Golf’s hidden gem


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Stewardess Louise Presley Tel 01777 818268

Serlby Park Golf Club, Serlby, Doncaster, DN10 6BA

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Serlby Park Golf Club


The following extract, dated 1910, was unearthed recently:-

Ye Old Bell Golf Club. Founded 1906. “In the past few weeks, Tom Williamson the professional at Holinwell, has been planning and laying out an 18 hole course at Searlby Park, Nr Retford. The park is the private property of Viscount Dudley. The ground is excellently suited, being of a dry and sandy nature, and a capital course of over 5000 yards will soon be ready for playing over. The new club to be called “Ye Old Bell Golf Club”, being run chiefly by the Automobile Club, whose headquarters are at Ye Old Bell, Barnby Moor, Nr Retford. For the next few month’s E.Williamson, the professional’s brother, will supervise the work.”


Sadly, information at the golf club is limited to the Serlby Park Minute Books, nothing else survives, although there may be information in the Galway Archives at Nottingham Libraries and elsewhere.

The 7th Viscount Galway lived in and owned Serlby Hall and Serlby Park Estate and engaged Tom Williamson and his brother to undertake the laying out of the Course at Serlby. Tom Williamson was a well-known professional golfer and course architect over a long period of time. He was the professional at Hollinwell (Notts.Golf Club).

However, the only mention of Tom Williamson that appears in Serlby Park’s records date to the second meeting of the Club Committee in October 1906 when “Williamson’s notice was laid before the meeting and accepted, the Secretary was instructed to look out for another man”. Lord Galway stated that he was still desirous of the Course being completed at the February, 1907 meeting.

 The Club had opened, officially, on 8th.September, 1906, following a meeting, chaired by Viscount Galway, at Ye Old Bell, Barnby Moor on 27thAugust and was named “The Serlby and Barnby Moor Golf Club”. (Barnby Moor was where the Old Bell was situated on the Great North Road).

The newly elected Captain of the Club was Major-General Ruck-Keene.

Mention is made at a meeting held in November 1906 at the Old Bell of the “Syndicate” and that a “verbal arrangement with the Syndicate was discussed and considered unsatisfactory”. It was formally proposed to write to the “Syndicate” (no other name is ever used) “that it is desirable in order to avoid misunderstanding that a

proper arrangement in writing is made between the Club and the Syndicate since under the present circumstances the Committee doubt whether they are justified in electing further members and so increasing further expenditure”. One wonders whether the “Syndicate” included the Automobile Club and the owner/licensee of the Old Bell? Did the members of the Serlby Park Committee want a financial commitment in writing?

This was followed by a special meeting held at Serlby Hall in January, 1907 at which no mention of any correspondence or a reply from the “Syndicate” is mentioned. However, it was proposed to form a new Club, “the Serlby Park Golf Club”. This duly happened at a general meeting of members at Serlby Hall on 2nd February, 1907, chaired once more by Lord Galway, and the Club was re-named.  No reason was given for the change. It has remained Serlby Park GC ever since.

At the close of the February meeting it was agreed that the Secretary be “instructed to draw up, and send out a circular to all the old members, informing them of the result of this meeting, and inviting them to join the new Club under the amended Rule 15”. So were some of these “old members” part of the “Syndicate” or “Ye Old Bell Golf Club”? The conclusion may be drawn that the playing of golf and by-laws existed prior to 1906 at Serlby.

This is a distinct possibility. The Viscount and Viscountess were certainly very keen on their golf. He became President of Lindrick Golf Club in 1893 and held the position for 30+ years until his death. Having to travel some distance by carriage (about 13 miles) to play his golf may have prompted his Lordship, when time was of the essence, to “knock a few balls around his own backyard” and this may have led a creative mind in to developing a number of golf holes, by having his staff cut holes among the cow pastures and magnificent stands of mature oak and beech trees that stretched out over land to the front of  Serlby Hall. This perhaps, over time, developed to include parties of friends, some of whom may have been travelling and staying at the Old Bell Coaching Inn. Was this the start of an association with the Old Bell and the Automobile Association?

 It is known that for many years after1907 guests of the Old Bell were taken by coach to play golf at Serlby, although at the time the Landlord rejected an approach to join the newly formed Serlby Park Golf Club, even though he was offered the inducement of issuing tickets and collecting the appropriate fees from the hotel’s guests. Later landlords made sure they did not miss out on this lucrative side-line.

The Course had 11 holes in 1906, never 18, unless there were 18 before Tom Williamson started his work on the Course or because 18 were planned and then finances became an issue?

Something obviously went off between September 1906 and February 1907 – could it have been merely a desire by Galway to change the name to reflect his own property or did he quite properly wish to see some return on his investment or was it simply that  his good nature and generosity were being taken advantage of by the “Syndicate”?

The question remains who or what was “the Syndicate” and who were their members?