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A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

Although The Glamorganshire Golf Club cannot boast to being the oldest club in Wales it was certainly the first to introduce the game to the inhabitants of the heavily populated and industrialised southeast of Wales in 1890.

On 18 October 1890, the Penarth Chronicle reported that,

“We hear that the famous American game of Golf is about to be introduced to this neighbourhood. It appears that Lord Windsor has given a piece of ground at Lower Penarth for the purposes of the game. A meeting has been called for Monday night next, for the purpose of forming a club.”

The writer who penned the article clearly failed to appreciate that golf was regarded by those who knew anything about the sport that it was primarily viewed, as a Scottish game. To dampen down any enthusiasm, the writer concluded by stating that

“Football, however, will be able to show a clean pair of heels to golf in the race for popularity.”

Despite this warning the same local newspaper, in their edition of 1 November, confirmed that the meeting had proceeded on 27 October at the Jubilee Hall. The Secretary, Mr Young, advised that  following a meeting held 7 days earlier, when it was decided to form a golf club and for it to be called The Glamorganshire Golf Club, Lord Windsor has agreed to allow them the ground on the usual Penarth terms, which meant that they would have it rent free for the first year.

Despite the newspaper publishing the off-putting poem, ‘The Golf Widow’s Lament’ in the same edition, nothing could dissuade the fledgling club from making speedy progress to fulfil its mission. However, the sight that greeted the founders of the club as they surveyed the patchwork of clay-based fields of Home Farm would not have been immediately encouraging in that extremely cold November. Criss-crossed by hedges and ditches, uneven and patched by gorse, the land did not look inviting.

On that unlikely foundation was fashioned a course and a club that over the next few years:

  • Played a leading role in founding the Welsh Golf Union
  • Hosted the Welsh Amateur Championship (twice) and the inaugural Welsh Ladies Championship
  • Prior to WW1 provided 5 Men’s Welsh Amateur Champions (3 of whom were double champions) and 2 Ladies Welsh Amateur Champions including Blanche Duncan, from the famous Duncan family who won it 5 times.
  • Was the birthplace of the famous Stableford scoring system.
  • Attracted the top professional of the day to Wales and hosted the first professional golf tournament.
  • Provided the impetus, together with many founder members forming Royal Porthcawl Golf Club

All that, plus providing a focal point for the game’s early appeal and development in South Wales, was a tremendous achievement by a group of dedicated men, who, it was reported ‘were to a certain extent, ignorant of the peculiar requirements of a golf club.’ Ignorant or not, it did not stop them planting their enthusiasm in this infertile ground and making the massive contribution from which tens of thousands of golfers have benefitted.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

“A group of members seated on the veranda of
The Glamorganshire’s first clubhouse in 1893.”

Thomas marriott barlow – the first captain of the glamorganshire gc

“Henry Simpson (left) and Thomas Barlow in 1902 at The Glamorganshire clubhouse.”

Tom Barlow was a remarkable all-round sportsman whose contribution to the development of golf in Wales was outstanding.

He was born in Pendleton, Lancashire, in 1864, the youngest of four children. By the age of sixteen Tom had moved to Cardiff by himself and taken articles with the Town Clerk.

In his spare time Tom devoted himself to rugby and cricket. He joined Cardiff Football Club and played as fullback on 49 occasions for the Club between 1881 and 1884. He was eventually rewarded with one solitary Welsh cap against Ireland in 1884. It was the first international match played at the Cardiff Arms Park and Wales were victorious. However, it proved to be the last game of rugby that Tom played as he suffered a major injury to his foot. The Wales Captain that day (and Tom’s Cardiff captain) was Henry Joseph Simpson. Another Northerner who also went on to make a substantial mark in golf by founding Royal Porthcawl and becoming its first Captain.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

“Tom Barlow (left) seated alongside Jo Simpson prior to Wales v Ireland match at Cardiff Arms Park in 1884.”

By 1890 Tom was a 26-year-old bachelor, comfortably off having established his own legal practice and boasting an excellent sporting pedigree. It was hardly surprising that when The Glamorganshire Golf Club was established that the members turned to Tom to be their first captain. Such was his success at filling this role that he was elected for a second year of office. Five years later he was appointed Captain for the third time.

In 1899 Tom was elected as Honorary Treasurer to the fledgling Welsh Golfing Union and faithfully discharged this office for the next twenty-four years. Three years later he became the Union’s Secretary and held the position for a further 15 years.

Why Tom was never elected to become President of the WGU is a mystery. He was undoubtedly its greatest servant and unsung hero.

The duncan family – a golfing dynasty

The Guinness book entitled ‘Golf Records Facts and Champions’ dedicates a section to this talented family whose achievements it describes as ‘unique.’ Their involvement in Welsh life began when David Duncan, moved to Cardiff in the 1860’s and established a newspaper empire. The Cardiff Times, Evening News, South Wales Echo and South Wales Daily. He had 3 sons, John, David, and Alexander who were also enthusiastic golfers and founding members of The Glamorganshire Golf Club. Alexander was a founding member and player for Cardiff Rugby Club and progressed to be its President. He became a selector and Vice President of the Welsh Rugby Union and in its early years he is credited with being the main financial backer of the WRU. He also became a founding member of the International Rugby Board and one of the main influences behind the famous Barbarian Football Club choosing Penarth as their home base in 1901.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

Alexander Duncan-Captain1899-1900

However, it was the children and grandchildren of Sir John Duncan who really excelled at golf. 
All five children became members of The Glamorganshire but only John, his younger brother, Joseph Hugh, and Blanche really excelled in the game.

John won the Welsh Amateur Golf Championship in 1905 before being made Captain of The Glamorganshire two years later. However, has the dubious distinction of being the only captain of the club to have resigned his position. In 1933 he was elected Chairman of the Welsh Golfing Union and was also a founder member of Southerndown Golf Club and a member and champion of Royal Porthcawl, but he always regarded The Glamorganshire as his home club.

John married Margery Travis in 1912 and she proved to be an equally competitive golfer. The same year that she married she became The Glamorganshire’s Lady Champion, a feat that she repeated on a further five occasions. At Royal Porthcawl she won the ladies’ championship seven times. She also took the Welsh Championship on three occasions between 1922 and 1928.

Margery Duncan and Henry Howell at The Glamorganshire about 1920

Blanche was a prolific winner. She won The Glamorganshire Ladies Championship on five occasions between 1904 and 1910. She also had the distinction of becoming The Glamorganshire’s Lady Captain in 1903. Her son, Michael Ivor Jones, won the British Seniors’ Championship in 1974.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

Blanche Duncan captaining The Glamorganshire to 1909 Welsh Championship

The golfing prowess of John and Margery was passed down to their three sons, John, Tony and George. Their oldest son, Captain John Duncan, was killed in World War 2 and Tony, who also joined the army began his golfing career at The Glamorganshire, winning the Club’s Boys’ Championship in 1929. He went on to be runner-up in the Welsh Championships four years later before winning the coveted title four times between 1938 – 54. He also reached the final of the British Amateur in 1939 and captained the British Walker Cup team in 1953
John Duncan passed away in 1952 and in memory of him his son, Tony, inaugurated The Duncan Putter at Southerndown Golf Club. One of the most prestigious amateur tournaments in the UK. The putter was John’s very own.

Tony Duncan during the Walker Cup trials at St Andrews in 1938

JOHN and JAMES HUNTER – Father and Son Welsh Amateur Champions

John and James Hunter hold the great distinction of being the only father and son, from the same club, who have been Welsh Amateur Golf Champions. The fact that they each won the championship twice makes their achievement even more unique in the annals of Welsh golfing history.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

John HunterJames Hunter

John was The Glamorganshire’s leading player when the inaugural Welsh Amateur Championships took place in 1895. In the final he narrowly beat his fellow Glamorganshire player, Tom Barlow, to take the title. The following year he repeated his success when the Championship was held at Rhyl Golf Club

In 1897 The Glamorganshire Golf Club were given the honour of hosting the Welsh Championship which necessitated the extension of the 9-hole course to 18 holes. John was the driving force behind the extension works which included immense physical effort. The works were concluded just in time for the championship and despite his physical excursions on the course John again made it to the final. He lost the final, but John’s belated prize was to secure the captaincy of The Glamorganshire Golf Club four years later. Surprisingly, he never managed to win The Glamorganshire Club Championship.

John’s son, James, proved to be an incredibly talented golfer from a tender age and won The Glamorganshire Club Championship in 1902, 04 and 07. The Welsh Championship was again staged at The Glamorganshire in 1902 when James overcame Porthcawl’s Hal Ludlow in the final. The following year he succeeded again, this time beating The Glamorganshire’s Tom Barlow. Although he went on to win Royal Porthcawl’s club championship he died prematurely at the age of 32. His father later went to reside in St Fagan’s and passed away in 1931, aged 78.

The Professionals

The Glamorganshire has been blessed, from the outset, to have employed loyal and talented Professionals in the main. However, in the first 12 years of the Club it went through these at a rate of knots.
William East, our first professional was appointed in November 1890 before transferring to The Monmouthshire in 1893. The next 3 were shorter lived. Willie Hunter was the last of this trio Willie was appointed to the position in 1896 on the recommendation of his uncle, Ramsey Hunter, the professional of Royal St George’s, where Willie was an assistant. At the time Ramsey had been engaged by Royal Porthcawl to design their new course. A year later Willie, with some advice from his uncle, was responsible for extending The Glamorganshire to an 18-hole course in anticipation of the club hosting the Welsh Amateur. In 1898 Willie left The Glamorganshire and emigrated to accept a position of the professional at The Australian in Sydney, the oldest club in the Commonwealth.

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

Willie Hunter

WILLIAM MULES was appointed in Hunter’s place and was described as an industrious and an excellent golfer. However, the honeymoon period ended when it was that he had invented a new kind of club, which several players speak exceedingly well of. One man, who used it said he was able to make much longer drives.’ Unfortunately Mules seized the opportunity to exploit this invention to the detriment of the Club by concentrating most of his energy in manufacturing the clubs on the Club premises.

In April 1901 it was reported in the local press, ‘that the workshop connected with The Glamorganshire Golf Club has no fewer than four hands working almost day and night turning out clubs including Mules’s patent drivers and brasseries, both for export and home use. They are a vast improvement upon the old style of clubs, both in appearance and utility.’ However, in February 1902 matters came to a head. Mules was accused of neglecting the needs of members and he was obliged to resign. Having left he sourced larger alternative premises in Penarth where he continued to manufacture on a larger scale. They were so popular that Mules secured a patent in the USA in September 1902.

WILLIE FERNIE was appointed Mule’s successor in March 1902. Willie was born in St Andrews in 1863 but no relation to his more illustrious namesake, His tenure as professional lasted 26 years during which his superb coaching skills led The Glamorganshire to dominate Welsh amateur golf. His knowledge of course maintenance led to major early improvements in links at The Glamorganshire. This in turn led him into becoming one of the most significant course architects of his day. He was responsible for the design and construction of Radyr, Southerndown, Aberavon and Ladyhill (the original Newport course) apart from over 20 other courses around the UK. He was also a renowned coach and was responsible for The Glamorganshire’s dominance in Welsh golf prior to World War 11.

In 1928 Willie became the head green keeper at The Glamorganshire, having been described in the Western Mail as ‘one of the greatest living authorities on greenkeeping’. He passed away at his home in Stanwell Road, Penarth, at the age of 75.

A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

Willie Fernie with green staff

ROBERT WALKER took over Willie’s position in May 1929. He won the Welsh Professional Championship in 1928 and remained the club professional for 22 years.

FINLAY MORRISON, and RICHARD KEMP followed with neither staying very long.

SID MOULAND was The Glamorganshire’s eleventh club professional and would remain for 20 years. There is no doubting that he was the most talented golfer that the club had employed as a professional and was one of the best Welsh players of his era.

He won the Welsh Professional Championship a record 6 times, He also won the Welsh Close Championship 4 times and represented Wales in the World Cup on 3 occasions. This was apart from twice winning the Regent Oil Tournament held at The Glamorganshire in the 1960’s.

PGA captain, Neil Selwyn-Smith described him as the finest exponent of the short game he had ever seen.

The year after Sid arrived at The Glamorganshire his son, Mark, was born. Unsurprisingly, he would eventually follow in the family tradition in joining the golfing professional ranks. Before he did, he became the first Welsh winner of the British Boys Amateur Championship. He became the youngest winner of the title having only recently turned 15 years. Mark joined the professional ranks in 1981 and remains so up to the present time as a member of the Seniors Tour.

Sid Mouland

A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

ANDREW KERR SMITH, joined, as the club professional, after a few years spent teaching golf in Sweden. When he arrived, after Sid’s departure, he never envisaged that he would become the club’s longest serving professional, beating all others by over a decade of loyal service.

A royal visit by prince christian of schleswig-holstein

Prince Frederick Christian Charles Augustus, son-in-law to Queen Victoria, visited in June 1901 as Cardiff was due to host the prestigious Royal Show. It was to be the last year in which the show would be a nomadic one. The Prince had been keen to see the facilities as his brother-in-law, King Edward, had recently authorised the construction of the Royal Household course on the Windsor estate where the Prince resided.

After the lunch the Prince travelled to St Fagan’s Castle where he met Lord Windsor who was due to host him during his stay in Cardiff. 
The first was to Barry Docks After inspecting the two docks the royal party caught the train once more and headed off in the direction of Penarth. The train stopped at the Lower Penarth Halt just opposite The Glamorganshire Golf Club. The two men alighted the special train and made their way by foot to the clubhouse which had only recently been built. After the inspection of the building and the links ‘Lord Windsor explained the details to the Prince, who appeared highly pleased with what he saw.

The visit of Prince Christian and Lord Windsor

 A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

DR WILLIAM BARRY – A Giant Athlete

Dr William Joseph Murphy Barry joined The Glamorganshire Golf Club in 1903 and became its Captain in 1912.
He was born in Midleton, County Cork, on 22 June 1866 and travelled the world exploiting his great athletic prowess.
By 1902 it was reported that Dr Barry held three world records:

  1. Slinging 56lbs (between the legs) without follow 27ft.
  2. Slinging 56lbs (between the legs) with follow 29ft 8ins.
  3. Throwing 16lb hammer (iron head and wooden handle) from 9ft circle 138ft 7ins.

While visiting the USA he even went on to win their heavyweight boxing championship and did the same in Australia! Such was his fame in America that his image appeared on a cigarette card (beneath).
Dr Barry passed away on 18 March 1926.
Probably, the most colourful and larger than life Captain that The Glamorganshire had the privilege of having.

A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

HENRY RUPERT HOWELL – A Prodigious but unfulfilled Talent

Henry Howell was by far the most successful Welsh amateur golfer between the two World Wars. His success rate at club and national level was astonishing. He won The Glamorganshire club championship on 19 occasions between 1921 and 1957 and, if it had not been for World War 11, he would probably have won a further five times). Between 1920 and 1932 he won the Welsh Amateur Championship a record 8 times and was the driving force behind The Glamorganshire winning the Welsh Team Championships on 8 occasions between 1920 and 1935. He also played for Wales in 29 Home International matches and was Captain on many occasions. At its lowest his handicap was plus 3.
John Hopkins, the renowned Times golf journalist wrote that: ‘Henry Howell was the best amateur golfer Wales produced for 80 years. He was arguably the best golfer, amateur and professional, Wales produced until Dai Rees. He was one of the best golfers in Britain and he should have played Walker Cup golf.

Although Henry never made it into The Guinness Book of Records for the number of titles he won during his illustrious career, he did for an accomplishing a round of golf in record time in 1933. Henry’s father had presented a cup to The Glamorganshire and qualification for it was by putting in three cards. Henry had already submitted two good cards up to the closing date for qualification. He happened to be in the bar that evening and someone asked him if he proposed putting in a third card. He confirmed that he would, and the conversation turned to what he felt he might score and how long it would take him to go round. Bets were taken with odds as high as 40-1 against him scoring 65 or better in 70 minutes. Henry scored 63 in 68 minutes and collected on every bet.
Henry went on to become Captain of The Glamorganshire in 1937, 20 years after he joined the club.
He served as secretary of The Glamorganshire in the early Sixties before departing for Rhodesia.

2Henry Howell in 1925
Henry Howell Amateur Championship 1934

A club steeped in history and tradition – the beginning of a journey.

The Great Triumvirate

When John Henry Taylor won the Open at Royal St George’s in 1894 it marked the beginning of the dominance by Britain’s ‘Great Triumvirate’, J.H. Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid. Vardon came joint fifth and Braid joint tenth. Over the next twenty years they won the Open between them sixteen times such was their monopoly of the event. More than anybody they put the game of golf on the sporting map and led to a huge surge in the development of golf courses throughout the UK. Between 1897 and 1918 Braid played at The Glamorganshire on 4 occasions, Vardon 3 and Taylor once.

In 1901 The Glamorganshire decide to hold the first professional tournament to be held in the Principality. It was fixed for Wednesday, 22 May, with a first prize of £20, second of £15, and third of £10. This sum was considerable and was likely to attract some of the finest players in the UK.

With Harry Vardon, J.H.Taylor, James Braid, The Evening Express reported that ‘Never before has there been such a collection of first-class professionals from all parts of the kingdom as there will be in this competition. Vardon won by 2 strokes from Braid. Two weeks later at Muirfield the Great Triumvirate battled it out for The Open Championship. It was to be Braid’s first Open win. “On this occasion Braid managed to gain revenge and beat Vardon by 3 shots for his first Open win. Braid won £50 and Vardon £25.

No group of golfers have left such an indelible impact on the history of golf as these three legendary golfers. The Glamorganshire Golf Club will forever be indebted to them for gracing their links with their remarkable talents.

1918 visit of the Great Triumvirate
Vardon, Taylor, Herd and Braid on the putting green