People and places of Middleton
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A brief history of North Manchester Golf Club

North Manchester Club

North Manchester, originally over the border in Crumpsall, was the third club to be established in the city's environs after Old Manchester in 1818 and Fairfield in 1892. The Golfing Annual 1894-5 described the North Manchester course as; "18 holes of which only 9 are playable in May to July. The hazards consist of hedges and a stream, which is crossed three times, a reservoir into which a careless player may easily drive, and a sand bunker."

That only nine holes were playable in May to July was probably due to the slow emergence of an effective horse-drawn mowing machine. Clubs which did not invest in this new equipment had only the time-consuming man-handled scythe to combat the rapid growth of the grass during spring and early summer.

Edward Holt was the only child of Joseph Holt, who founded Joseph Holts Brewery. He was the Club’s first Captain in 1894 and held that Office for two years following it with the Presidency in 1896.

Harry B. Wood was Captain from 1900 to 1902 and President from 1902 to 1904. He had a great interest in the history of the game and one of the first collectors of golfing memorabilia. His collection has been on display in the Clubhouse since the 1940s. In 1985, after retaining a few items for a small Clubhouse display, the remainder was sold to two private collectors with an assurance that it would be kept intact.

After the 1914-18 war the Club raised itself from a state of lethargy into which it had inevitably fallen, re-establishing the course and attracting an increasing number of applicants for membership. However, it became clear that the days of the Crumpsall home were numbered as the land on which the course stood was to be sold.

Ever resilient the Committee scoured the district deciding on a site between Rhodes and Middleton, barely a mile from the original course. James Braid was called in to look at the site and with the Club’s Professional, Archie Compston, he pronounced it suitable.

The purchase of Rhodes House with its outbuildings and 180 acres was concluded on 29th September 1923 for the sum of £11,000. Once the purchase was completed, James Braid, for some reason unknown, was not available. In his stead a member, Herbert Townley, assumed responsibility for the layout for the new course with advice and help from Archie Compston. In two years the course was ready.

The new Rhodes course was opened for play on 20th September 1925. It lay well back from the Middleton road, securing greater privacy than might have been thought possible. The course was designed to be a genuine test for the first-class player, who would need to use all his skill and a great variety of shots in playing his round. There were no lack of natural hazards with several reservoirs providing variety and adding to the undulating scene.

The course has matured over time and was added to in 1983 when 23,000 trees were planted, following negotiations with the Countryside Commission, and the result of this work is now plain to see.

With thanks to North Manchester Golf Club and Mrs Lynn Etchells for the loan of their centenary tribute book. November 2012.

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