The History of Truro Golf Club
85 years of tradition on the Treliske Estate and a legacy of
110 years since the club first formed at Idless.
Harry Colt, James Braid and Truro Golf Club
To much fanfare and in the presence of the great and good of the City of Truro and the County of Cornwall, the new golf course, on the beautiful, south-facing, rolling countryside of Treliske Estate in Truro, opened for play on Saturday 29th May 1937.
Principally designed by the renowned golf architect firm of Messrs Colt, Alison and Morrison, it had taken just six months to prepare the first nine holes ready for play, following the ceremonial cutting of the first turf by the Mayor of Truro in December 1936.
The groundworks were undertaken by the golf constructor, John Stutt, assisted by a team of local men, overseen by John Morrison of the Colt design firm.
Harry Shapland Colt (1869–1951) is arguably the greatest golf architect in history. He transformed an idiosyncratic linksland undertaking into a disciplined professional craft practised on inland sites. He and his partners, through their design methods and the sheer breadth of their work, certainly had more influence on the game of golf than any other firm of architects.
Colt &Co were formed in 1903 and Harry Colt and his partners went on to work on over 300 of the best golf courses around the world – in 24 countries – from St Andrews in Scotland, Royal Portrush in Ireland, Wentworth in England to Pine Valley in the USA. A remarkable C.V.
Nowhere was Colt’s influence more profound than on the work of his partners, CH Alison, John Morrison and Dr Alister MacKenzie.
John Morrison (1892–1961) was made a partner in the firm of Colt, Alison and Morrison in 1928. He was a brilliant sportsman, a Cambridge blue in three sports including cricket and golf. He was Joyce Wethered’s partner in the Sunningdale Foursomes, winning twice in 1935 and 1936, and Henry Longhurst‘s partner in the Halford Hewett, winning 31 of the 32 matches.
He assisted Harry Colt on a number of courses and was responsible for designing or remodelling many others, both in the UK and throughout Europe.
In Britain he helped Colt and Alison at locations such as Wentworth and Sunningdale (New Course) and was largely responsible himself for St Mellons in Wales. Perhaps his best work is at Prince’s, Kent, where he completely rebuilt 27 holes, working with Sir Guy Campbell after the Second World War. Morrison was very much at home in Cornwall. When he remarried in 1938, he honeymooned with his new wife, a well-known lady golfer, at Trevose. The course there had been designed by Harry Colt in 1924, not long after he had taken on Morrison as an assistant, so it is possible that he helped his mentor there as well.
It is only in the last few years that another of golf’s great course architects has been recognised as having a design association with Truro.
James Braid (1870–1950), a member of the Great Triumvirate, five-times Open Champion and designer of over 400 courses in Britain in Europe, had a hand in the layout at Truro, according to John Stutt, the course constructor. This is recorded by Bernard Darwin, the doyen of golf writing and golf correspondent to Country Life and The Times for over 50 years, in his biography on James Braid, first published in 1952.
George E Payne, married to one of James Braid’s great-granddaughters and author of the modern day biography on James Braid, “Divine Fury of James Braid”, asserts what we know – in that ‘John Stutt told Bernard Darwin that he had worked with Braid at Truro.’
James Braid designed a number of courses in Cornwall; Perranporth, St Austell, Budock Vean and, a course that is considered to be one of his very finest, St Enodoc.
As the costs for the design and construction at Truro were met by Treliske Estates Ltd, the landowners, and not Truro Golf Club, the club has no record of payments that may have been made to James Braid.
James Braid was at St Enodoc in 1937 designing two new holes, required to accommodate a new, repositioned, clubhouse. He had every opportunity to visit Truro, for example, to advise on bunkering.
However, the story of the course built in the 1930s in Truro starts a little earlier, as this extract from the Truro Club’s Golden Jubilee Handbook, published in 1987, explains:-
Golf Course for Truro?
This was the question presented to businessmen of Truro‘s Chamber of Commerce at a meeting held on 3rd September 1934.
The then chairman, Mr JWJ Kemp, introduced the Mayor Alderman, FR Pascoe, and asked him to open a discussion on the possibility of a golf course in Truro. It was considered that, from a business point of view, a golf course would be a great asset to the City of Truro and it would be a great achievement for the Chamber if they could promote such a scheme.
Following a discussion, it was resolved that a subcommittee be elected to consider the whole question and ascertain suitable sites available and report to the Chamber in due course. This subcommittee comprised of LG Bird, RJ Williams, G Tonkin, C Roberts, RB Webb, W Hicks, WJ Kemp, FR Pascoe & RG Jordan (Secretary), with power to add.
This newly-formed subcommittee met on the 17th September 1934 and decided the first step was to secure a site – then to ascertain the possible membership.
During the next three months the committee visited three possible sites: Higher Newham, Dudman Farm and Treliske Estate. From these, Higher Newham was provisionally secured so the next step was to hold a public meeting.
This was held at the Town Hall where it was resolved that ‘Truro be in favour of a Golf Club’. There was a list compiled of 115 signatures who would support such a venture.
On the 20th March 1935 another subcommittee meeting was held at the Town Hall where it was reported that progress had been halted on the Newham site because of grazing rights.
A week later the subcommittee met, yet again, at the Town Hall to discuss the Treliske site but found difficulties had arisen with the owner, Col. Stanley Smith and a local farmer. Capital was a great problem.
With this setback they decided to investigate alternative sites in the Kenwyn Hill and Union Hill areas but this proved unsatisfactory and remained so for the rest of the year.
In 1936 two other areas were viewed. Penweather Moors and Idless both proved undesirable as a golf course.
In March 1936 interest was revived in the Treliske Estate site and a meeting with Col. Stanley Smith showed some progress, although the problems with the local farmer hampered proceedings. The Colonel, being chairman of the board of governors, had earmarked his residence for a school.
It is worth noting that in January 1913 a very small membership played on a nine hole course which was situated between Idless and the Penmount estate. It was in existence for some five years and little is known of its short history. The then Bishop of Truro was amongst its members alongside other names like Messrs Carlyon, Clemens, Cock, Grenfell, Gibson, G Gow, Forbes, WG Goodfellow, Jesty, JH Thomas and the Reverends Carlton and Hawken. The ladies had a section too, the Honourable Vera and Mildona Boscawen amongst its members.
In April 1936, it was realised that there were capital difficulties and the only way out appeared to be to form a local syndicate and this syndicate then rent to the golf club.
A public meeting was called for funds, but this failed.
In one week, five meetings were held and Mr Dick Williams of Lloyds Bank proved helpful in forming a syndicate which consisted of: WJ Kemp (grocer), AJ Roberts (chemist), WB Webb (draper), A Collet (outfitter) and J Searle (farmer) (these five men were all members of the Chamber of Commerce). They then formed what is known as Treliske Estates Ltd. At a May meeting the committee estimated the cost of running a golf club and drew up rules in readiness to handover.
It is interesting to note that the first 200 members who joined did not pay an entrance fee (one guinea was charged to later joiners) and that subscriptions were to be three guineas a year for men and two guineas a year for wives and daughters of gentlemen members, with further concessions for juvenile members to be decided upon; visitors green fees were two shillings and sixpence. Tenders for the design of the course we asked for and it was decided to accept Messrs Colt, Alison & Morrison’s ideas to layout the course of some 5,560 yards. This occurred in November 1936.
On the 18th of December 1936 the first turf was cut by the Mayor of Truro, Mr AJ Roberts.
Four months later in April 1937, the Chamber of Commerce subcommittee handed over the responsibility of the new club to the elected Golf Club officers.
On the 29th May 1937 the first 9 holes were opened and five members of the syndicate were amongst the first people to drive off.
The full course was completed before the end of the year. The club, in the war years to follow, had little chance to establish itself; everyone seemed to be preparing themselves for the Home Guard, the ARP etc.
During the war, the Army requisitioned the club for a while and took over the 18th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th holes for regimental purposes, as well as an area for an Italian Prisoner of War camp.
On the remaining holes, sheep were grazing to provide extra income. The club managed to keep going and the landlord reduced the rent to £100 per annum to help out.
When the war ended, it took some time to get the club going. On parts of the course, metal detectors had to be used to remove unexploded grenades. However the following press clipping taken from the West Briton of 27th of May 1946 expressed a brighter future :–
If the 1937 course at Treliske is the ‘New Course’, then the course laid out at Idless, near Penmount in Truro can fairly be termed the ‘Old Course’.
The land on which the Old Course was built stretched out steeply below Scawswater Mill, the site of a 19th Century woollen mill.
Report from the Western Daily Mercury Thursday 24 October 1912 –
Truro Golf Club – An Auspicious Start with a Sporting Course–
A general meeting of the members of the Truro Golf Club was held on Tuesday evening. This was the first meeting since the establishment of the club in June. The Mayor (Mr W G Goodfellow), presided over a large attendance, which included several ladies.
The report of the committee, presented by the hon. secretary, stated that the nine-holes were ready for practice, but that owing to the wet weather and the lateness of obtaining two of the fields it was considered advisable to postpone the formal opening for a month or so. A pavilion has been erected at the entrance to the links, consisting of separate dressing rooms for ladies and gentlemen, and large central room, together with a serving room and a work room for the professional. Accommodation for motors and bicycles would be afforded at the old mill house. It was proposed to engage the services of a professional at an early date. The special thanks of the committee were due to Mr A C Polwhele, Mr H C Clemens and Mr A J Cornelius for very great assistance, financial and otherwise, and to the proprietors of a local newspaper who had offered to present a challenge prize in the shape of a silver rose bowl of the value of £10.
Mr E R Carlyon said the builder promised to complete the pavilion in a fortnight’s time, and he would like it generally known that the members can now play right round the course. The treasurer (Mr W E Grenfell) reported that the expenditure to date reached nearly £160 on the capital account, which left a deficit of about £50, being really the balance of the amount asked for from the members at the first general meeting. Out of current income about £60 had been spent on wages, rent, etc.
A set of rules drafted by the committee were considered, and were adopted with one or two slight alterations – Dr. Sharpe raised the question of the eligibility of ladies to serve on the committee – Mr Perry remarked that in other clubs the rule was that ladies had a committee of their own and their own secretary, and reported to the general meeting – It was thought that a similar course could be eventually adopted.
It was reported that no play should be permitted on Sundays and Good Friday.
The membership was stated to be 142, of whom 40 were ladies – Mr Lean proposed that when the membership reached 150 an entrance fee of £1/1shilling should be charged – The Mayor considered they should have an entrance fee after 25 December, but Mr Lean’s motion was carried.
The Mayor remarked that it was a matter for congratulation that they now had a golf course in Truro. He had been informed that the site was the best obtainable in the district, and as good golf could be obtained there as at any links.
The nine-holes which constitute the course vary in length from 117 to 407 yards. The holes are of an extremely sporting character, and are of great variety. The first tee is at an elevation of about 200 feet above the green and constitutes a tricky hole, it being difficult to judge the distance. The length of the hole is 200 yards. The second is a “dog leg” hole, the green being placed in a cup or basin at the corner of the field. Its distance is 275 yards. The third, a short hole of 117 yards, furnishes a nice shot for an iron, the green being protected by a bunker. The fourth 400 yards is at present in an unfinished state. It is one of the longest holes. The fifth has an excellent double bunker, which takes a long drive to clear. The distance of the hole is 407 yards. The sixth is one of the most sporting holes on the course, and is locally known as Spion Kop, being a rising drive of 144 yards into a cup protected by two hillocks. The seventh 307 yards is a blind hole. The eighth is an ordinary hole of 294 yards, but difficulty is presented by the sloping nature of the green. The ninth 397 yards is laid for some distance along the bottom slope of a hill, and unless the lower portion of the fairway is found the stance is not the best. There is plenty of rough along the course for the benefit or otherwise, of the reckless or careless, and the links should furnish capital sport.”
An interesting finding in looking back at the member lists for the Old and New Courses, is the fact that there were a number who were members of the ‘Old’ that became founder members of the ‘New’.
In 2020, Paul East and a small team of enthusiasts from Truro Golf Club, set out to find the exact location of the holes laid out across the land.
The Plan of the Old Course
The design layout was reported as being suggested by Albert Firstbrook, the Professional from Lelant. He had spent time as a golf professional in South Africa, staying with his elder brother. The naming of the sixth hole as Spion Kop is reference to the Battle of Spion Kop, which took place in 1900 on a steeply-banked hill in South Africa, during the Boer War. The ‘Kop’ at Anfield, originally a natural, steeply-banked viewing terrace, is similarly named after the site of this battle. Firstbrook himself would be killed in action – at the Battle of the Somme, in November 1916.
This is a view from the first tee of the Old course, straight down the hill. The first hole was over 200 yards. The telegraph pole that can be seen is 132 yards, whilst the light green grassy area behind the trees is 283 yards.
The top field which was probably the second green (behind the tree in the middle) was the short 117 yard hole. The hedgerows would have been stone walls which divided the fields. The copse to the left of the tree in the middle would not have been there. The strip of land to the right of the hedgerow is considered to be the location of the 8th and 9th fairways.
There was great optimism for the club – but it did not survive.
The following is from a newspaper report from February 1923 regarding the local hunt. This report confirms the location of the former course. It is obvious that the course has now disappeared. ‘From Lord’s Wood they drove him across the Idless Valley and over the old Truro Golf Links, past Penmount, and on to Polwhele’.
It took more than the Great War to halt the enthusiasm of the golfers in Truro to pursue the love of their sport. Within 15 years or so, they were back at it again at their new home on the Treliske Estate.
Today’s members recognise and honour the traditions of golf in this great City, with gratitude to those who laid the ground and trod these paths before us.
Researchers & compilers
Mike Roberts – http://www.cornishgolfer.com
Paul East – http://www.hickorygolfsouthwest.co.uk
Truro Golf Club – The Golden Jubilee Handbook published 1987
Henry Lord & Peter Pugh – The Masters of Design, Great Courses of Colt, MacKenzie, Alison & Morrison ISBN 9781848310902
Bernard Darwin – James Braid ISBN 0713466804
The West Briton
The Western Morning News
The British Library Board
George E Payne – Divine Fury of James Braid ISBN 9781919614038
David Holmes, General Manager, Prestbury Golf Club
Michael Herriott, The James Braid Reciprocal Courses
Golf’s Missing Links http://www.golfsmissinglinks.co.uk
Ward Lock & Co Illustrated Guide Books