The Early Days
The following is reproduced from 'Nhill Golf Club: 100 Years 1898-1998' written by former club secretary, Neil Kerber, to help mark the club's Centenary. It also captured an insight into the extensive development program from 1991-1994 that transformed the course from sand greens to grass greens.
The Early Days
In 1893 Mr J. W. Trumble first introduced the game of golf to the District of Nhill. During a visit to England in that year, he had become interested in the game and on his return to Nhill, he introduced the game to several of his friends. Interest for the new sport quickly grew and Mr J. C. McDonald, of Nhill Station, agreed to make part of his 'all purpose' paddock available for a golf course.
By 1895, the game of golf had been established in Nhill, a tradition that was to be the beginning of a long and proud history surrounding the Nhill Golf Club.
The location of the first golf links in Nhill was on the property known as the "Nhill Station" owned by Mr J.C.Macdonald who later became the first Life Member of the Nhill Golf Club. The property was situated on the eastern end of Macpherson Street, land which is now owned by Mr Keith Dickinson.
The nine hole course measured some 2510 yards in length with a "bogey" of 42, and was located one mile East of the Post Office on the Southern side of the highway and raliway line.
On June 11th 1897, the first record of the activities of the Club appeared in the Nhill Free Press, recording the opening of the golf season held the previous Saturday. The Nhill Free Press in that issue reported "that the greens were in fairly good order and the play of most of the competitors was of a very promising character". Mr Jas Brown, who played a very even game throughout, pulled off the event with a score of 95 for 18 holes. After detailing the scores of the day the article continued "for the information of those (and is their name not legion?) whose education in the "exhilarating" game of folg has been neglected, we may explain that the winner is he who succeeds in doing the eighteen holes in the fewest number of strokes."
In September 1897 the Nhill Free Press recorded the details of "a match between Nhill and Hopetoun played before a large gathering of spectators, on September 8th at the local 'Nhill Station' links. The six member team from Hopetoun, having travelled to Nhil by train the previous day, played a round on the course in the morning taking particular note of the many water holes to be avoided in the match to follow. The opposing players were pitted against one another on their respective handicap form, and at about 2.00pm the match started in fine conditions".
Detailed then is an account of the match with Hopetoun having the advantage in four of the six matches played. However the Nhill team was declared the overall winner wiht a score of 14 holes up to Hopetoun's 1 holes up. A return match between the two clubs was played on the 30th September, with four players from Nhill making the journey by train to the Hopetoun course. On this occasion Hopetoun were the winners with a score of 7 holes up to 3 holes up. Competitions with other Clubs became very popular during the early years with Dimoboola, Kaniva, Hamilton and Stawell also being involved in matches with Nhill by 1901.
The official formation of the Nhill Golf Club was in 1898. Mr J.W. Trumble convened a meeting of golfers at the Commerial Hotel on Tuesday the 10th May 1898, in which it waw unanimously decided that a Golf Club be formed. The following office bearers were elected:
President - Mr James Brown
Vice President - Mr John Young
Committee - Messrs Trumble, Brown, Goldsworthy, Young, Macdonald and Barnett
Captain - Mr J.W. Trumble
Secretary - Mr J Barnett
Members Nhill Golf Club 1897
The Subscription fee was fixed at five schillings for gentlemen and two schillings for ladies. To give additional interest to the game monthly handicap ompetitions were arranged among the members for silver medals present by the Club. the first competition play for th enew Club was held on May 20th 1898.
The playing conditions of the first Nhill course, referred to in those days as links, were on many occasions quite trecherous. One can imagine J.W. Trumble's introduction to golf on England's links courses, in conditions which used the natural challenges and hazards of the area. In playing the game, he soon would have learnt one had to play the ball from where it lay, no matter how difficult the lie. No doubt Trumble, with the help of his fellow golfing friends, developed the links, and the game of golf in Nhill in a similar vein.
The heavy soil on which the first links were constructed presented its own natural hazards. The many crabholes throughout the links often filled with water and these were an integral part of the course, causing many a ball to find a watery grave.
Keepin the grass in order was a simple matter of using the local stock to graze on the links, causing many a hoof mark in the soft soil. Muh terror was instilled into the visiting Hopetoun team the night before their famous first golf match with Nhill, with one of the localelderly gentlemen informing them of the numerous hoof-holes, some up to an arm's length in depth. Imagine encountering this kind of hazard, keeping in mind that the ball was to be played from where it lay.
The putting greens on the first links were in fact areas fifteen feet in diameter scraped clean of grass, with a thin layer of sand spread on the surface and the hole located in the centre. The greens were maintained by hand with the surface smoothed with the use of a small roller. Needless to say these small and crude puttin gsurfaces would have been quite a challenge.
These playing conditions combined with the hickory shafts of the clubs and the feathery rubber balls of the day, it is little wonder the bogey for the first links was 42 for the short distance of 2510 yards. The 1st hole measured 290 yards with a bogey of 5.
As there was no Clubhouse at that time, the members used the local hotels for Club functins.
The Nhill Golf Club's first Annual Tournament was played on 23rd May 1900 with Mr S.F. Mann of Hamilton the winner with a score of 5 up bogey. The following year a twenty guinea gold cup was the main trophy and thi sevent ttracted Mr J.D Howden, the 1899 and 1900 Victorian Amateur Champion to the tournament. At the time Mr Howden was the Captain of the Stawell Golf Club, he won the Cup and returned in 1902 to successfully defend his trophy.
The Nhill Free Press report of the tournament included the following description of Howden's play. "Mr Howden is a very young man whose play is a rare treat to witness. After his ball is teed up and with very few preparatory motions, drives off - and what a drive! No skyscraper but a beautiful long low skimming drive and with wonderfully accurate direction." Howden later went on to become the Australian Amateur Champion in 1904 and 1911.
The Victorian Golf Association was founded in 1901, represented by 8 Metropolitan Clubs, and during 1903 the number of affiliated clubs rose to 20.
The Nhill Club applied to join the Association and approval was granted on 1st June 1903. The Nhill Golf Club was the seventeenth club to be recorded on the Associaiton's register.
The Club was growing and in 1905 it moved from the Nhill Station to Crown Land, where the Nhill College now stands. As the Nhill Golf Club was also in this area, the space available for the golf club was limited, and several holes were located across Queen Street on vacant land alongside the house presently owned by Mr Harold Sanders. On one hold, the teeing ground was on the West side of the road and players had to play over the road to the hole. Play continued on a short par 3 hole and then onto a longer hole where the Course crossed back over Queen Street to the scrape located on the other side.
The nine hole links course was 2240 yards in length with a bogey of 37. Sand scrape puting surfaces were also introduced at this time. There were no flagsticks, but rather a small metal "flag" on a short spike, similar to the 'nearest the pin' markers we use today. These were pushed into the hole to mark its location.
The longest hole on the links was the 1st, measuring 354 yards with a bogey of 5. The local rules declared that the post and rail fence along the railway line was a hazard, and beyond the tree guards and pegs was deemed to be out of bounds.
Other hazards on the course included sand bunkers, roads and drains, and a hedge, which was beyond the 8th green. Another hazard, were the bunkers in the form of long, large mounds of dirt packed against 6 inch by 1 inch timber rails to form a boarded wall. A ball coming to rest against this hazard offered no option but to play backwards away from the direction of the hole.
the links were almost completely devoid of trees apart from those which were planted by the members, these were protected by timber tree guards.
The first Clubhouse was situated near the intersection of Queen Streey and Whitehead Avanue on the existing Nhill College grounds. It consisted of a one roomed building approximately twelve feet by eight feet with one door and one window. There was also a sliding wooden door, through which players were handed their Score Cards.
About 1915, a skillion verandah about six feet wide was added, and this provided the players with protection when it rained. In 1925 this small weatherboard building was moved to the new links on the Netherby Road, and remained the Clubhousew until 1931, when the beginning of today's building took shape.
The increasing number of inter-club matches being played in the Wimmera, prompted Mr C.C. Palmer to convene a meeting in the Nhill Free Library following the Annual Tournament on August 24th 1920. Eleven clubs were represented at this meeting which let to the formation of the Wimmera Golf Association, one of the first Sub-District Associations formed within the State. Mr C.C. Palmer was the Association's first President and Mr G.E. Dodds, also from Nhill, the first Secretary. The Nhill Golf Club was given the honour of hosting the first Wimmera Golf Association Championships later that year which was won by Mr Otto Fechler of Horsham with a score of 159. The formation of the WGA was watched with interest by the Victorian Golf Association, which then divided the whole state into nine sections, since increased with the popularity of the game to seventeen.
During the 11th - 15th August 1924 the first Country Week matches were held in Melbourne and G.C. Bourdon was the only Nhill player to represent the Wimmera Golf Association in that year. Competing at the Metropolitan Golf Club, Mr Bourdon was successful at winning the Stroke Match competition. He received a silver tray as the winning trophy, and this trophy is still displayed in the Clubhouse.
Throughout the early years, the members of the Nhill Golf Club were pioneers of the game of golf in the district, establishing inter club matches which in turn lead to the instigation of the Wimmera Golf Association. The Club flourished and numbers grew as the game of golf increased in popularity.
However the time had come for the Club to again move location to allow for its future propserity. Mr C.C. Palmer was the main instigator in ensuring the Club's future, and , with the financial support of Messers I.S Young, R.C. Roe, A.F. Fischer, W.E. Goldsworthy, J.C. Macdonald, G.E. Dodd and others, the Nhill Golf Club purchased 109 acres of sandy undulating land from Mr J.W. Warner in March of 1925.