Robin Hood Golf Club
Robin Hood Golf Club, founded in 1893, is one of the oldest golf clubs in the West Midlands. It was one of the nine Founder Members of the Worcestershire County Union of Golf Clubs, formed in 1905. Later when the Greater Birmingham Act was passed Robin Hood, being in the area absorbed by Birmingham, elected in 1921 to transfer to the Warwickshire County Union
It is a far cry from the present day to the 23rd October 1893, when the club was founded by a few enthusiasts and the first meeting of the Provisional Committee, held in the Public Hall in Acocks Green, decided to rent 44 acres of land lying between Lakey Lane and the Stratford Road. With an annual rent of £5, a basic 9-hole course was laid out. This lowly rent gradually increased, as did the size of the land leased, and an annual rent of £1,000 for 130 acres was a princely sum that the members had to find. In a game that is renowned for its reliance on the self-regulation of its participants it is most apt that the first President was Mr. Playfair. The initial membership was limited to 25 gentlemen, being increased to 40 the following year at an annual subscription of one guinea, true millionaires’ golf!
Robin Hood can boast that one of its founder members was Dr Frank Stableford, who is renowned globally as the inventor of the point scoring system which bears his name. A prominent plus one player in his time, he marked out the original course located on the pony track at Hall Green. Early ‘Local Rules ‘ refer to the relief given if a ball lay adjacent to “posts or rails which define the racecourse” or “if driven into the enclosure known as Tattersalls”. It is an interesting reflection on the standard of golf courses in those days that Dr Stableford recalled walking round the pony track with two grounds men planting two sticks to mark a tee and one for a green. He did this for nine holes and then told the men to cut the grass. In all it took about two hours and the resultant course lasted for 20 years. Dr Stableford served on the committee from 1894 to 1896 and resigned from the club in 1899 following his move to the Wirral.
The committee was very quick off the mark in arranging competitions, providing prizes to promote the competitive nature of the members. The club grew in stature as a profit making business and approved plans for a new pavilion, part of which was to be erected at once at a cost of £27. In 1895 a Ladies Pavilion (so termed in the minute book) 8ft by 8ft was provided. Sunday play was permitted from the inception and this rather revolutionary approach soon provoked prayer meetings on the course in protest.
In 1896 the club made arrangements to transport members between the course and Acocks Green Railway Station on Saturdays. In 1898 the minutes record “That a spirit standard kettle be purchased for making tea on the ground”. The following year the club invited the Midland Professional Golf Club to hold one of their meetings at Robin Hood and undertook to present £5 for competition prizes and to entertain the competitors to luncheon.
After twenty years of golf in 1913 a new 97 acres of land not far from the existing site were secured. Plans for an 18 hole course and the building of a club house were formulated and the Club was registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee under the title of Robin Hood Golf Club Ltd. In September 1914 the club opened the new course and club house, both of which were to serve, with few alterations for the next 52 years. The course lay between Redstone farm Road and Saint Bernard’s Road, with the club house frontage at the junction of Redstone Farm Road and Gospel Lane. The original 18 holes were designed by Mr. H S Colt but the attraction for members to join was hampered by the inevitable impact that the First World War had on membership and even hiring staff to maintain the new facility. Thankfully the dedication of the membership in carrying out maintenance on and off the course provided solid foundations for our club today and after the declaration of peace the club flourished during the 1920’s.
The inherent problem in renting land caused countless committees with lease negotiation issues. These culminated in 1939 with a particularly difficult negotiation which almost resulted in the demise of Robin Hood. With limited resources, relocating the club was untenable and the lease was only agreed after the outbreak of the Second World War which enabled another lease to be negotiated that covered another ten years.
The ongoing lease problems were finally eradicated after a four year project led by Cliff Toogood, elected President in 1949 and the instigator of the purchase of the freehold. After much negotiation £12,500 was agreed by the vendors and when funds donated by members fell short of the required amount Cliff Toogood made up the shortfall donating £3,000 to secure the purchase in 1953, the Diamond Jubilee of the club.
The club later made Cliff the first Life President and in the years that followed irrigation to the greens was installed in 1955, a billiard room in 1958 and shower facilities in 1962
In January 1962 a sub-committee was formed after Bill Parker, Captain in 1962, suggested that the club was potentially falling behind other local courses and their clubhouse facilities and had to consider expansion options. With extension of the clubhouse not a viable option the sub-committee considered relocating the clubhouse and selling various plots of land to provide funds to acquire adjacent land.
The membership approved the recommendation of the sub-committee in 1964 and after confirmation from planning departments in the City Council and the final sale and purchase of land the sub-committee then carried out the arduous task of carrying out the provisions of the scheme that the new club house costing, complete with furnishings almost £100,000 was formally opened on 29th October 1966 by Mr. Reginald Eyre, Member of Parliament for Hall Green. The new course layout of over 6,700 yards was completed shortly afterwards although due to unfavourable weather conditions in the early stages those holes on the new land were not brought into play until later. The entire project was financed by the sale of the 10 acres of the course fronting Redstone Farm Road with a not inconsiderable sum left available to club’s reserves. The whole project occupied the sub-committee for six years and we today owe a debt of gratitude to Bill Parker and his sub-committee of the 1960’s.
Despite the new course and facilities the subject of relocation raised its head in 1971 when Robin Hood was approached by property developers eager to acquire the sought after land to fulfil the demand for houses in the borough. Numerous offers were considered by the committee including offers of relocation just outside the town with a £2m cash settlement; however after considering various offers the membership rejected any and all offers at an EGM on 7th April 1972.
Over the next decade the putting green, inspired by Les Amiss, matured with shrubs planted along with over 10,000 trees planted between 1977 and 1984. Robin Hood started to resemble the wooded course that the name implied.
1993 was a year to remember for many members with the Centenary celebrations that included week of special competitions, a diary full of social functions that were sold out months in advance. To mark this milestone “Robin Hood Golf Club, The first Hundred Years” written by Past Captain and Past President Chris Dixon, then a member for nearly sixty years, was published. A copy was given to every member and copies are available to view in the clubhouse.
After over a quarter of a century of the new course the greens showed signs of deterioration and various committees debated the best course of action to improve and repair the increasing footfall on the course. This culminated in a second development sub-committee being formed at the turn of the century which considered the possible sale of land to finance the course work. This debate raised the question of relocation once again and in a repeat of the membership decision in 1972 any plans of relocation to a new site were rejected. Instead two plots of redundant land behind the 7th tee and aside the 12th tee were sold to developers under the sub-committee Chairmanship of Roy Bevans. After tax and commissions this land sale provided the club with reserves to draw upon indeed some funds were used to redecorate the clubhouse.
With advice from agronomy experts and a plethora of opinion that consumed committee meetings for months, the debate to re-lay every green became a talking point in the clubhouse as well. This coincided with the need to change the course manager and after due consideration the club appointed Andy Wood as Course Manager in 2010. The immediate implementation of a greens recovery programme demonstrated that investment into eighteen new greens was not required. The focus then turned to drainage, green improvements and new bunkers.
This work to improve the course has continued since 2010.
Robin Hood will continue to develop over the next 100 years, evolving and reacting to the challenges it faces with the help of the membership that have risen to the challenges throughout our history.