Rough game

Golf 1896

Although the game of golf can be traced back to Scotland in the 15th century, about 500 years ago, the first golf played in Australia was near Bothwell, Tasmania, in the 1820s.1

This year in the 21st century, it will be 114 years since the first recorded game of golf was played in Queanbeyan, Australia, on August 12, 1896.2

On that day the gentlemen of the town of Queanbeyan, Mr Downing, Mr Cadden and Mr Ling started their game of golf from the “putting” ground at the Glebe paddock, near the former Beatty slaughter yards; then down to the river where the present Leagues Club is located, then back through the “business district” to finish near the courthouse on the corner of Lowe/ Monaro Streets and Farrer Place.3

Gutta percha and cleek

Golfing super stars, like Tiger Woods as well as the course, the equipment, and the rules of the game of golf played today, are a far cry from that played in Queanbeyan when the game of golf was first introduced by the gentlemen of the town in 1896.

The object of the game, in 1896 was to drive a “gutta percha ball” over the long course in as few hits as possible, with the “cleek” which was a stick with a steel crook at the end, reported, The Queanbeyan Age.4

And apart from negotiating “all fences, logs, and ditches” and anything else “that maybe in the way” the “game of golf is a very simple one”, wrote the Age – then added almost as an after thought, “the ball has to be put into certain holes on the way.”5

Evolutionary changes

In 1901 the Queanbeyan game of golf moved to Trinculo Place on the other side of the Queanbeyan River where land had been set aside for public recreation and once again Queanbeyan residents marked out a “rough” informal course for themselves.6

Some technological changes were sometimes accidental like the “dimples” in Golf balls, which were “introduced in 1908 when it was discovered that after a ball was nicked and cut it traveled better.”7

But whilst many things have changed since 1896 most golfers would agree, that the difficult task of placing the ball in “certain holes” along the way remains the same.8

War and depression

World War One followed by the 1930s depression, which was followed by World War Two saw the lack of manpower and money interrupt major improvements to the local game of golf and the course.9

In 1945 the nine-hole golf course was still covered with native grasses and was dissected by a storm gully that sometimes flooded, but these were not the only problems, as the game of golf in Queanbeyan was shared with animals who turned the golf course into a collision course.

Golf balls were hard to find in the horses hoof marks and with no watering system the golf season was closed in summer when the fairways were too hard to play.10

Hide and seek

On the fifty-sixth anniversary of the game of golf in Queanbeyan, The Queanbeyan Age, wrote on August 12, 1952:

Over the weekends horses are not only straying, but galloping over the fairways.
The owner, or someone sent to collect the horses, chases the horses among the players and tracks up to a yard long are skidded in the long grass”.

Men and women

On July 5, 1924 when the Queanbeyan Golf Club was formally organized, the men were full members of the club. The women, formed a ladies association with their own committee on 16 July, and were associate members.11

In 1928 Mrs E.W. Holloway became the first women president12 of the golf club even though women played golf as associate members until 1991, when women became full members.13

When a watering system was installed and club-house amenities improved the club membership expanded followed by an improved financial footing and the move out of the rough to the excellent and beautiful golf course which now embraces the Queanbeyan river corridor was achieved.14

Convict world demolished

Progress never occurs without regrets and over time the Queanbeyan Golf Club purchased several parcels of land and the golf course expanded to its present 18 hole course.

This buy-up of land included part of Captain Alured Tasker Faunce’s Dodsworth Estate, named after Captain Faunce’s family in England and on it the old timber slab Dodsworth  House, the old Courthouse and first Benevolent Asylum (Hospital) – they seem to have all been demolished during the 1960s and are a great loss given their age and connection to historic Queanbeyan’s early history.15

In 1838 the same year that the town was gazetted and proclaimed convicts were building the Courthouse complex and house needed for the Police Magistrate Captain Faunce; by 1839 convicts had sufficiently built Dodsworth House and the courthouse for the Faunce family to move and live there.

Around one hundred and thirty years later they were all demolished.16-17

Footnotes / Resources

1. Marshall, Barbara, and Bob Woods, Out of the rough – a century of golf in Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan Golf Club, 1996. p.  (ISBN 0 646 29359 1).
2. The Queanbeyan Age, August 15, 1896.
3. The Queanbeyan Age, August 15, 1896.
4. The Queanbeyan Age, August 15, 1896.
5. The Queanbeyan Age, August 15, 1896.
6. Marshell, 1996.p. 11.
7. Marshell, 1996.p. 11.
8. Marshell, 1996.p. 11.
9. Marshell, 1996.p. 11.
10. The Queanbeyan Age, August 12, 1952.
11. Marshell, 1996.p. 40.
12. Marshell, 1996.p. 51.
13. Marshell, 1996.p. 101.
14. Marshell, 1996.p. 16.
15. Marshell, 1996.p. 12.
16. Lea-Scarlett, Errol. Queanbeyan District and People. Queanbeyan: Queanbeyan City Council, 1968. p. 30.
17. Connee-Colleen, © Queabeyan Outlook (53) “Golf rough 1896.” The Queanbeyan Age, August 18, 2006, p. 16.


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