Early Years of Royal Melbourne Golf Club
(The following was originally published by the author on WaggleRoom.com) The 2011 President's Cup matches will be held November 17-20 at a course that also hosted the Cup in 1998, when it took place outside of the United States for the first time: Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. A beautiful track of land, Royal Melbourne is considered to be the oldest remaining golf club in Australia with ties back to the late 19th century.
Golf has always played a major part in nobility recreation in Australia during the 1800's, with golf clubs sprouting up in Tasmania in the 1820s, Melbourne in 1847 and Sydney in 1882. However, the passage of time would eventually see many smaller golf clubs close due to poor funding, wartimes, and other factors. Nevertheless, plans had been laid out later that century to establish a club in Melbourne that would not only face the tests of time, but also serve as a championship course for area tournaments and royality.
According to Royal Melbourne's official website, there had been numerous attempts to establish such a golf club in Melbourne prior to 1891, however Royal Melbourne is the only club that survived the turn of the century and continues to this day. Various accounts suggest that the golf course and club were contrived by a small group of Scottish settlers via informal meetings - mainly at Scott's Hotel on Collins Street - of which no public records exist in present day. It is also suggested that these meetings formatted the early membership requirements for Royal Melbourne, which included a minimum membership requirement of 100 and a membership fee of 15 guineas. These original 100 members would ultimately be remembered as the Founders of Melbourne Golf Club.
The original course was located at Caulfield on a stretch of land that included the Caufield Railway Station and the grounds that would ultimately become Central Park in present-day Melbourne. The original course was laid out by Thomas Finlay and David Conacher - childhood friends from St. Andrews, Scotland - and totaled roughly 4700 yards for eighteen holes. The course officially opened on July 4, 1891 as a men's-only club (women were allowed to join as associates in September, 1892).
As membership grew at Royal Melbourne, club officials sought a new location for the club in response to membership overcrowding. In 1898, land was purchased in Sandringham and would eventually open as the club's second home in 1901. According to the website, the financing of the purchase "was achieved by members taking up shares, with a limited liability of £10, in The Royal Melbourne Golf Company Limited. This company leased the land to the Club at five per cent per annum of the land's purchase price."
The years following would include further expansion on the club in terms of membership and acerage. Over time, however, plans were draw-up to move the course one more time to nearby Black Rock, where the rich soils east of the newly-designed clubhouse could be taken advantage of properly. On December 10, 1926, plans were finalized for Royal Melbourne's third and final location at Black Rock. In 1929 additional land was purchased by the membership to allow for a second course to be constructed, giving the golf club an East and West option.