In the Domesday Book of 1086 there is mention in the Wirral of the `little hamlet of Hargreave', later to become `Neston-cumHargreave'. This area is identified today, through the more modem version of its name, by Hargrave Lane, running parallel to the M53 on the opposite side to the present Golf Course. Until 1969 this lane marked the western boundary of Bromborough Golf Course. This general area is also identified through the names of a number of dwellings off Benty Heath Lane namely; Hargrave Hall Farm, Hargrave Cottages, Hargrave Lane Cottages and Hargrave House Farm. The latter eventually played a most important role in the introduction of golf to this area of the Wirral, and the establishment of Bromborough Golf Club.
To follow the origins of the ownership of the land upon which Bromborough Golf Club now stands one needs to return at least to the 19th Century. At this time the areas of Hargreave and Raby were a part of the parish of Neston, and just three landowning families then owned most of the Wirral lands in the Neston area. They were the Mostyn family from North Wales, the Stanley's of Hooton and the Earl of Shrewsbury.
The land, that the present course and Club House are located on, was part of that farmland then owned by the Earl of Shrewsbury, each field being identified by name on the The Map of 1843.
In 1825 a certain Joseph Hassall was the then tenant of the Earl of Shrewsbury, with a total of 236 acres in the Neston-cum-Hargreave area. In 1845 it is recorded, as was probably the case before then, that Joseph Hassall and his family were actually living at Hargrave House Farm, just to the south of the Golf Course, a farm from where the fields adjacent to the Golf Course continue to be farmed to this day. It was to be on part of those 236 acres of farmland that the Club House and Course were eventually to be established whilst the land was still owned by the Earl of Shrewsbury. The Golf Course land was to continue in the ownership of the Earl until 1911.
Also of relevance to the Golf Club, and well known to golfers today, is a Right of Way across those fields that were to form the basis of the Golf Course. This Right of Way was already shown on maps in 1851. Again, fifty years later, in 1901, it is shown across those fields on the Wirral Footpaths map, which is based on the Ordnance Survey, as a statutorily recognized footpath. This footpath still crosses the Golf Course today, although, like the Golf Course, somewhat altered from earlier days by the construction of the M53.
As far back as 1852 Golf was already being played in the Wirral. It was not until 1869, however, that the first Club in Wirral was formed and by 1903 several more Clubs had been established.
At about this time, in the early 1900's, the men of the Hassall family at Hargrave House Farm became sufficiently interested in golf to set up a roughly fashioned 9-hole Course on their farmland. At the outset J. Hassall and his 18-year old son J. Ernest Hassall were apparently playing golf on fairways that were not dissimilar to today's rough, and on Greens that were only marginally better than this being just slightly closer-cut. It is worthy of note that, from these modest beginnings, Ernest Hassall was to become a famous County and International golfer.
The course set up by the Hassalls soon attracted local interest and eventually a meeting was held in a Bromborough School in 1903 in order to form a Golf Club based on their course. From those humble beginnings it gradually evolved into one of the most interesting and attractive parkland courses in the area, the first such inland course in the Wirral. Unfortunately no detailed records of that meeting in 1903 have been discovered to date but undoubtedly, from that day onwards, Bromborough Golf Club was firmly established.
From a formal golfing point of view, where there is an absence of documentary proof of the actual date of establishment, the British Golf Museum, with the support of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club St. Andrews, uses for the foundation date of a Golf Club the first mention of the club in an Annual such as the Golfing Annual or Nisbet's Golf Yearbook. As Bromborough Golf Club is consistently listed in the Golfing Annual from the 1903-04 edition through to the 1909-10 edition, and Nisbet's Golf Yearbook of 1907 and 1914, with a foundation date of 1903, the Club is now formally recognised as having been inaugurated in 1903.
Initially it was decided that the new Club would be limited to 100 members with an annual subscription of 1 Guinea, (£1.05 today). The limit of 100 members was apparently rapidly reached. In 1904, the first Captain was elected -`Young' Squire Green (Major Herbert Lancelyn Green) of Poulton Lancelyn Hall, a landowner of some consequence in the area to the north of the Golf Course, as the family are to this day.
The Club was developing rapidly, and in early 1904 a Planning Application was made to Wirral Rural District Council for a "New Golf Club House at Raby". This initial application was referred back to the Council Surveyor on 7th March 1904, but an agreement with respect to a "temporary Club House at Raby" was accepted on 28th March 1904. Very shortly afterwards, in 1905, a dozen ladies were admitted as Associate Members of the Club.
By 1908 the club was sufficiently active to become one of the twelve founder members of the now prestigious Society of Liverpool Golf Captains. An Ordnance Survey of the same year, published later as the 1912 Ordnance Survey Map of the area, shows the then Club House as a `Pavilion' on the same line as the track across the course. In April 1909 a flagpole was presented to the Club by Charles Webster Esq. A plaque on the existing replacement flagpole, presented in May 1983 by Jim and Jack Taylor, commemorates this event.
On June 22nd 1910, calamity struck the fortunes of the Club when a fire destroyed much of the Club House. A wooden structure with corrugated iron roof and retractable awnings for the verandas, it was without doubt a very combustible building. From this misfortune came the decision to construct a new and more substantial Club House. This Club House provided excellent facilities for the members, and with further extension and improvements, it was to do so for the next sixty years. Nowadays referred to as the `old' Club House, it continued to be used until the `new' Club House was built in 1973. Indeed, there are quite a number of members today in Centenary Year who well remember the `old' Club House, and understandably with some affection.
During 1911, William Hesketh Lever, later to become the 1st Viscount Leverhulme, purchased a substantial amount of land in the Wirral mainly from the Earl of Shrewsbury. It was on 9th November 1911 that Leverhulme Estates became the owners of the land occupied by the Golf Course and Club House. At about this time, or possibly even before then, the Leverhulme family began to take an interest in golf locally and the long association of the three successive Viscounts Leverhulme with Bromborough Golf Club began. In 1912 the then Sir William Lever became the first President of the Club.
Also during these early years of the Club it was to become known nationally, and internationally as it was soon producing outstanding men and lady golfers, whose achievements will be further described later (in separate sections).
Sometime following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the Course and Club were closed and in 1915 the Club House was lent by the members to the Red Cross, to be used as a hospital.
So it was then that on 22nd May 1915 the Club House became the Red Cross Auxiliary Home Hospital, Bromborough. The hospital was established and maintained by Lady Carter, the Honorary Commandant of the Cheshire Red Cross, who was designated Officer-in-Charge. This hospital was classified as being one to `Receive patients directly from the Front'.
Voluntary donations, including support from employees of Cammell Laird & Co. Ltd., were used to fit out the hospital. By 1917 it was equipped with the most modern equipment then available and it even had its own operating theatre Somewhat amazingly, the British Red Cross records show that the hospital had an average accommodation of 160 beds. The maximum possible number of beds available was being quoted at the end of 1918 as 180. The average number of in-patients at any one time during 1918, however, was only 83. Very creditably during its four year existence the hospital treated 1245 patients, presumably all from the Armed Forces.
During the years 1915-1918 the club did not have a Captain but after the war, the Club House was handed back to the Golf Club and W. Johnston, who was Captain in 1914, resumed his duties for the 1919 year.
On the 2nd May 1918 the first recorded rental of £235 was paid to the Leverhulme Estate with a further balancing payment of just £2.10s on 1st July 1918. Two years later in 1920, at the age of thirty-two, the Hon. William Hulme Lever, who was to become the 2nd Viscount Leverhulme, was elected Captain. He held that position for three consecutive years.
It was during the gradual transition from a Military Hospital back to a Golf Club following the end of the war, that Ernest Hassall was again active in the development of the Club, expanding the course from 9 to 18 holes. As one of the outstanding amateur golfers of the early 1920's he was well placed to design and oversee the construction of the expanded 18 hole Golf Course at Bromborough during 1922. To celebrate the opening of the new 5905 yard course an Open Event was held in 1923 and this meeting attracted 104 entries from many of the prominent players of the day from both Cheshire and Lancashire. The first formal agreement with the Leverhulme Estate for the new course was made in May 1922, with the first rental under this agreement being paid in May 1923. In addition to the new 18 hole Course, the Club House, built after the `Pavilion' fire of 1910, had been extended and improved. So, by 1923 Bromborough had become a very well established Club.
The years between 1923 and 1939 were a relatively stable period for the club and few if any records survive of this period. In 1929 the second Major Lancelyn Green became Captain, continuing the link with the local family twenty five years after his father had been Captain. There were apparently no significant changes to the course during this period, but the Club House had certainly been extended by 1934. By the time of the publication of the 1936 Ordnance Survey map, what had still on the 1912 map been shown as a `Pavilion' was now properly recorded as a`Club House'. That `old' Club House was located adjacent to the putting green on what is still an identifiable part of the car park. Yet again in 1936 the footpath is shown crossing mid-way along the first fairway. The footpath ran from Raby Hall Road diagonally in the direction of Willaston and then sharply westward to meet up with Hargrave Lane just over halfway along its length.
The outbreak of the Second World War had a significant effect on golf courses throughout the country. Many clubs had to give up some land to support the 'dig for victory' food-growing initiative, but Bromborough suffered more than most because of its location near to Hooton Aerodrome. It was requisitioned for military use and eventually had concrete roads built across it when used as an American Forces Base. One of our long standing members at the time of the Centenary, Mr. Bill Lucas, who joined the club in 1949, recalls playing the course before the war as a visitor and seeing the American Army on the course during the war. Throughout the war the Greens were fenced off for protection and looked after by Mr. J Lee. During 1943 the course was used as a staging post for the build-up to the D-Day landings and it was not until 1949 that it could be reopened as a Golf Course.
The first Captain after the war was the Hon. Philip W. Lever, later to become the 3rd Viscount, Lord Leverhulme. He was followed in 1950 as Captain by one of his tenants, J. Ernest Hassall the farmer's son by then aged 65, that very same man who as an 18-year-old boy had played such an important part at the time of the establishment of Bromborough Golf Club in 1903.
After almost 50 years of change and development, including the interruption to golfing activities of the two World Wars, the early post War years in the 1950's were a time of stability and the members could get on with their primary aim of playing and enjoying their golf at Bromborough. However, the tranquillity of the Golf Course was briefly disturbed by one unfortunate event. This occurred on the 14th April 1955 when an R.A.F. Bristol Beaufighter aircraft based at Llanbedr, in Wales, being used as a target-towing aircraft, made an emergency belly landing on the course. At the time of the emergency, when it experienced the failure of one of its two engines, the aircraft was on its final approach for landing at Hooton Aerodrome.
Hooton Aerodrome was laid out in what had formerly been Hooton Park; the Vauxhall car factory now mostly occupies the site of the aerodrome. The pilot escaped injury and the aircraft was not badly damaged but petrol was leaking from one of the wings. This was apparently put to good use by several locals who collected some of the petrol for use in their cars.
This part of the 20th century also saw the start of the construction of Britain's motorway network The first section of motorway was opened in 1955, and so by 1966 Wirral Council was discussing two possible routes for a Mid Wirral Road. A westerly route was planned to pass the Golf Course area on the Raby village side of Hargrave Lane, and there was also an easterly route. Unfortunately for Bromborough Golf Club, the easterly route was eventually selected, and the cutting, on the western side of the Golf Course in which the M53 now runs, removed four holes from the course. This resulted in a temporarily shortened course for three years from mid 1969 with a par of 66.
In April 1969 renowned International Golf Course designers Hawtree Ltd. were employed on a project to restore the course and, after surveys, four different course layouts were drawn up. Showing considerable imagination and strength of character, Gordon Edwards, the Club's most proficient amateur golfer, began his mission to design an alternative seeing the potential in more interestingly contoured land on the eastern side of the Clubhouse which he was convinced would be the key to success for the new course. This area had previously been used as a small practice ground, but beyond that area the land was heavily wooded with ponds and steep sided dips following a water course that fed Dibbinsdale Brook. With determination and drive he convinced the membership, the landlord and the Course architect of the merits of his plan. Thus the present 9th 10th and 11th holes were given the go ahead resulting in a 6548 yard course with par 72 laid out over 140 acres. The disaster of motorway damage was thus turned into outstanding success with the new holes becoming a memorable and much improved feature allowing its elevation to a Championship Course. The new course was opened on 6th August 1972 when Ernest Hassall, then aged 87, drove the first ball from the new 10th tee. Sadly, he died two years later.
In addition to the necessary changes to the course some members were unhappy with the Club House, and in November 1970, 22 members called a Special General Meeting to discuss the erection of a new Club House. This proposal was rejected by 51 For to 60 Against, so apparently a good number of members were content with it, or perhaps thought it was an extravagance that the Club could ill afford. However, events in a way took over as, early in 1971, a decision was taken that the necessary improvements to the existing Club House would be too costly and in October of that year tenders were invited for the building of a new Club House.
In 1971 Lord Leverhulme very generously gave the Club, by Deed of Gift retrospectively dated to 1969, just under two acres of land on which the new Club House was to be built and the larger car park provided. This area of land also included the area occupied by the old Club House.
In December 1971 tenders were accepted for a new Club House at a cost of £50,000 and the contractor began work on the 21st June 1972.
The eventual cost of the new Club House was close to £70,000. A farewell party to the old Club House was held on 29th September 1973 and before it was demolished many members purchased mementoes of the old building. Viscount Leverhulme officially opened the new Club House on the 28th October 1973 and the first dance in the new Club House took place on the 17th November 1973.
In passing, it is perhaps worth noting that the entrance to the Golf Club car park then, as now, is substantially in the same place as the beginning of a path, later to become more of a track, shown leading all the way to Hargrave House Farm on the Tithe Map of 1843. The remnants of this track can still be seen in places on the Golf Course marked by a line of trees between the 17th Green and the 18th tee. Then, even more clearly from behind the 18th and 9th tees, it runs south between the 8th and 11th Greens. Then, beyond the Golf Course to the south crossing the fields, it still leads to Hargrave House Farm to this day.
The new course was soon used by the Cheshire County Union with matches against Ulster in 1973 and 1974 followed by the County Championship in 1975. Because the course was constructed on farmland the area contained few trees, apart from oak trees that grew in the hedgerows separating the original fields. This gave the course a very open aspect similar to a links course. In order to make the course visually more attractive an extensive tree-planting programme between fairways was undertaken primarily by Mr. G. Chalkley.
To mark his contribution to this work, the third hole is named `Chalkley Woods' and he was made an Honorary Life Member in 1985.
Other improvements to the course have included the construction of raised walkways across the valleys on the 9th and 10th holes in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The walkway between the Club House and the 1st tee, named some years ago Wellings Way' in honour of the then President, Mr. H. Wellings, was improved in 2000. The President very generously contributed to this work, as did Mr. D. Faulkner to the steps and Mr. W. McBride to the 1st tee logo. The generosity of other members over the years has added many times to the facilities available at the Club and the gratitude of the other members is recorded here accordingly. The most recent examples of this generosity include the provision of a compressed air shoe-cleaner, very kindly paid for by Mr. D. Faulkner and Mrs. S. Robinson, and the sponsoring of a number of splendid looking Centenary waste-bins by several members.
In the 1990's the combination of wet weather in the winter and thick bands of clay under the topsoil started to give problems to the Greens and fairways. Eventually the club members voted to replace five Greens, 8 to 12, as they were regularly out-of-play. This proved so successful that it was decided to replace all the remaining Greens. These contracts were awarded to the John Greasley Company at the not insignificant cost of about £20,000 per green. The work was carried out between 1999 and 2001 under the direction of Ken Morris, as Chairman of Greens. The Greens were contoured to make them more interesting and more challenging for putting. The Greenside bunkers were also `rolled' to make them visually more attractive and easier to maintain. The same Company then carried out extensive fairway drainage work, completed in July 2002. The Club's first lady `Chairman' of Greens, Carolyn Baker, oversaw this work. The beneficial effects from this period of several years work on the Course since Centenary Year, are clear for all to see.
The quality of the course and its challenging nature received high endorsement when Bromborough GC was chosen to host the English Mens’ Seniors’ Championship in 2003, the English Amateur Championship in 2005, which was won by our own Paul Waring and the Cheshire Matchplay Championship in 2010. Hosting the Cheshire Seniors' Strokeplay Championship followed in 2018.
Officially rated as one of the most difficult courses in the county, (Slope Rating for White Tees of 142), it remains a popular destination for visitors eager to test their skills and take the Bromborough "challenge". In 1983 a new Open Event for single figure Amateur golfers was launched - The Bromborough Bowl.
The competition is a Strokeplay format over 36 holes on a single day. The event has grown in importance to become a key feature in the regional golfing calendar being boosted by inclusion in the Northern Regional Order of Merit. The victor attracts the attention of the Cheshire Selectors as a potential County player. The first winner was Bromborough’s Phil Jones and other significant names on the trophy include Paul Waring, fellow European Tour Pro David Horsey, Gordon Edwards, England International Sean Towndrow and Cheshire Golf legend, Roy Smethurst.
The 3rd Viscount Leverhulme, and last in the lineage, died on 4th July 2000. With his death, the club lost both its President, and the long lasting very personal link with the Leverhulme family that had started with his grandfather almost 90 years ago. The land on which the Golf Course stands remains a part of the extensive Leverhulme Estate under a family Trust arrangement.
The Club House remained essentially unchanged until in 1981 a new house was constructed to accommodate the Club Steward. The house, which is occupied by the present Steward today, is attached to the Club House but with its own private entrance. Before it was built accommodation for the Club Steward had been provided within the Club House. A few years later in 1986 the new freestanding Professional's shop was built, as was an extension to the snooker room. Then in 1991 a clock tower was added to the Club House, being presented in memory of Mrs. C. R. E. Nottingham by her family. These changes and additions helped to remove the rather stark appearance of the profile of the `new' Club House as originally built.
When the old Club House was demolished in 1973 Mr. E. Kimpton bought the Bar. In the year 2000 he very kindly donated it back to the Club and it was set up in a small chalet, also presented by him, alongside the 9th green. It is from here that welcome sustenance is now provided at the halfway-mark on special occasions.
Several further proposals to extend the Club House were presented in recent years, but after due consideration the members decided to restrict the changes to a modest alteration upstairs. Accordingly, in January 2003 a new staff room was constructed, the Club House was redecorated and new chairs, carpets and honours boards were purchased. This work was carried out under the direction of the Chairman of House, Albert Law.
The Club Captain, Mr. W. Lally and the Lady Captain, Mrs. M. Gilbert, formally opened the refurbished Club House on Saturday 8th March 2003. In commemoration of the Club's Centenary, the club Lounge was formally renamed `The Centenary Lounge'.
By early March 2003 all the necessary work on both the Club House and the course had now been completed in good time for the Centenary celebrations.
The Centenary Year formally started with the Centenary Captain's traditional drive-in at 9 o'clock on Sunday 23rd March. Some 200 members attended the drive-in on a cold but gloriously sunny morning to toast the raising of a Centenary Flag. The flag was spectacularly delivered from five thousand feet above the course by five skydivers.
The morning's proceedings were enlivened by a splendid music of the Port Sunlight Lyceum Silver Band on the Club House roof terrace. The formal opening by the Centenary Captain and Lady Captain of a Starter's Hut at the 1st tee further marked this special occasion. Mr. Gordon Edwards, who also participated in the ceremony, had very kindly presented the hut to the Club.
To add atmosphere to the morning's events the main participants wore 1903 style dress and used early twentieth century clubs, with varying degrees of success! To further mark this momentous year in the history of the Club special Centenary trophies were played for and an extensive social programme was arranged.
In 2008 the decision was taken to change the governance arrangements for the management of the Club. Thereafter the Captain’s role became ambassadorial with the elected Management Committee taking full executive responsibility for the running of the club supervised by 3 Trustees to ensure the provisions of the Constitution are met.
At the beginning of 2011 construction work was started on a revised entrance, first floor toilets, a lift for disabled access and an additional function room. The project was managed by Phil Gibbons and the new facilities were formally opened on May 12th 2011 by the President at that time, Mr John Martin.
The years immediately following the 2018 AGM saw an extensive investment programme to address some aspects of the Course that were not fit for purpose. Darren Anderson, Master Greenkeeper, was recruited from Abergele GC and drew up a long list of projects - Greenkeeping equipment, Irrigation, Bunker improvements, Borehole, Drainage Plan, Paths, Course Policy Guide, Minor Modified Hole designs; all with the objective of raising the quality of the golf course to fully justify the title, “Wirral’s Parkland Jewel”. The Irrigation and Ecobunker Project was awarded “Greenkeeping Project of the Year” by BIGGA in January 2020.
The investment was funded partially by Members through a £79 levy, scrupulous financial management enabling additional resources to be diverted to the Course budget, a small increase in borrowing at low interest rates under the Members’ Long Term Loan Discount Scheme, a greater volume of members who were attracted by the improved playing experience and two donors in particular who stepped up to the plate - Barrie Pilgrim who provided significant financial assistance with the new steps to the 1st Tee and the new Buggy Store, pictured below and also to Glen Randles with the Borehole and various other improvements to aspects of our Club.
In the summer of 2018 a prestigious new Open event was launched - The Bromborough Masters and it attracted a highly competitive field from all over the United Kingdom.
In March 2020, for the third time in its history, the Club was forced to close as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the United Kingdom claiming thousands of lives. Mercifully very few members were lost and many volunteered to assist those who were confined to their own homes for many weeks, thus proving the existence of camaraderie and support that is a real benefit of membership of Bromborough Golf Club. The course was reopened in mid May and proved to be a popular destination for those seeking much needed exercise. At the time of writing the Clubhouse remains closed.
Over the years the club has arranged a number of fixtures with other clubs through which long standing relationships have developed. The first of these was a match against Prenton GC organised by the respective Captains in 1975, Jim Harper of Bromborough and G Wynne. Seven years later Norman Edwards established a match with Cotswold Hills GC after a Bromborough member, Geoff Jardine, moved to the Cheltenham area. In 1984 Alan Smith was instrumental in organising a fixture with Hillside GC and in 1999 Dr Michael O’Neill negotiated an annual game against Woodenbridge GC located in the picturesque Avoca valley in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Older than all of these fixtures though is an annual match with The Acers Foursomes Society made up of members of Royal Liverpool GC at Hoylake. Whilst much of the personnel has changed since these matches were first played the original concept of strong golfing competition but respecting the true spirit of golf with lengthy social interaction afterwards continues to be the raison d’etre.
There is every good reason to suppose that the Club, and golfing, will continue to be enjoyed for very many years to come on much of the same land that Joseph Hassall and his son had so roughly marked out all those years ago.
So now, as you play your round of golf, it is hoped that you will appreciate and be more aware of some of the history of the Club, the course, and the work and efforts of so many people over the years that have gone in to making it the absolutely splendid Golf Club that we all enjoy today. Indeed, having read this history of the course, we hope that you may even perhaps, having inadvertently played into the heavy rough, ponder briefly over the history of the land that lies beneath your feet, stretching back all those years to when it was first properly recorded in the Domesday Book.