Woodsome Hall is an undiscovered gem which seems known only to those who live fairly locally. The clubhouse alone is worth a visit, one of the most interesting and beautiful anywhere. “If this course and clubhouse were in the London area, entrance membership and green fees would be all astronomical, but as it’s in Yorkshire they are very reasonable indeed”.
Thus writes Peter Alliss in his book “The Best 200 Golf Clubs in the British Isles”, and who is going to contradict such an experienced expert in golf?
The 5th Earl of Dartmouth’s son and heir William, lived with his wife at Woodsome from 1869 until he succeeded his father as 6th Earl in 1891. From then on his mother, Lady Alice the Dowager Duchess and her three daughters Frances, Georgina and Elizabeth occupied the house, and the ties were finally broken when the remaining much-loved ladies left in 1911 to live in Bexhill, and the estate was let off..
It was at the end of World War I that the recently de-mobbed and newly married Major A.E.Y. Trestrail joined the law firm Armitage Sykes and Hinchliffe in Huddersfield. A keen sportsman, he could not miss the delightful view of the Woodsome estate when he drove to work each day from his new home in Kirkburton. His Master’s degree from Cambridge and his hard won DSO from the trenches must have given him the brains and the courage to put his plan for a golf course into action.
Among others he co-opted local builder Ben Jessop and sportsman and joint owner of the Huddersfield Examiner, Ernest Woodhead, and with their help a formal meeting was held on the 13th October 1921 at the George Hotel in Huddersfield where it was enthusiastically approved that the Woodsome Hall Golf Club should be formed. A vast amount of work must have been accomplished by these gentlemen, including the agreement of a tentative lease with the Earl of Dartmouth, and yet this meeting took place as early as the 13th of October 1921.
The 6th Earl, possibly because he had spent his early married life at Woodsome, was very co-operative indeed. He was invited to become the Club’s first President, and this tradition has happily carried on, as our list of Presidents still only bears the name Dartmouth albeit of different generations. Inspection of the first lease reveals that the annual rent for originally 134 acres of land, the house, outbuildings and gardens amounted to £467. What would be a wonderful gesture in this mercenary age, the 6th Earl returned £100 per annum for maintenance when the Club fell on hard times, and this continued so far as I know until his death in 1936.
Once given the go-ahead no time was wasted. The more expensive of the Dartmouth possessions were sent off to be auctioned in London, and as for the residue, in the new year of 1922 Mr. Edward Armitage FAI was called upon to conduct a three-day sale of “Valuable Surplus Furnishings” consisting of 745 lots on the 24th, 25th and 26th of January.
Major Trestrail and Co put in a lot of work and the original layout has not altered a lot since it was planned by Mr H.S.Scott of Colt Mackenzie and Alison, in 1921. In Mr Colt's opinion "You seem to have a sound scheme, and one worth developing and there is a chance of making an attractive golf course which sould compare favourably with the existing neighbouring courses. The only criticism is the sub soil, which is a disadvantage. I realise that this cannot be overcome, and is common to all courses in the district". William Button, later to become the Club Professional, was appointed as Course Builder, and it seems incredible that by Easter 1922, he had already, with help of some thirty men, managed to get thirteen holes into play. Just over a year later the full course was completed and a formal opening ceremony was performed. Button himself and Arthur Day, a well known professional from Ganton played a singles exhibition match in the morning followed by a foursome with amateur partners in the afternoon. Day’s fee amounted to £10 plus expenses whilst Button had to be satisfied with a fiver!
The course was originally designed to be played with the second half first, but it was soon amended to its present format. In October 1929, the great course designer, James Braide visited Woodsome and provided an extensive report in the spring of 1930. He suggested changes at the 2,8,11,14,15,16,and 18, and over the next few years greens staff, under Jack Nield, worked to Braide's plan.
One of the major issues discussed elsewhere was the purchase of the House and Estate along with extra woodland from the Dartmouths in 1939 under the auspices of Franklin Broadhead and his team. Negotiations were protracted, WW2 was imminent, but the scoop of the century must have been the acquisition of Woodsome Hall for the sum of £10,000!
The course now does not quite resemble the one laid out by Button and his merry men, and yet the basic layout is pretty much the same. In spite of one suggestion in “the book” enquiring whether it would be possible to make the twelfth “less hilly” those early planners did a good job with a limited amount of time, money and equipment.
It is people make golf clubs, and there is not space here to mention them all. Suffice it to say that the majority, Captains and Members, both Gentlemen and Ladies, juniors, professionals, administrators, inside and outside staff and our thousands of visitors have all demonstrated that Woodsome is a very special place. In 2022 the Club will celebrate its centenary. Not really old as golf clubs go, but Woodsome has more history in one single step than most courses have over their full length.