Local history column: Exmouth's former golf club

Map of Exmouth's former golf course

Map of Exmouth's former golf course - Credit: Exmouth Museum

I was recently asked by a visitor to the museum why does Exmouth not have a golf club. There is the splendid East Devon Golf Club at Budleigh Salterton, which offers breathtaking views, but Exmouth’s club ceased to exist it is believed in the early 1950s. Exactly why it closed I have not been able to find out so please feel free to email me if you know why! As a result of that question from the visitor I thought it would be good to write an article about the club.

The club was established in 1885 with only nine holes, but there was evidence of a ladies' club as early as 1883. It leased its course from the council on The Maer which is shared with the cricket club and general public walking on it. The longest hole was 276 yards and the shortest 134 yards. It was a mile in length and you played it twice to make a round of eighteen holes.  The entrance fee was one guinea, with the annual subscription the same. By 1890 there were 80 members and two years later a professional greenkeeper was employed. By 1905 the fee had risen to two guineas with the subscription the same – no doubt to pay for the greenkeeper! In 1914 the course was extended to 18 holes but with the outbreak of war it reverted back to nine holes as the land was used for growing vegetables. 

In 1922, with the membership at 200, the 18 holes were restored in line with the course map reproduced here. As can be seen, the holes were along the Maer and up on the cliffs above Foxholes. This had been preceded in 1920 by a new clubhouse being erected, having been moved from its original Undercliff site to a site on Queen's Drive which later became Exmouth Zoo and even more recently the Amusement Arcade. Play was only allowed Monday to Saturday and this lasted until about 1947 when Sunday play became permissible. By 1937 with a membership of 250,  the course had the first nine holes out at a length of 2885 yards and the home nine holes at 2600 yards giving a total of 5485 yards with a par of 70. The first hole, at 387 yards, a par 4,  had a huge sand bunker in it and if you survived that the second was a short par 3 of 195 yards. The longest hole was the par 5 seventh at 457 yards. 

I mentioned at the beginning that there had been evidence of a ladies' club before the gentlemens', as early as 1883, when a six-hole course had been laid out, that you could play for 6 pence a day. In 1902 the secretary was a Miss E G C Morant who also held the course record of 75 for many years! In 1905 the membership stood at 25 and the subscription one guinea. However, for £1, 11 shillings and 6 pence ladies could play the gentlemens' course!
By 1914 the ladies had a membership of 56, they were still only playing six holes and the subscription had risen to £1 10 shillings and 6 pence. Sunday play was still not allowed. It was not until after the first world war that ladies were able to play the gentlemens' course, but only on certain days!!

The club’s fortunes seemed to have declined after the Second World War and in spite of efforts to keep it going it closed in the early 1950s and Exmouth has had no full length golf club since.

The museum has much more information on the golf club – so why not come along and see for yourself, or visit the museum’s website at www.exmouthmuseum.com. Alternatively you can e mail mike at mike.menhenitt@btinternet.com