Modernising the links
DURING its journey to modern times the Club has both endured and enjoyed many turning points of note, one such occurred in 1928.
The Club’s landlords were the Pheonix Insurance Company with who the Club had enjoyed an amicable relationship, there was though a view held by many of the prominent members of the Club that the Club was not benefiting as it should from the many improvements it was making to the course. This manifested itself in a reluctance to finance further developments on the links.
It was clear from the recent alterations to the Club’s constitution that there was a drive to make the Club more stable financially and to have total control over the links. The purchase of the links from the landlords was seen as the essential next move to achieve the aim. However, the move placed the President, Mr Hyde, in an uncomfortable position in that he held, in addition to his Club office, a position within Dickinson, Cruickshank and Co.,the representatives of the landlords. The Club was soon to benefit from a member of the Club being associated with its landlord once again.
Although Mr Hyde was keen to sever his close connection with the Club due to the conflict of interest, at a meeting of the Club the members' feeling that he remain as President overcame his determination to resign. Eloquently accepting his re-election - ‘he was very obliged for the kind words which had fallen from their lips. The only fly in the ointment was that he had been present’.
As far as the purchase of the Links was concerned the idea had to be sold to the members, many persuasive speeches were made in favour of the purchase. The foundation stones for the recommendation were:
The Club at present did not have security of tenure; the land continuing as a links was important to the future of the town of Ramsey; the spending of considerable amounts of money on land they did not own; further improvements to the course were essential to maintain its status as a top course; the price that had been negotiated by Captain Black and Mr TB Cowley was a ‘very favourable one’.
The cost was £9,500 (£532,625 today). ‘Very favourable’ seems to have something of an understatement given today’s value.
Even though the Club had had an eventful year to date, Golf Links was not finished. Having secured the course and with additional land allowed for their use, they were now in a position to further consolidate the Ramsey links at the top of Island golf courses. Although the current set up was adequate it was not seen as challenging enough or of a modern enough look.
To change this, the company took the bold step of contacting the celebrated professional golfer, club maker and crucially, course designer, James Braid, with a view to him visiting the course and advising it on how to address the inadequacies of the present links. He responded promptly in a letter dated July 30, 1929, advising the Club that he would be available to visit the course in the first week of September. The fee would be £21 plus expenses.
Monday, September 2, 1929, saw the five times Open Champion, a member of the Great Triumvirate of golf, embark on the 01.00 Isle of Man Steam Packet steamer to Douglas en route from Walton Heath Golf Club, Tadworth to Ramsey.
By noon that day he was on site at Ramsey to start his first inspection of the links. He was accompanied by the Captain, Mr CW Oddie, the Secretary, AD Wilson, the Chairman of Ramsey Golf Links Limited, Mr TB Cowley and the sub-Captain, Mr WA Gibson. Braid didn’t bring his clubs with him though and so no exhibition games were organised, instead he devoted all of his time and concentration to the task at hand.
On Tuesday, before making for the afternoon ferry, during the last course tour of his inspection he made numerous comments, all to be written down on his journey back to Tadworth. By September 11 Ramsey Golf Links Limited had his plans set out in a five page type written pages.
1000 yards to be added
He wrote ‘…I was pleased to find the links so pleasantly situated and to see turf of such excellent quality.’ The plans he had would make the course more interesting, there were too many holes of a par of 3.5 ie just outside the reach of the long hitter and nearly all being able to get there in two making it difficult to give shots. His ultimate aim was to bring the links up to date, increasing the length by some 1000 yards and render them more sporting and interesting from the standpoint of the average player.
Braid’s remit was to produce two schemes – one for the remodelling of the existing course and more radically, the reconstruction of the links taking into consideration the additional land now in the occupation of Radcliffe Bros.
As directed, Braid produced the requisite schemes with a firm recommendation that if they were to do anything at all, they should adopt the reconstruction scheme.
It was now up to the Board to decide whether they accepted his conclusions and if so, how to proceed with the development. To enable an educated decision to be made, both schemes were submitted to the eminent firm of Messrs J.R Stutt of Paisley, a firm favoured by Braid and used by him for many of his courses, who had considerable experience of course construction.
One consideration was how much work their own groundstaff could carry out with regard to certain aspects of the works. However the Board considered the only way the plans could be carried out to total satisfaction was by placing the contract in total with the experts. The contract was placed with Stutt for the sum of £1,014.
The course was ready for play in March 1931, with the Club being awarded the Ladies Island Golf Championships for that year. In an exciting final Miss Kathleen Ogden defeated Miss Leah McCutcheon 2 and 1 in ‘a jolly sociable game’. The links came in for much praise.
And not only from the locals, Golf Illustrated commented that Ramsey had altered out of all recognition and that Braid had made just about all he could of the land. It went on to acknowledge the part that Stutt had played in the construction.