This year the Girton Golf Club celebrates seventy years of golf in Girton. But the present highly manicured parkland course is very different from the early days which some members can still recall. In those days, club members cut the fairways themselves with a gang mower towed behind an old Austin Seven. The clubhouse was a wooden structure which almost burst at the seams when many members were present. Nowadays, the green-keeping staff have all the modern machinery to keep the course immaculate and the greens perfect. The clubhouse now is an extensive light and airy modern complex, with smartly furnished lounges, a restaurant and two bars, as well as offices, meeting rooms and the professional's shop - all entered through a welcoming archway.
Situated at the end of Dodford Lane, the club has progressed a very long way since its foundation in 1936 by Allan Gow (1884 - 1974), a Scottish golf professional who bought the land to build a nine-hole course. For many years he lived in Woodlands Park, where latterly he even gave golf lessons in his back garden. By 1965 he was approaching retirement, and generously allowed the members to purchase the freehold of the course. The members set up a company controlled by themselves, registered as a charity - and the club has never looked back. More land was purchased, and the course was extended to 18 holes in 1979. The spacious new clubhouse was opened in 1992 by the international golfer Hugh Baiocchi. Continuous investment has taken place in remodelling the course, in planting and drainage and a full irrigation system to the greens and tee areas, The course is now a visual delight with a profusion of trees and flowering shrubs bordering its fairways and boundaries.
The keen golfer will find that the course is tight and represents a testing challenge of accuracy and control. Technically, it is a par 69 of 6012 yards, with two wicked short holes of some 120 yards (the 4th and the 17th) and a crushingly long hole (the 18th) which at 565 yards is one of the longest in the county. Shaped like a huge inverted letter "L", the course extends to the north almost to the Oakington-Dry Drayton road, to the east it abuts the Girton-Oakington road (you can see its boundary line of poplars near Midfield), and to the west, the enormous practice ground stretches out towards the A14. Located where Girton meets the Fenland levels (with large drainage ditches) this is an easy walking parkland course, whose greens are rated among the best in Cambridgeshire.
So who joins the club? Girton Golf Club has always been very much a local club. About 80% of members live within some 10 miles radius of Girton, and many live in the village itself. Total membership is around 700, comprising some 50 juniors (under 18), 450 playing lady and gentlemen members, 120 seniors and 80 social non-playing members. Anyone can join and there is no waiting list at present for either five-day (weekday) or full membership. While golf is not a bargain basement game, the fees are relatively modest when one considers the number of rounds which an enthusiastic golfer can pack into a year. Visitors are welcomed on weekdays but it is always advisable to telephone first to check availability. .
Central to any golf club is the club professional, who in Girton is Scott Thomson, a PGA Professional. Having worked in Cambridgeshire since 1982, he joined the club in 1991. He runs a well-stocked and attractive Pro-shop, and provides individual advice and tuition for members, visitors and non members and at local schools. You do not have to be an experienced golfer to join Girton Golf Club, since even complete beginners can be provided with lessons to get them started and up to standard. Scott also is Course Manager overseeing the green-keeping staff, whose efforts ensure that the course is in tip-top playing condition at almost all times of the year. Leading the team of Greens staff is Ian Hankin, who has lived in or nearby to Girton for all of his life and has worked at the Club for over twenty six years.
In a club owned and run by its members for its members, the roles of the Directors and Management committee are crucial. They make the policy decisions, which are implemented by the Secretary/Manager Vanda Webb. She coordinates the work of the two full-time bar staff, as well as the catering and green-keeping functions. Catering is of a high standard and ranges from bar snacks to five-course meals, themed evenings and events for up to 100 people. Vanda has been at the club for eight years (having come from Shire Hall) and is responsible for the administration and accounts of a business with an annual turnover of up to £0.5 million. The club is now nearly debt-free and financially robust, owning a fine course and a modern clubhouse, thanks to the astute management of successive Club Committees
How to sum up the Girton Golf Club? A well-equipped and well-organised club with excellent facilities. A "no airs and graces" club, which does not go all-out to attract flashy corporate sponsorship, but wishes to be for and of the community. A real golf club, not a multi-sports profit centre. A club where you can just turn up, and be pretty sure of an offer of a game from a fellow member. Above all, a friendly club, where anyone can join, find a welcome and become integrated as part of a family. As Vanda Webb puts it, "We are a traditional golf club: what we do, we do well."
Address: Girton Golf Club (Cambridge) Ltd, Dodford Lane, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QE
Telephone: 01223 276169
'Focus on Girton' is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton, for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Staff of GPN, with the consent and cooperation of the organisations concerned. The selection of organisations featured in this series is entirely at the discretion of the Editorial Team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation concerned. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.