The Foundation date appears to be in the early 1890's and the oldest minute book in the club's possession is that of 1923.
Links On The Common
There have been four different golf links in Portland, so we will divide the activities of the game as and when played on these separate localities called “The Common” that the game began in our town. A Common was an area, adjoining every country town, where citizens ran their milking cows, etc for a small sum. The Portland Common, long since covered by houses etc, extended from Fern Street northwards and beyond, and from the sea out west of Hurd Street. Thanks to the retentive memory of Mr. Keith Anderson, we have a plan of the first links. As a boy he acted as caddie, and at times a player thereon.
No doubt many enthusiasts hit golf balls about Portland’s open spaces before a club was formed, but the first definite mention of golf comes in “The Guardian” 8th October 1897 and announces.
The first competition for Mr. Rose’s trophy was finished this morning and resulted after many good games as follows;
There is no mention of Golf Club but we can safely assume there was one to control matches like the above. Being the first recorded competition we will follow the concluding rounds. The second resulted:— Miss E. Clarke 60 beat Miss Anderson 65, Master C. Lear-month 70 beat Mrs. Simpson 75, Mr. A. E. Simpson 54 beat Mr. J. J. K. Mills 70. In the next; Mr. A. E. Simpson 46 beat Master C. Learmonth 59, Miss Findley 60 beat Miss Clarke 64, and finally A. E. Simpson 54 beat Miss Findley 60.
All the above have long since driven their last ball. We get some news of early Portland golf from “The Australasian” 15th April 1899. (The “Australasian” was one of those fine weekly publications that were a credit to Australian journalism in early years) In “Golf Gossip” Bulger writes - “it is always pleasant to hear of new clubs starting. The latest is a nine hole one, but a good nine hole is better than a short 18. It extends over a mile and half. The first hole about 340 yards is very good, the width between the road and the cliff is about 40 yards, you have to drive very straight. The greens are rough yet the turf is good. Miss Clarke is the leading player and plays a very good game indeed. A Royal Melbourne Club player went around nine holes in 42 the course cannot be very bad, he holed one hole 140 yards in “one”. We can almost say for sure this was the first hole in one at Portland. To this we add that the course was strewn with natural hazards eroded water courses and deep holes.
During the next ten years there are very few references to golf, but a paragraph in the “Guardian” 17th April 1903 indicates that the Club had run into rough waters. “An effort is being made by some members of the Portland Bowling Club to institute a Golfing Club in connection therewith. This would keep members more in touch during the winter months when bowling is impracticable, and perhaps stimulate the game in Portland where it has in the past had only a very languid existence.”
Whether the Bowling Club or the Golf Club carried on is unrecorded but the game continued on “The Common” till the end of 1908. Then the Club sought Pastures New, an easy move as there was no Golf House and probably not even a toilet block. It is unfortunate but the bogey for the individual holes and for the course has never been found and incidentally, a passing bullock wagon was the only hold up in driving a ball across Percy and Bentinck Streets.
It seems strange that the Club should desert the open spaces of their first links for the cramped conditions of the Foreshore. Probably new houses encroaching on the Common made the move necessary. Certainly the new course was handy to the town, and contained many natural golf areas with no need to make bunkers.
One hole in particular — number 6, “The Sandpit” so attracted a leading Melbourne player, that he remarked, “We’d give 100 pounds to have a hole like that on our links”. To which a nearby competitor who had just been in dire trouble in its sand dunes mumbled; “100 pounds!, You can have the thing if you’ll take it” .
Before the opening of the new links, the Golf Club Annual Meeting’ was held in the Town Hall 25th May 1909. W. P. Anderson was elected President and Thos. Hurley, Hon. Sec. Committee- J. S. Sleeman, R. T. Silvester. W. Savin, P. O’Donnell and H. M. Campbell.
The official opening was held on 2nd June 1909, the President driving the first ball. A Men’s 18 hole stroke handicap was then held and won by P. O’Donnell with a net 100 handicap 4. On the 19th July the qualifying round of the Men’s handicap was headed by Alec Anderson with gross 104, net 95, while Miss Goode led the ladies with 103 off scratch, she was waist high above all others.
By August the links were said to be very congested and as all the nine holes were somehow fitted in along the beach and towards Battery Point this is understandable. A new lay out took place with six holes remaining on the Foreshore and three new ones in the Garden Paddock, now Henty Park. On 25th August W. Savin recorded the first hole in one on the new links.
Here we should take a review of the Foreshore Links on which the Portland Golf Club were to operate for the next 30 years. Driving off from the Golf House south along the beach, the first hole bogey 4 guarded by a rough stone wall across the beach, Holes 2, 3, and 4 with bogies 4, 3, and 5 respectively, were in the Gardens Paddock, with bracken fern a nasty hazard around number 4. Then players moved to succession of greens between the gardens and the sea, mostly short hits, but where accuracy was a necessity as all were more or less obstructed by water. Hole number 5 bogey 3 was a hit across the creek to the green placed where the Harbour Trust Office now stands.
An over hit landed the ball in Portland Bay, a short one in the creek. But it is on record that the chief obstruction here was caused by an old woman who lived near the fairway in a condemned hut with 15 dogs. A ball landing near the hut was rescued at a peril, not from the dogs, but from the hordes of fleas infesting the surroundings. Number 6 bogey 3 was known as the “Sandpit” a drive along a narrow strip of sand hills between the creek and the sea. This was the hole valued as above 100 pounds. A hit off for the 7th bogey 4 had first to clear the “Devil’s Hole” a deep wide bend in the creek, which was the last resting place for scores of golf balls. One Portland clergy man is said to have put six consecutive balls in the hole followed by two more he borrowed from his opponent. Quite naturally he was afterwards referred to as the Parson who couldn’t beat the Devil. The 8th hole bogey 4 was a “corker” known as “Spion Kop”. If a player were brave he hit across the elbow in the creek to land on a narrow cape jutting out into the bay. Here the hole was guarded on three sides by rock walls with the sea beyond. The final hole bogey 4 was hit up the beach to the Golf House against those driving down for number one. If anyone was struck by a ball they never complained but it was no small risk. Such was the nature of the golfer’s home for 30 years and left in 1939 with many regrets.
The first Open Tournament on the Foreshore Links was held August 24th - 26th 1911. Dr Sleeman was President and P. O’Donnell Hon. Secretary. It was dominated by Hamilton players. Mixed Doubles - J. A. Learmonth and Mrs Laidlaw gross 88 net 86, Mens Handicap- J. McLellan gross 98 net 78, Mens Scratch —Hurtle Smith 87, Ladies H’Cap - Miss M. Goode gross 95 net 90, Ladies Scratch - Miss M. Goode 95, Mens Doubles H’Cap - F. Mercer and W. Laurence gross 91 net 85 The appearance of F. Mercer’ s name among the winners recalls the day on the links on which he went around with one stick and cleared up all opponents.
That the Golf Club was occupying part of the beach and at times restricting the Public from sea side facilities caused much ill feeling. On September 27th 1916 a petition signed by 307 people was presented to the Borough Council. They objected to golf on the Foreshore and requested the Lands Department to immediately cancel the Club’s lease. On October 25th., a counter petition of 316 names was read at the Council’s meeting requesting “that no steps be taken to remove such a valuable asset to the town”. Ultimately representatives of both parties met the Council and an agreement was reached by which some of the golf greens were moved for the convenience of the public. The club was granted permissive occupancy by the Lands Department.
During the 1914 - 1918 world war all tournaments etc were held for war fund purposes and when the Club reorganised in 1919 there were 24 men members at 15/- and 27 ladies at 7/6. By 1927 these figures had risen to 46 men at one pound and one shilling and 60 ladies at 15/-.
Towards the end of the 1930's, increasing pressure was being put on the Club from outside interests as golf on the Foreshore was a public danger and a club such as this should not be allowed on the people’s beaches. The time was coming for a move.
There was only one solution, the Portland Golf Club should purchase land and own its own links. Funds were low, two hundred and twenty seven pounds in credit and the membership small, 42 men and 51 ladies. These are February 1937 figures. The situation was tackled in an extraordinary way. Fully supported by the Club an entirely new body was set up. “Portland Golf Limited” a public company of 1000 shares at five pounds each. The Secretary of the Portland Golf Club, George Salthouse, on 4th January 1937 made the first announcement of this move to the Portland press and asked for public support.
The Memorandum of the Portland Golf Limited states among other things that it was formed “To promote the game of golf in Portland” “to provide links and grounds.... to take over the asset of the Portland Golf Club.... to apply for license etc.... All of which in the eye of the mere historian could have been done by the Portland Golf Club direct. On 8th February 1937 the Golf Club purchased 55 acres of heath and scrub country facing Portland Bay towards Blacknose Point for two hundred and twenty pounds, 29 acres from G. M. Taylor and 26 from A. M. Elliot. The next move in golf circles was a meeting of subscribers to the new Golf Limited 5th May 1937 and the following Provisional Directors were elected and given power to float the company - Alex Anderson (Chairman) G. B. Frost (Secretary) R.T. Silvester, 0. G. Pettit, Tom Day, A. Barcham, G. P. Learmonth and Jas Sleeman. At the first annual meeting of the Company 16th June 1935 Directors elected were Silvester, President and Anderson, Secretary.
In August 1938 part of the new links had been cleared, ploughed and were ready for seed sowing. Finance was running out and fencing was needed. 1st October 1938 was the last golf on the Foreshore Links. A two day Tournament of 18 events was held “The Guardian” 3rd October 1938 gives a three column list of all these games and players names. (A photo copy of these will be taken and given to the Golf Club of 1967) The Tournament Championship was won by K. M. Beggs of Hamilton with P. Graham of Portland two strokes behind. In the ladies event Miss J. Grant 84 led from Mrs N. G. Nicol 85.
In October 1938 Portland Golf Limited sold the Golf House on the beach to the Girl Guides for one hundred and twenty pounds. The ropes were cast off and the game ready to move on.