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Cheltenham Town Golf Club founded in 1902 and re-named Cotswold Hills Golf Club in 1904. The club remained at Cleeve Hill until 1976.

Group on the Tee circa 1930

Cotswold Hills had humble beginnings with a wooden shed as a clubhouse, situated on the side of Cleeve Hill (near the Malvern View Hotel), but has survived two World Wars and the major upheaval and financial pressures of the move to Ullenwood in 1976.

Harold Webb was one of the founders of Cotswold Hills GC in 1902 and was grandfather of Rupert Webb who still travels down from Wilmslow in August each year to play in, and present prizes for, the Founders Trophy – a match between the Seniors and the Vets. Harold Webb was something of an entrepreneur and on one occasion, while travelling in America, he met up with Colonel William Cody (aka Buffalo Bill) and persuaded him to bring his Wild West Circus to Cheltenham in 1903. Harold Webb also arranged for the first public demonstration of electric lighting seen in Cheltenham.

In 1904 it was suggested that members of the Cheltenham Town GC were circulated to take their votes as to whether they wanted the Club named Cotswold Hills GC or Cleeve Hill GC. The secretary reported that thirty-three members voted for Cleeve Hill and only four for Cotswold Hills. In a highly undemocratic move it was decided that any change in name would entail summoning a General Meeting and the matter was taken no further. It was a somewhat fortuitous decision, considering the move to Leckhampton Hill over seventy years later.

In the same year, 1904, Harold Webb bought a piece of land near the Rising Sun Hotel, upon which Cotswold Hills built a clubhouse (known as Lower Clubhouse) which was opened in 1905 by George Dimmer, Mayor of Cheltenham. George Dimmer was great-grandfather to the present owners of Martins Jewellers in the Promenade, and he presented the Dimmer Cup to the Club which our Silver division ladies compete for – an 18-hole bogey competition (not a very popular format with our ladies these days!).

It is difficult to imagine how primitive the facilities were in that first decade of the century until we read in the minutes that the Secretary was instructed to “purchase some scoops and buckets for use in the earth closets” and that the steward “should get rid of the fowls so that the clubhouse grounds could be tidied up”.

Two of our Club members, brothers-in-law Lionel Barnett and Donald Bailey, were killed in the First World War. Both scratch golfers, they were two of the best players in the Club and were inseparable golfing companions. Donald was the eldest son of W. T. ‘Bill’ Bailey, who was Captain from 1911 to 1921. It was later written of ‘WT’ that during the First World War he had kept the Club going at his own expense.

Lionel Barnett survived the horrors of the Battle of the Somme, and following this he was recalled to England to train new soldiers. It was on one of these exercises that a grenade he was carrying blew up and he died a few days later on 6th February 1917. His widow presented a silver cup to the Club and requested that it was always played for on the Saturday nearest to the date of his death. Thus the Barnett Cup is traditionally the first Saturday medal of the season.

Many clubs failed to survive WW1, but both the Cheltenham Club and Cotswold Hills were among the lucky ones. Rock House, which was the Cheltenham Club’s clubhouse, still stands on the edge of the Common; after the Cheltenham Club closed it was used as a Youth Hostel for several years.

The 1930s started off very smoothly, but an eventful decade lay ahead. In 1938 the Club moved “up the hill” to the Wickfields clubhouse. Three of the five members elected to committee that year were destined to become Life Members of the Club – Leonard Morris, Rupert Webb (Harold’s son) and Sydney Steel (Steel Trophy). These men were the mainstay of the Club during those years. Leonard ‘AL’ Morris and his wife ‘Denys’ were Captain and Ladies’ Captain in the same year (1935) – a combination not repeated until our Centenary Year with Morris and Jan Little. Our ladies now play for the Morris Cup which was presented by ‘Denys’ Morris.

Sydney Steel was a forthright man of strong character, and with a passion for the Club. He was in the jewellery business and it was his company in Birmingham which supplied the Titanic with its silver cutlery. He was known as a champion of ladies causes, arguing that the women “paid their just dues to the upkeep of the Club and should have a voice in electing the people who spend their money”. Our ladies play for the Sydney Steel cup which, for many years, was given for the best net on Open Day.

Two young men joined the Club in the early 1930s: Jack Cole, who was described as one of the most promising young players at Cotswold Hills, and Don Davis another fine golfer who was noted for his excellent long iron play. Don served on committee for many years and played a major role in the move to Ullenwood. Both men were made President of the South Western Counties Golf Association (Jack in 1960 and Don in 1972) and together they presented the Club with the Cole Davis Trophy which the men still play for today.

In 1936 Capt. W. S. Wise, playing off scratch, joined the Club and in 1938 broke the course record with a gross 66. Bill was a colourful character and arguably the best match player in the history of the Club. By 1947 he had a plus-2 handicap and played for England on two occasions, winning both matches. Both members and visitors now compete for the Wise Cups in our Open Mixed Foursomes competition, usually held in August.

In 1941 the Club arranged for an Exhibition Match on Cleeve Hill in aid of the Daily Sketch War Relief Fund, the participants being Henry Cotton, Alf Padgham and Bill Cox (all Ryder Cup players) plus Arthur Parker (then professional at Cotswold Hills).

In 1941 the Club arranged for an Exhibition Match on Cleeve Hill in aid of the Daily Sketch War Relief Fund, the participants being Henry Cotton, Alf Padgham and Bill Cox (all Ryder Cup players) plus Arthur Parker (then professional at Cotswold Hills).

The WW2 years were a difficult time for the Club with many of its members (and staff) away fighting. Obstacles had been put on the fairways, there was a shortage of toilet paper and the putting green was dug up in order to grow potatoes (which were offered to the steward at trade price). Visitors were restricted to only two drinks. The Ministry of Food had decreed that only members and their immediate friends could have meals at the Club, and the steward was held responsible for the observance of the Rationing Regulations. Ration books had been introduced at the start of 1941 and rationing continued long after the war ended, not finishing completely until 1954.

In 1965 Norman Allen came to the Club as Professional and soon found that “the standard of golf at Cotswold Hills was outstanding”. Within a week of his arrival he met John Bloxham, already a legend in the Club at just 18 years old. Norman Allen said that he believed John was the finest amateur he had ever seen. They played together in many Pro-Am tournaments and were three times Sunningdale Foursomes semi-finalists. Norman also recalls that at the start of 1966 a young girl name Beverley Huke joined the Club and her talent was obvious immediately. She was to become Cotswold Hills’ most successful female golfer, later turning Professional.

Eric Scott Cooper was a member of the Club for over sixty years. He was the son of Waldron, who was President in 1930; his mother, Emily, became the Club’s first lady Life Member in 1947. Eric was a very quiet and pleasant man, and as he grew older his love of golf administration increased and he became a legend for the work he did for the game as he served in a number of official positions. He was President of the GGU in 1960, President of the South Western Counties in 1966 and was a Life Member of both Cotswold Hills (1969) and the GGU (1990). He was President of Cotswold Hills on two occasions and Captain in 1964. He was over ninety years old when he died in the late 1990s and the trophy cabinet in the foyer today is dedicated to his memory.