It was on the 19th of November 1892 that James Rigby (Medical Officer of Health) and Nicholas Cockshutt (local solicitor), consulted with George Lowe (Professional of Lytham & St Annes), about the construction of Preston Golf Course. A site was chosen on the eastern side of Preston, adjacent to the Preston Pleasure Gardens, in the district of Farringdon. Within a week, 9 holes were laid out. The course extended over 43 acres and was approximately 2,600 yards in length, and was set in undulating meadows overlooking the River Ribble – and came complete with basic changing facilities. Preston had its first golf course and Sydney Hermon (formerly the Captain of Lytham & St. Annes Club) officially opened it.
Golf was played here for another two years until another course was opened in 1895, on the northern side of Preston in the district of Fulwood, where the course has remained to this day. The two clubs merged and became known as the Preston and Fulwood Golf Links. The land was owned by the Clayton family and was farmed by two tenant farmers - Mr Morris from Mason Hill Farm and Mr Hill from Fulwood Hall Farm. The land was then sold to the Marquis of Rothwell, who owned much of the land to the North of the course and the word ‘Fulwood’ was dropped from the title.
18 holes were planned and designed with the help of George Lowe and extended over 4,210 yards of fairly open but undulating meadowland. Since then the course has been changed a number of times, for a variety of reasons but plans of the original courses are still available for inspection. In these early years, the Club enlisted the help of some very eminent golf players to design and shape the course – notably: Harry Vardon, the 6 times winner of the Open Championship between 1896 & 1914 and also famous for the ‘Vardon Grip’ used by most golfers around the world; James Braid, the 5 times winner of the Open between 1901 & 1910 and prolific golf course designer; Alistair Mackenzie, best known for his terraced greens; and Sandy Herd who beat Vardon & Braid to win the 1902 Open. Much of what these gentlemen suggested for the course, is still in place today.
Alongside these course developments, the elected council was busy establishing changing facilities, greenkeeping duties, professional duties, the rules and regulations of the club and the generation of income. The administrative business was conducted from the pleasant confines of convenient hostelries nearby and in the town centre. The players changing facilities were not however, as pleasant - restricted as they were to a hut, which had been inherited from the Ribbleton course. The acquisition of Fulwood Old Hall eventually resolved one of these problems - but members had to continue to use the old hut to store their belongings and change their attire! The Old Hall had been the home of the Clayton family since 1551 and the massive studded oak door of the current Clubhouse, is thought to have been part of the original building.
It was customary to invite eminent golfers of the day to play an exhibition round, when a major alteration to the course had been made. Usually this included the consultant designer. Thus the course has played host to such names as Braid, Taylor, Vardon and Herd.
An archive film of this match is still in existence. A G Havers, Abe Mitchell and Ted Ray (pictured) played the course after the 1923 alterations and Mr E. (Ted) Ray’s card has been retained as a memento of the occasion.
Undoubtedly the biggest professional golf event ever staged at Preston, was the Roosevelt Nine Nations Golf Tournament. Its aim was to raise money, so that physically handicapped young people could participate in the game of golf. It was always played on the Sunday preceding the Open and attracted the support of many top players, who gave their services free of charge. In 1974 the Open was at Royal Lytham and the Nine Nations was held at Preston. Bob Charles won the event. Brian Barnes, John O'Leary and Roberto de Vicenzo competed in the field and an elderly member recalls how Brian Barnes spoke in a most complimentary manner about the course in general and of the present 14th in particular.
More recently Adam Scott, the very successful Australian tour player, visited Preston to give a demonstration one summer. Andrew Greenbank (Club Professional) has many photos of this visit and since that time, Adam, winner of the US Masters (pictured), has very kindly sponsored the Adam Scott Trophy for Junior Golf at Preston Golf Club.
The acquisition of the Hall for members' use was a major development in the history of the club. The original building was not altered substantially until 1953 and a comparison of a photograph taken in 1953 with that of one taken in 2003, shows the extent of the alterations over the intervening years. Especially noticeable are the magnificent locker rooms for both men and ladies. The latest development has been the building of the driving range. This excellent facility was provided by the most generous gift the club has ever had from one of the members. He granted this gift on condition that the club would promote golf for the juniors, not necessarily members, so that youngsters of all ages and from all backgrounds could get a taste of the wonderful game of golf. This promotion is ongoing and continues to gather pace.
However, the most significant event in the club's history must be the acquisition of the land and clubhouse by the members. In fact the property was offered for sale to the members on no less than three occasions and thankfully the members from the 1950s era had the foresight to spend £8600.00 and buy some valuable real estate. Ten years later, even more land was bought and on the 7th of December 1960, 29 acres of land was acquired for the price of £4,060.00. As a result, it was possible to achieve the ambition which had been cherished since 1923: the course was brought up to the clubhouse; a new 1st hole was created; the former 1st hole was extended and became the 17th; and the 18th was repositioned on the top land where it is now. A large practice area became available and a new car park was constructed.
Some of the land previously purchased, was then sold and the money raised was used to renew all the greens to USPGA specification and to extend the 17th hole by moving it across the stream. This is now one of the best holes of any golf club in the district, offering a formidable challenge to golfers of all abilities.
For a more detailed account of the Club's history you may like to read "On Fulwood Green".