The First Game and the Official Course Opening
image: JH Taylor conducts the ceremonial drive
It is unclear when the first ball was struck on the “Harewood Downs golf links”, as it was called. We have the original visitors’ book which shows that Lord Albert Osborn was the first visitor on September 20th, 1907, a guest of Archibald Grove. In a letter to fellow debenture holders in September 1911, Busick Pemberton states “The Company was formed in 1907 and shortly afterwards the course was opened.” So the guess is that play did start around that time. It would appear that the Clubhouse was ready for use by then as the Committee held its first Meeting there on the 5th October, when Captain W M T Synge was appointed Secretary.
In total there were ten visitors signed in between September 20th and the end of 1907 including Major A E Williams, destined to be the Club’s second secretary in 1909 on the resignation of Captain Synge. From the memoirs of Busick Pemberton’s daughter it is believed that Cokes Green at the entrance to the Club was built for the Secretary at the same time as the Clubhouse. However, Captain Synge would have been the only Secretary to live there as Major Williams lived locally and Busick Pemberton himself moved there in 1909, initially using it as his country house.
image: The “Great Triumvirate” J H Taylor, James Braid and Harry Vardon
It was not until June 22nd, 1908, however, that the course was officially opened by no less personages than Harry Vardon and J H Taylor, playing a 36-hole match.
An article in Golf Illustrated of July 3rd, 1908 describes the opening of the course and the encounter between Vardon and Taylor. Happily, it also includes photographs of the event, which are reproduced by kind permission of the British Library under their index reference C2205-01.