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.

highlands golf club opening souvenir

Official Opening Souvenir – Oct 2nd 1926

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.

Article citing the new Club House 1928

Article citing the new Club House 1928

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.

highlands golf coffey family

Family group left to right: John Hugh Coffey, Mrs Margaret (Peg) Coffey (nee Smith), Alexander MacFarlan Smith, Ethel Hazelwood (unconfirmed) | Estimated Date 1928/9)

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.

Part Two: Old Course Layout and Size.

The original course built in the early 1920’s, (officially opened on 2′1 October 1926) was only 9 holes in length. The par for each 9 holes totaled 38 but the first 9 was made up of 2 x par 6, 2 x par 5, 1 x par 4, 4 x par 3, whilst the second saw 1 x par 6, 3 x par 5, 2 x par 4 and 3 x par 3. The ladies par for each 9 holes was 47 strokes, with each nine consisting of 1 x par 7, 3 x par 6, 2 x par 5, and 3 x par 4. Another point of interest is that on the original score card the word ‘par’ was not used, but the word ‘bogey’ was printed. Apparently, in those early days the 2 words were interchangeable, not having different definitions as they do now.

Before the main road was re-directed over the railway line in the late 1950’s the highway was to the east of the railway in front of the current Fitzroy Inn, or Oaklands Guest House as it was then known, and near the old maltings.

The course was designed by a Mr Carnegie Clark who not only supplemented his living by making hickory shafted golf clubs, was also the club’s first professional. For more information on Carnegie Clark, refer to the notes on the origins of the Highlands Golf Club. His son Hastings Clark arrived in 1933 and during a stay of 6 months created the first grass green. This green was the 9th which is now the 18th hole.

Old scorecard

Old scorecard

The first tee was situated to the east of the current clubhouse approximately in the middle of the current main road. This was situated next to the bowling club which was near the railway line with the new bowling club and bowling green opened in December 1937. This first golf hole was a par 4 across the Nattai Creek with the green situated at a point further up the road not far from the railway line. The tee was encircled with a hedge made from thorn bushes.

The second hole was a par 3 with the tee situated near the railway with a north westerly direction towards a copse of trees near where the current first hole is situated.

The third hole was a par 6 which was played similarly to the current 5th hole. All the area to the right of this (our current 2nd hole), was all bush which was owned by the railways.

The fourth hole was a par 5 which was played similarly to the current 9th hole.

The fifth hole was a par 3 currently played similarly, but shorter, to the current 4th hole.

The sixth hole was a par 6 which is currently played as the 14th hole. The bush between these 2 holes was very thick indeed. The old green can be seen on that fairway adjacent to the water tank on that hole. At some stage this hole was reduced to a par 4 and then when the course was made 18 holes it became a par 5.

The seventh hole was a par 3 hitting off south from about the current 15th green with the sandstone quarry between the tee and green. This quarry plus the thick bush to the right made the need for accuracy all important.

The eighth hole was a par 5 commencing near the top of the hill half way down the current 16th fairway but right next to the bush on the right hand side. The fairway followed the tree line over the newly installed mounds to the current 17th green.

The ninth hole was a par 3 back across the Nattai Creek like the current 18th hole but with the tee nearer to the back of the current first tee.

Obviously, the course was played twice to play 18 holes.

Bunkers as we know them now did not exist in the earliest years with hazards like bunkers being mounds of dirt running straight across the fairways from one side to the other.

Interestingly, a copy of the score card at that time, 1926, does not refer to par for each hole but to bogey or ladies bogey. This apparently was because at this time the term bogey meant the same as par. Also of interest was the fact that the par for men was 76 for 18 holes and 94 for lady golfers!

During the early days, prior to the 2nd World War, barbwire was put around the greens to keep stock off the greens. A Mr Griffiths from the Maltings was responsible for a great deal of this barbwire fencing. After the War, fences were built around the greens to keep stock off them as sheep, cattle and horses were often agisted on the course to keep the undergrowth down.

Specific local rules covering these new structures were introduced onto the then score cards.

During the time of the 9 hole course, various changes to the layout on specific holes were made but the major change was incorporated in the early 1960’s.

In 1939 the Mittagong Bowling Club and bowling green were built behind the then first tee near the railway line.

When the decision was made in the late 1950’s by the DMR (Department of Main Roads), to build a new railway overpass or bridge and direct the Hume Highway on the western side of the railway, next to the golf course, the layout had to be changed as both tees 1 and 2 would have to be moved. This also meant a move for the bowling club to its new location at Alexandra Square in Mittagong.

To facilitate this change, a new hole was built between the then fifth hole and the then third hole. This was a par 3 hole currently between the current 4th and 5th holes. This hole became the new 2nd hole.

With this new hole replacing the former 2nd hole, the new first tee was built with a new green being built where the rt hole is now. Whether a new green was built or the old second green used is a moot point with the slope of the green definitely facing the direction of the original 2nd tee.

It was reported in the minutes of the May 7th 1967 monthly committee meeting that, “Report by President on land adjoining the Golf Club, resulting in a discussion of plans for an 18 hole course. It was left in the hands of the greens committee to draw up plans for the 18 hole course and state the amount of land required to be resumed.”

A letter from the council, Mittagong Shire Council dated 21st June 1967 to the golf club stated that the councils opinion was favourable and it did resolve to secure 38 acres, (14 hectares), of land adjoining the then current course.

This 18 hole expansion was completed in early 1974 with the official opening on 8th December 1974.