Thursday, 1 March 2018

147 Pennard Golf Club

147 Pennard Golf Club
What links Pennard, Clyne, Langland and Swansea Bay?  All are names of local golf clubs, which might sound unhistorical until one finds that the earliest club in the Swansea area has on its land a ruined castle and the remains of an ancient church mentioned in a document of 1291.  
Golf as we know it originated in Scotland in the fifteenth century, even before Tudor times.  But golf was banned as an unwelcome distraction to learning archery, although this ban was lifted in 1502 once the Scottish King himself took up the sport!  The first clubs were formed soon afterwards, though in this area clubs are much more recent.  Swansea Bay Golf Club started in 1892 in Sketty Park, but then moved to Jersey Marine, onto the estate owned by the Earl of Jersey, placing it now in Neath-Port Talbot.  This leaves Pennard, founded in 1896, as the earliest golf club in the Swansea area.
Pennard Burrows was part of the Kilvrough estate, owned by Thomas Penrice, who had inherited it from his uncle of the same name in 1846.  Fifty years later Thomas Penrice gave permission for golf to be played on the Burrows, but he limited the size of the club to merely 20 members, entailing an extensive waiting list.  At that time access to the golf links was difficult, with no road from Pennard Church, merely a track leading to the few dwellings in what is now the village of Southgate.
After Thomas Penrice died in 1908, Kilvrough passed to his elder daughter, Lady Louisa Lyons, and the club was re-constituted at a meeting at the Metropole Hotel in Wind Street, chaired by founder-member Colonel Llewellyn Morgan.  The number of members was increased from 20 to 50, though Lady Lyons retained considerable control, permitting only a 15-year lease.  Ladies could join as Associate Members, though they needed to be re-elected annually.  An 18-hole course was laid out to a plan of Scotsman James Braid, a notable golf course architect and five times Open Champion, with one hole even being across the road until 1911.
But after the First World War the members had an opportunity to purchase the Burrows, since the Kilvrough estate had to be broken up.  Admiral Lyons had lost heavily through his German investments, and the estate passed to his son, who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.  Thus in 1920 the Golf Club acquired Pennard Castle and the remains of the church.
Sunday play was permitted, which was not always the case in golf clubs at that time.  Alcohol could be brought onto the premises, but there was no licence for selling alcohol until 1930.  The course had a reputation for being very sandy, with huge areas of loose sand blown about in the wind, for it was a haven for rabbits, until their population was decimated by myxomatosis in the 1950s.  Over the years the course has had a number of alterations, with major changes in 1965 and 1993.  Dry spells of weather could curtail the water supply to the greens, so a concrete Pump House was constructed in the Pennard valley to supply water from the Pennard Pill.  The water tower was erected in 1923 in the 2.5-acre Tower Field and continued in use for over sixty years, becoming a local landmark visible from many parts of Gower.
After fire destroyed the timber single-storey clubhouse in July 1964, a two-storey clubhouse was erected the following year with sectional timber units.  That was replaced by the present clubhouse, opened in July 2001 by Max Faulkner, the 1951 Open Champion. 
Past and present members include Dr Teddy Morgan, who scored the winning try when Wales beat the 1905 All Blacks, the late Don Shepherd, Glamorgan cricket’s outstanding bowler, and Vicky Thomas, who represented Great Britain in three winning Curtis Cup teams against America.  So Pennard Golf Club has quite a history!  
                                                                                               

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