The History of Reading Golf Club
Reading in 1910 had a nine hole golf course, in Tilehurst, which had adopted the title of “The Reading Golf Club”. That club had been founded at the close of the nineteenth century and so when the decision to form a new 18 hole course at Emmer Green was made, it was decided to call the new club “The Caversham and South Oxfordshire Golf Club”. The old course ceased to exist at the end of the First World War and our present name was adopted in 1939.
The founding fathers were a group of business and professional men. An important factor in their decision to start the club was the likely increase in the value of building land in the vicinity that would result.
Many illustrious names were included in the steering committee and in the founding membership but the dynamic force required to bring the plans to fruition was supplied by a Reading solicitor Arthur Hugh Sherwood. The pre-eminent part he played in the formation of the club is commemorated by a trophy in his name.
The founders had planned to rent the land for the course because the purchase price seemed prohibitive. The farmers who owned the land were reluctant to do other than to sell it outright. The plans almost floundered for this reason but all was saved by some extraordinarily generous investments by two gentlemen which enabled the freehold of the land to be acquired. This decision laid the foundation for the healthy financial situation the club continues to enjoy in that all of the assets of the club are owned by the members.
James Braid, who was one of the most successful golfers at the time, having already won the Open Championship four times, was appointed as the course architect. For his design he was paid 25 Guineas. Braid played in a match at the official opening of the Club in November 1910, having just had his fifth Open success.
James Braid was followed by a new and equally renowned course designer in 1913 - Harry Colt, who is regarded by many as the father of modern course design.
Of the work of these two gentlemen very little evidence remains. Extensive alterations were required in the aftermath of the First World War during which a substantial part of the course was lost.
In the 1930's the members complained that the course Braid designed was too physically demanding and a complete reorganisation was undertaken to the design of yet another eminent architect, Phillip Mackenzie Ross. The course has undergone significant alterations in the ensuing years but Ross’s imprint remains dominant.
A disaster struck the club in 1963 when the clubhouse burnt down. A temporary structure was erected in its place, some parts of which are still there today.
Perhaps the most important course development in recent years was the installation of a modern watering system in 1997. This has enabled the green staff to present the course in the immaculate condition that is now the norm.
Reading Golf Club is proud to have played a significant part in the life of Caversham and Reading for over one hundred years. The Club celebrated its centenary in 2010 and to mark this a history of the club was published. It is a hardback volume written by Michael Tierney with many illustrations in both black and white and colour. It is available in the General Manager’s office. There is no charge but a small contribution to the Captain’s charity would be appreciated.