Part One: Origins of Highlands Golf Club
The Highlands Golf Club, as it is known now, had its official opening on 2nd October 1926 as Mittagong Municipal Golf Links. To arrive at this momentous occasion, a great deal of hard work, lobbying and decisions had to have been made.
In the early part of 1922, the Mittagong Municipal Council, as it was known then, first took steps to acquire land by purchase, lease and resumption to create a sporting and recreational area on the northern outskirts of the town of Mittagong. The swimming pool area was purchased from the railways in 1928 and the pool opened officially in 1931.
The decision was made by council to allocate 25 acres, (9 hectares), for a general oval and sports ground.
In 1928 the NRMA purchased 550 acres, (approx 220 hectares), and opened the first Caravan Park in Australia. In 1947, the then called Nattai Shire Council, purchased the land to preserve it as part of the sporting precinct. The Mittagong Bowling Club was formed in 1937 with the club house and bowling green officially opened on 13th December 1939. This was situated where the main road is currently as the Hume Highway stayed on the eastern side of the railway and didn’t cross the railway until nearby the maltings.
As there was the need to purchase some land for the proposed golf club plus the actual cost of construction of the course, the council in October 1922 prepared and published its estimates for these costs. A local landholder of a large area of pastoral land and also a keen sportsman including golf, a Mr C Murray, was approached and agreed to supply the required loan of 1000 pounds, ($2000).
The work commenced that year but the task was enormous with the area covered with giant eucalypts and dense scrub. A great deal of the labour was voluntary in these initial days, which has been a constant factor in the long life of the club. A great deal of the clearing work was carried out by Mr W Worner using bullock teams to clear the tall timber and scrub.
With this clearing and forming of the golf course underway, it was found in 1925 that a further 500 pounds, ($1000) was needed to finish the work.
Despite complaints from some ratepayers, the approval was given to the council to borrow the additional money which was again made available by Mr Murray and his sister Miss Murray.
The initial course layout was designed by the then famous Australian golfer Carnegie Clark who was also the clubs first professional. Carnegie Clarke was considered, in some circles, to be the father of professional golf in Australia. Born in Scotland in 1881, he arrived in Australia in 1902 to work for a sports store. He toured the east coast promoting golf, giving tuition and obtaining orders for clubs and balls. He became professional in 1904 at the Royal Sydney Golf Club. Carnegie Clark, together with his colleague Dan Sauter, were instrumental in establishing the PGA in Australia with the first meeting held in the pro shop at Royal Sydney in 1911.
Carnegie’s design of courses in Sydney and across the state continued for many years with his son Hastings Clark, helping at many times. Hastings arrived at Mittagong in 1933 and during a stay of 6 months created the first grass green on the Mittagong course, this being the the 9th green or the current 18th green now. He, Hastings, then moved on to Bowral Golf Club where he was golf professional for over 50 years. Carnegie designed and made clubs and other equipment in his back yard for many years. Another son, Carnegie junior, carried on the business when his father died in 1959 and continued making them until the death of his mother in 1980.
By October 1925 the course started to take shape, so a meeting was called to form a golf club. Those present were Alderman Terry, (in the chair), A L Horniman, C N Lee, C Boswell, A Shimmels, J Kennedy, A N Chew, H D Ferguson, R W Downs, C H Thompson, R W Nichols, A E Boswell, H Hedger, H C Hain, S Downs and Miss S E Hatherall. At this meeting it was proposed to ask council if they could lease the course for a nominal 1 pound, ($2), per year for 3 years and resolved to have annual fees of 2 guineas, ($4:20) per annum for gentlemen and 1 guinea, ($2:10), for associates.
The elected president was C H Thompson, secretary was A N Chew, and treasurer C N Lee. As an aside, Mr Claude Lee the Treasurer, at a later time, hiked from Mittagong to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and then hiked back!
The first annual general meeting in 1926 was held with all the above office bearers being re-elected. In August 1926 the Ladies Associate golf club was formed with Mrs Dobson, (the mayoress), elected president, Mrs S Downs vice president, and Miss D Thompson secretary.
After the first meeting in 1925, the work in finishing the course increased rapidly. The removal of rocky outcrops, removal of stumps and the overall layout of the tees, fairways and greens were the major items needing attention. Most of the heavy clearing and rock removal was carried out by horses. One ongoing problem which continued for many a year was the keeping control of the bracken type ferns.
Just before the official opening, Aldermen Boswell and Hedger together with a volunteer working bee, constructed a new bridge across the Nattai Creek, and Mr W H Jones lent a tarpaulin for the ladies refreshment booth. Mr Horniman who had been paid 25 pounds, ($50), for the survey and layout of the course for the council, donated the 25 pounds back to the club.
The official opening of the Mittagong Municipal Golf Course took place on Saturday, 2nd October 1926.
The Mayor, Alderman Dobson and President of the club Mr C H Thompson welcomed all the guests from local areas with a large contingent from Sydney.
Mr Murray, who had financed the 2 loans, was given the honor of officially opening the course. On playing the first ball, his skill was warmly applauded by all in attendance. As a keepsake to remind him of the occasion, he was presented with a suitably inscribed paperweight made with a base of Joadja shale with a slab of brown country rock on the shale and a sphere of obsidian representing a golf ball on top.
The Friday evening before the opening of the golf course, a ball was held in the School of Arts Hall with Mr Beavan’s orchestra engaged for the evening, Mr C Boswell decorating the hall and the ladies under Mrs Chester Smith produced food for the almost 200 attendees. A listing of 80 ladies and a description of the material for each of their dresses was reported in the local newspaper at the time with a copy enclosed.
During the following year, 1927, matches on a home and away basis were played against Bargo, Campbelltown and Kangaroo Valley Clubs with wins recorded against Bargo and Kangaroo Valley. Mr Murray, the clubs early benefactor, donated a shield on behalf of his late father, Judge Murray, for a yearly knockout competition and the local chemist, Mr Edgar Browne donated a silver cup for the club champion. Both trophies were won by Mr Jack Allen.
In 1928, stone for the extensions to St Stephens Anglican Church in Mittagong, was quarried on site from the golf course and transported by local carrier Vince Worner with the stone work carried out by Mr H Hedger. Both of these gentlemen were then currently on the golf club committee. This quarry was situated on the then short par 3 7th hole approximately near where the current 15th hole is situated. During these days the deep quarry was also known as the ‘snake pit’ for obvious reasons! If your ball entered this region the resulting ricochet could send a ball anywhere or alternatively you ventured into the snake habitat.
The first clubhouse was built in 1928 by Mr H Hedges in a position near to the current clubhouse position. Arthur L Horniman who was the Captain of the club and had been very involved in the effort to erect the building, performed the opening ceremony on 29th June 1928.
In 1933/34 a group of golfers from the club became disgruntled with the conditions of the fairways and general course condition at the club, and formed a new club situated in Dave Cupitt’s Paddock on Bong Bong Street Mittagong. This was a 9 hole course situated on the right hand side of Bong Bong Street from Mary Street heading east. There was a small stone building with a verandah around it which served as a club house and all work on the course, like the original course near the highway, was voluntary. Coincidently, there was also a hole which went over a quarry which was called the brickpit. The actual grass may have been greener but the effort and support for the breakaway group did not last forever. The old club called itself Mittagong Park Golf Club and the new breakaway club, Mittagong Golf Club. This situation continued until 1940 when the breakaway group came back to the original site and the club took the name of Mittagong Golf Club.
Despite this breakaway group the Mittagong Park Golf Club, as it was still
known then, put on a big 3 day tournament in early May 1937 called the Coronation Tournament to celebrate the Coronation of King George VI. (See ATTACHMENT E). The major event was a 36 hole stroke scratch competition on the Sunday for the prestigious Mittagong Championship Cup donated by the Mittagong Municipal Council. This appears to be the forerunner of the current popular and prestigious Mittagong Cup.
The golf club remained dormant in the war years from 1941 to 1945, but after the War the golf club recommenced operations. In 1946/47 it was decided by council to revamp the course for a cost of about 1000 pounds, ($2000), and with the assistance of members George Elliot, Carl Dowling, Peter Osbourn, Vince Worner and Len Hawkins, the course fairways were ploughed up and sown with new grasses. The sowing was so successful that the members could not keep up with the mowing of the fairways so the 9 greens were all fenced off and cattle plus horses from the Greta Drew Riding School of Bowral were agisted on the course to try and keep the grass down.
On score cards of that time, amongst others are the following local rules. Rule 3. A ball striking any part of Green Fence, the ball Must Be Replayed. Rule 4. If Green Fence be an obstruction to the ball or player… ….. the ball may be removed one club length but not nearer the hole. Rule 5. Hoof marks, wheel tracks, animal scrapes and manure on course should be treated as GUR.
In 1950 an officer of the Department of Agriculture identified some deficiencies in the soil at the club with very poor soil and slow growth of grass so when the Mittagong Shire Council was doing some work at the foot of Catherine Hill, just north of Mittagong, the golf club was the fortunate recipient of some excellent top soil.
In 1954 the Council purchased on behalf of the club a Gang Mower for 400 pounds, ($800), to be paid back over 6 years.
Despite the herculean efforts of the membership, with their voluntary work, the club finances over the next few years became worse each year. The Council tried to broker a takeover by the Mittagong RSL of the golf club but that did not eventuate. Meetings were held in early 1961 between the three parties to try and find a solution to the golf clubs problems.. It was acknowledged that the golf club had always depended on a great amount of voluntary labour to keep fairways and greens playable and this has been exacerbated by the poor water supply. The Council grant of 250 pounds,($500), annual golf fees and green fees were the only source of income as there were no licensed premises. The merging of the clubs struck a big hurdle with the inability of the RSL liquor license to be “split.”
With nothing eventuating out of this merger proposition, it was decided in mid 1961 to disband the golf club and hand over the assets to the council. This disappointing decision did not last long as a meeting was called by Councilor Bender, Shire President of Mittagong Shire Council, to reform the golf club on 15/11/1961.