Albany Golf Course is an eighteen-hole links style golf course, established in 1898 with nine holes and enlarged in the 1960s.
As the chief port in Western Australia until the end of the 19th century, Albany received almost 30,000 visitors a year at the peak of the gold boom. It was also a popular holiday venue in the hot summer. As the town prospered, interest turned to sport and recreation. An English golfer visiting Albany suggested the land at Middleton Beach, beside Lake Seppings, as ideal for a nine-hole "links" course, as the best golf courses were those on traditional links on seaside land.
The idea of a golf links at Middleton Beach was made public by the Albany Advertiser, whose editor, W.F. Forster, was a proponent of the game. Other promoters of a golf links were also leading citizens, among them resident medical officer Dr Thomas Robinson and businessmen Charles Russell and F.W. Strother. They formed a Committee with the idea to have the government grant a suitable piece of land and in return the committee would develop a course that would attract visitors to the town.
Costs involved in the establishment of the course included: clearing at just under £57; supply of turf for the greens at 10 shillings per 100 feet; and, making and lining the holes and erecting flags at £2. A mowing machine and iron roller was a major expense at £16.
By the end of 1899, players were practising on the course but not playing into the holes in order to give the greens turf time to establish. There was some problem with balls bouncing off tree stumps left during the clearing work, but this was considered relatively minor.
An early issue for golfers on the course was straying cattle. The milk cows of Albany residents were taken each day to graze on the flats below Middleton Road and often wandered onto the open fairways. This was eventually resolved when the Road Board could afford to fence the grazing area. During 1900, the club shed was erected by contractors Josiah Norman & Sons. It was located halfway along the course, near Golf Links Road (formerly Moir Road ) on the west side.
At the annual meeting of the Club on 3 April 1912, the president suggested that as Albany shops, guest houses and hotels were doing well out of the visitors the Club attracted to the town, some financial support from them might be forthcoming. Three donations of £50, £10 and an undisclosed amount were received as a result. Annual golfing tournaments were introduced, leading to the establishment of the Wittenoom Cup, Albany Open and Albany Classic.
The installation of a water supply in the early 1920s cost £250, with most of the funds being donated by members. The water was used to irrigate the greens and the tees. A full-time green keeper, nurseryman Bob Jarvis, was employed in 1920 and the course quickly reflected his care and skill. He remained in the position for many years. By 1922, the improvements had brought praise from past and current Australian golfing stars and increased the number of visitors to the course.
To ease the congestion, it was proposed to extend the course to 18 holes by adding three new holes at a time, beginning with the area immediately west of Golf Links Road . The Club requested a lease of more land from the Lake Seppings Reserve, but local residents lodged a petition on the grounds the land was granted for parks and gardens.
The extension of the course onto the newly leased area did not occur immediately for reasons unknown, but in 1927 Cottesloe Golf Club professional David Anderson, a Scot who had played links courses in Britain, drafted plans for an extension of Albany Golf Course to 18 holes, with the following comment.
“I am of the opinion that the residents of Albany do not know how fortunate they are in possessing land absolutely of the finest golfing country, and it is with pleasure and without hesitation that I say I have never seen better golfing territory outside a few links in the Old Country. The contour of your land is the nearest approach to Prestwick, Scotland (recognised as one of the three best golf links in the British Isles) that it could be possible to come across. The possibilities of Albany with this excellent contour and ideal climate must be unique as far as Australia is concerned.”
In March 1956 a Course Planning Committee was appointed and in May 1957 it was decided to establish the 18-hole course with an immediate start on earthworks, clearing and pasturing. Funds were short, as usual, but a farmer donated the use of a bulldozer and another donated clover seed to hold the drifting sand on the seaside holes. Kikuyu grass was introduced and fertilised with residue from the Albany sewerage farm prompting the comment that ‘the stench was horrific... but the grass shot up’.
On 25 May 1963, Club patron and former president C.H. Wittenoom officially opened the extended 18-hole Albany Golf Course, followed by an evening party with buffet tea and dancing. The new course included three holes on the west side of Golf Links Road as well as the northern extension. The entire site of Albany Golf Course was re-gazetted as Reserve 27629 for ‘recreation golf links’, vested in the Town of Albany and leased for 21 years to the Club.
Having a road through the course presented real problems with stray balls hitting cars. When a ball bounced off a police car it was time to find a solution. This came in the form of realigning the road to run on the west boundary of the course, closer to Lake Seppings.
Lake Seppings was a significant coastal wetland and together with Albany Golf Course with its largely indigenous flora and lack of development, provided a popular habitat for coastal bird life. Albany Golf Course acted as a corridor between the Lake and the sea and was attractive to walkers and birdwatchers as well as golfers. This bird life habitat and greened space became more important as Albany continued to grow and residential development extended along the coast.
The development of the resort Clubhouse went ahead in the late 1990s, and the new building was opened in 2000. As well as providing top-class facilities for members, the new Clubhouse is a venue for dinners, conferences, meetings and private functions and is fully booked for much of the year.The driving range, situated northeast of the car park, between Barry Court and Griffiths Street, was developed at the same time as the new Clubhouse.
The resiting of the Clubhouse to the opposite end of Albany Golf Course necessitated a change in the order of the holes to accommodate starting and finishing at the northern end. Another result of that change has been that instead of starting each nine-hole end with the southwest wind behind, the golfers now start their game playing into the wind, which has had some initial adverse effects
on handicaps. Regardless of changes in the course and the advances in the technology associated with the game, professional golfers continue to have a high regard for the course owing to the undulating landscape and the coastal winds.
Proof of this can be seen in the club record which was set in 1967 by West Australian champion golfer Graham Marsh with a round of 65 – 7 under par – and which has not been bettered since. Another professional golfer, Craig Parry, has been often quoted as saying …
“Albany is my favourite Australian golf course. It’s a great course by the ocean, which plays hard and is never the same”.
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The Albany Golf Club's Mission and Vision is one of those historical documents that continues to serve its members. To read about our Mission and Vision click on the link on the right: