Links golf has been played in Cardigan for well over 100 years and since the first club was formed a great deal has happened.
The Early Years
Golf was first played in Cardigan in 1895 when a nine hole course, named The Cardigan and Tivyside Golf Club, was formed by the local gentry. The course established between Nant-y-Ferwig Bridge and Gwbert, was described as a ‘sporting one’ an ‘excellent Links where bunkers abound’.
The annual subscription for elected members was 1 guinea for gentlemen and half a guinea for ladies. For those driving the two miles from Cardigan, stabling accommodation was provided. Unfortunately by 1898, play over the links had reduced to practically nil. A decision by the management to keep the membership select, had kept player numbers low. The terrain proved too much for the few members to maintain, the gorse and bramble difficult to remove. The Cardigan and Tivyside Golf Club died a natural death.
A group of local businessmen, the Gwbert Syndicate, had been formed with the intention to create and develop a seaside resort at Gwbert. They were determined that a course should be established on the links at Gwbert-on-Sea. In 1902 a nine hole course, the Gwbert Golf Links, was opened by the Mayor of Cardigan, Mr Arthur Clougher.
As very few locals played the game and finding transport from Cardigan to Gwbert was still problematic, the links were again under-utilised. There was no golf club as such and the majority of players were visitors staying at the resort.
The Formation of the Cliff Hotel Links
In 1905 a group of ‘gentlemen interested in the formation of a new Golf Links at Gwbert-on-Sea’ requested a survey of the land with the objective of securing a first class nine or eighteen hole golf course. A Mr Day, former Welsh Champion in 1903 and Professional at Penally Links (Tenby), marked out the positions of greens and tees. The course, which was at first to be nine holes, was laid out both sides of the road that runs along the cliff top. There was no club house as such, just a wooden hut where members could store their hickory shafted clubs. Male members of the period wore plus-two’s with centre buttoned tweed jackets and caps to match. Clubs were carried in small leather and canvas shoulder bags. Ladies played in heavy pullovers, long skirts and head bands.
Wednesday afternoon and Saturdays were usually club days and horse drawn brakes were often hired from Cardigan to convey the golfers to Gwbert. Cardigan Golf Club began its long association with the Cliff Hotel, when Club members were offered changing facilities at the hotel.
In 1906 Cardigan Golf Club decided to appoint a part-time professional, Mr James Brown. He was paid 15 shillings a week and allowed to charge 1 shilling for an hour’s golf tuition.
From 1910 to 1913 the Cliff Hotel, links and surrounding land were consolidated under new ownership. Mr G.S. Smith Esq proved to be extremely popular, carrying out a number of renovations to the hotel and generous landlord to members of the Golf Club.
Cardigan Golf Club continued to thrive at Gwbert until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, at which point the club decided to close down for the duration as many members were called to the colours.The links themselves continued to be used through out the war but by the cessation of hostilities, Cardigan Golf Club as an organisation had ceased to exist.
In a meeting held in 1923 at the Guildhall in Cardigan, it was resolved that once again a Golf Club would be formed on the old links at Gwbert-on-Sea and it would be called Cardigan Golf Club. The Club enjoyed a period of stability and expansion from 1923 to 1927, with many local businessmen and an increasing number of Cardigan ladies frequenting the Cliff Hotel Links on Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays. During the summer months, the links were crowded as members enjoyed the long nights.
The Formation of the Present Cardigan Golf Club
In November 1927, Cardigan Golf Club took the momentous decision to sever connections with the Cliff Hotel and obtain a course of their own. The Club had for some time desired their own facilities and suitable land had become available between Waungelod and Towyn. Mr Grant, the Tenby Professional, was hired to report on the desirability of the proposed site for the new nine hole course:
“The ground I was shown over, between Waungelod and Towyn was by far the best of the lot and could be made into a first class course. The site is ideal, the views lovely, and the sandy nature of the ground ensures good drainage all the year round.
The turf there is very good…There are plenty of natural features to be taken advantage of: and a course of 6000 yards made in real sporting country.”
Under the supervision of Mr Grant, work commenced immediately and the following year a pavilion was built with an area for the Ladies and a locker room. By 1929 play was underway and competitions were being played.
The 1930′s – The Club Established
In 1930 Mr Leslie Mouland was appointed as Club professional and began a great deal of improvement at the Club. As well as working the links his duties included the collecting of green fees, locker rents, giving tuition , repairing and selling the hickory shafted golf clubs. Through a great deal of hard work and endeavour, the course was brought up to first class condition and the standard of play improved considerably.
The First Club House
At an Annual Meeting of the Club in 1936, it was decided to erect a new Club House. The building would cost £450, which included a fireplace in one of the bedrooms and glass partitions on the verandah. The new Club House was furnished with sixteen Lloyd Loom chairs and five oak tables. The premises was lit with four temporary lights, as electrification had still not reached that area of Gwbert ! By the late 1930′s motor transport was on the increase and a great number of the Club members had motor cars. In 1937 a road was opened up to the Club House at a cost of £10, it proved an excellent boost for the Club, though it still remained firmly closed on a Sunday !
With Club doing well and the popularity of the game on the increase, came the outbreak of the Second World War. Although the Club remained open, a great many members were called up. A request was granted to plough up 18 acres of the Club’s land for the production of food. Thanks to senior members, the links remained playable throughout the war and this time, at the end of hostilities the Club was able to re-restart where it had left off in 1939.
The Post War Years
The early years after the War were difficult, but Cardigan Golf Club has been blessed with members willing to help out. Mr Mouland having decided to move on, the male members took it in turns to be responsible for the bar, whilst the ladies did likewise with the catering. Members took it in turns to cut fairways and greens !
During the 1950′s Golf Clubs were slowly returning to their pre-war popularity, the membership were asked to canvass for new members. Renovations were made to the Club House, with the addition of a Bar and Sitting Room.
The Club boasted some outstanding golfers at this time – W. E. G. James, Norman Griffiths, Gwilym Morris H. J. Jenkins and Kenneth Havard to name but a few. Competitions and fixtures were held against Tenby, Newport, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth, with ‘Tigers’ and ‘Rabbits’ playing in the same team. The club often took between 30 and 40 players to a match with the inevitable social event enjoyed after the match.
In the late 1950′s the Club entered a team for the Welsh Team Championship for the first time.
The Expansion Period and the Swinging Sixties
In 1959 the concrete road, affectionately known as the ‘M4′, was constructed from the entrance of the course up to the Club House. The labour was provided by volunteers from the Club. November of the following year saw a water scheme finally being laid on the course, its activation in 1961 saw an immediate improvement in the condition of the greens.
Membership really took off during the 1960′s, whereas it had been 121 in 1955, by 1964 it was over 300. A number of improvements were made, including further extensions to the Club House. A new bar and gent’s changing room were added and car park constructed to the rear. In 1969 the Club purchased the freehold to the land and were at last able to extend the course. A golf architect, Mr Hawtrey, was employed to draw up the new layout so that a first class 18 holes would be available.
Destruction of the Club House
During this period of renovation, the Club House tragically caught fire. Despite the best efforts of the Cardigan Fire Brigade, the building was completely gutted. Responding immediately to the tragedy, the Executive Committee erected a prefabricated building in its place.
The ‘Shed’ as it became known, became extremely popular with members. As usual volunteers decorated the building and many have fond memories of Larry the American steward providing valiant service from his small corner bar.
After many months of hard work, the current Archie Jones designed Club House, was officially opened on 27 August 1977. Along with improved facilities for the members, the new building had a magnificent lounge bar and dining room offering stunning panoramic views over Cardigan Bay. Alongside the first tee, a new Professional Shop was constructed.
Cardigan Golf Club goes from strength to strength. Over the years a succesful Winter League has been established and a very large number of members brave the elements on Sunday mornings. A most pleasing factor has been the growing strength of the Junior Section, which after all is the future of the club. From the ranks of this section have emerged a number of outstanding golfers, including club champions.
In 1979 a Squash Club was established on the Club land. This has boosted the Golf Club’s House Membership as well as considerably increasing the social trade of the Club House.
In recent years considerable improvements have taken place on the course and a number of the original 18 hole have been improved or altered. Many greens have been enlarged, bunkered or banked. New tees have been built or extended on every hole on the course.
Since its early days thousands of golfers have walked the turf of Cardigan Golf Club deriving huge pleasure from this delightful course and wonderful views.