any new junior members would be welcomed.
For such a small club it is remarkable that we have been able to sustain golf teams for so long in the many different categories and performing sometimes with great success against really well established and much larger clubs than ourselves.
In the past we have finished high up in the Dyfed league, won Super Six scratch matches against the likes of Ashburnham on their own course, and had many memorable Welsh Golfing Union Team Championship matches against bigger clubs. One in particular is remembered for two of our matches going to the 22nd and 23rd holes before St Davids triumphed at almost 10.30 at night That was the year we qualified for the finals at Ashbumham; to be in the last 16 was quite something.
We've also done well in the Victory Shield Foursomes. We religiously enter every year in the hope of winning a few matches. Over the years we have done this with some success, at regular intervals of a few years getting as far as the 3rd, 4th or 5th rounds; very good results for a club our size. It is quite a terrifying experience to play in front of a fair size gallery!
We have also had success in the Mail on Sunday Competition getting to the 5th round once; one more win and we'd have been at the finals in Portugal. Langland Bay who beat us finished as runners- up in Portugal.
We've had particular success as a dub in the Daily Mail Foursomes, with several pairs passing the 4th or 5th rounds. In one year our pair got through to the last two clubs in Wales, but unfortunately failed at that hurdle.
As has been said in previous pages, two players from the club have represented Wales in the Ford Amateur International sides in consecutive years. That was an unbelievable feat for a club of our size.
Our social enjoyment after golf has been greatly enhanced by two hostelries acting as our 19th Hole. From the early 70s to '84, St Nons Hotel looked after us for matches. Whitesands Bay Hotel has been our 19th Hole from '84 to 2002 and we have had many happy times there, mulling over missed putts, brilliant shots and celebrating the occasional hole-in-one over a couple of pints. This aspect of the club is currently in flux since the hotel's sale, but we have been welcomed at The City Inn, which takes us back to the beginning of this story as The Railway Hotel.
Over the years the club has had to raise money to keep our heads above water and fund developments and many functions were organised by dedicated members; functions included Barn Dances, tea dances, raffles, coffee mornings, cheese and wine evenings, fun nights, Open Days and many more, raising thousands of pounds."
We are very proud of our club and recognize the contribution over the years by the members who instituted the club and those who came later, keeping it going through the rough times and the smooth. In a way it is remarkable that we still have a club in this small community - It is Important to nurture what we have and protect and develop it.