It started with a dozen Sheffield businessmen who simply wanted something to do on a Sunday – but things have certainly come a ‘fairway’ since then.
Dore and Totley Golf Club celebrates its centenary next month after those founding fathers first teed off in June 1913.
And over the last 100 years great golfers, celebrity members, sporting anecdotes, the odd hole-in-one and, inevitably, enough lost balls to set up a shop have all been par for the course.
So too has the odd spot of geographical confusion. That’s because Dore and Totley Golf Club is in neither Dore or Totley but Bradway. Why the misleading moniker? We’ll get to that shortly.
“This is a great club to be a part of,” says 87-year-old president Dennis Hodgson, minutes after completing a round. “I don’t think we would ever claim to have been the best, competitively, in Sheffield but if you’re looking for a friendly place to come and play, there’s nowhere better in the world.”
Today the club has 512 members, a winter and summer course, shop, magnificent club house and an absolute scorecard-wrecker of a 16th hole (“I’ve seen it make grown men cry,” says vice-captain Barry Symonds).
It also has an impressive tribute to Arthur Lees, the club’s finest ever player and a four time member of the Great British Ryder Cup team.
But that’s all a far cry from those humble beginnings.
Its origins lie in the summer of 1912 when those Sheffield sport-lovers united over their passion for golf and a dislike of the fact not a single city course opened on Sunday.
That was down to the Sheffield Union Of Golf Clubs, which prohibited playing on the Sabbath.
As such, the businessmen – a mixture of professionals and steel industrialists – decided to build a new course on land just outside the city border in Derbyshire where such rules would not apply.
“It shows ingenuity and forward thinking, which the club rather hopes are qualities it retains to this day,” says Dennis, who earlier this year notched his first ever hole-in-one.
The club was named Dore and Totley, even though it was in Bradway, because in the days before common car ownership, members would travel there by train via Dore and Totley Station. The course itself, meanwhile, was designed by Dr Alistair MacKenzie who would go on to create the US Masters course in Augusta, Georgia.
And it was an almost instant success.
Within a year there were 300 members (all issued with railway travel vouchers to get there); within two years a ladies section was opened; and within nine years the club had appointed its first professional, Harry Dean from Abbeydale. That was all followed by the official opening of the club house, still used today, in 1936. Before that members had tended to get changed and refreshed at The Bradway Hotel opposite.
Other developments over the years have included a shop, full access for women and a complete £250,000 overhaul of the course in 2005. That added five more holes to the traditional 18, meaning there is now a winter and summer run.
“Why have we been such a success?” ponders Dennis, of Norton. “I think it’s a great course and a wonderful facility but I go back to that point of friendliness.
“I first came here one Sunday in 1969 and didn’t know a soul. I told them I was looking for a game, they welcomed me in and paired me with the professional. You just wouldn’t get that at most clubs.”
It’s perhaps for that reason the club attracts a wide range of members, from students in their 20s to retirees in their 80s, from builders to professors, and from across Sheffield and North Derbyshire. There are about 150 who don’t even play golf – “but they like the 19th hole,” says Peter Mozley, the 68-year-old club director of Dronfield. There’s also the odd celebrity member. Ex-footballer David Hirst swings there (“he’s handy with a club”) and, not long ago, so did former Wednesday manager Howard Wilkinson.
And that’s before we get to the club’s most celebrated past member of all, Arthur Lees.
Not a household name today, perhaps, but he was undoubtedly one of the finest golfers ever to come from Sheffield.
He represented Great Britain at the Ryder Cup between 1947 and 1955 and won five major European trophies during an illustrious career. He was a professional at Dore and Totley between 1933 and 1949.
Another top professional was Pete Cowen, who after playing at the club between 1982 and 1988, went on to coach Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
And now? The landmark anniversary is being celebrated with a series of events throughout the year. There was a ball at Sheffield’s Mercure Hotel last month. Next Saturday, there is a centenary invitation day.
“And we’re always looking for new and younger members,” says Barry, 71, also of Norton. “We’re a club that likes our traditions – we have a smart casual dress code in the club house, for instance – but we want to move forward.”
For Dore and Totley Golf Club, it seems, at 100 years old, things look very far from rough.