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Wenvoe Castle

History of the Club

The current clubhouse is on the site of a former castle which was built in the early 1700’s.

There is still speculation that a Wenvoe Castle known to exist in the mid 1500’s was its predecessor and reputed to have been burned down by Owain Glyndwr, a potent Welsh nationalist who led the rebellion against the occupying English forces at that time.

The buildings and land forming the golf course were owned by the Thomas family who accumulated wealth and significant influence as they gradually passed from affluence to extravagance fuelled by a desire to be both Members of Parliament and Landscapers on a grand scale. It is possible that at that time the early seeds of a golf course were beginning to emerge with records showing the area of the front nine holes was known as ‘The Gathers’ and the back nine aptly called ‘The Lawns’.

The Thomas family eventually paid the price for their extravagant lifestyle and in 1774 were forced to sell land and property and Wenvoe Castle passed into the hands of Peter Birt who made his personal fortune from coal and canals in Yorkshire. Mr Birt immediately set about dismantling the buildings on the site rebuilding in its place a mansion house with castellated battlements with front of the new ‘castle’ measuring some 374 feet long. This was the only Mansion House built in Wales that was designed by Robert Adams and the accompanying picture illustrates a grand and imposing building. The Birt family married into the Jenner family who later became involved in the creation of the golf course.

However In 1910 there was serious fire which destroyed almost all of the Birt-built Wenvoe Castle with only the East Pavilion, the Stables and Archway Tower remaining intact. These remaining buildings are still sufficient to provide the elegance and grace of a Country Mansion House and enjoy protection as a Grade 2 Listed Building.

The buildings took on a new lease of life as a Club house when the golf course was opened in July 1936 by the Rev. Hugh Jenner the Club’s first President and Benefactor over many years.

James Braid a 5 times winner of the Open advised on the original layout and in later years C.K. Cotton, another top name in golf architecture, was brought in to advise on further modifications.

Early records indicate the initial club membership was about 100, which included the Ladies, producing approximately £66 in subscriptions. The 1936 PGA Handbook refers to Wenvoe Castle GC listing the Standard Scratch Score as 74 and the first club professional as Mr C.A. Pickett. The outbreak of World War 2 had a dramatic effect on the golf course. The top floor of the club house was requisitioned and the back nine holes were ploughed up and commanded to produce cereals. By early 1941 club meetings were cancelled because of air raids and black outs and this fear was not without justification as bombs actually fell on the fifth fairway causing considerable damage.

After the war it took some considerable time to regain the land for golfing purposes and it was not until 1956 that the full 18 holes finally came back into play and by 1958 a water supply had been installed to every green.

Over the years improvements to the course have been carefully planned and implemented. A demanding layout has been developed through the planting of significant numbers of trees particularly on the back nine holes. Additional bunkers were strategically placed to supplement the natural hazards such as the lakes. The result demands good course management by the player and a stern but fair and enjoyable test of golf. Adjustment of the tees has enabled the length of the course to be maximised and the course has now been extended to championship standard of 6544 yards from the back tees.

Many club members have achieved golfing honours at the highest level, in particular Tegwen Perkins who was selected for the Curtis Cup side and other major international honours. Sylvia Webster (nee Hales) is another former Welsh Champion and now a leading figure in the Welsh Golf Union and recently appointed selector for the Curtis Cup Team.

Simon Cox, as an amateur, represented Wales on numerous occasions from 1970 to 1974 and on turning professional in 1975 he went on to win the Welsh Professional Championship in 1976 and 1983.

In recent years Keith Stimpson has won the Welsh Seniors title and represented Wales in the Home Countries Championships. Keith was also part of the Club Team which won the Welsh Team Championships in 2007 thus repeating the success achieved by the Club in honours at the highest level, in 1977.

Wenvoe Castle is proud to have been chosen as the venue for the first Welsh Classic in 1979 which was introduced as part of the Professional European Golf Tour. The event included most of the top European golfers including Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Brian Barnes, Bernhard Gallagher, Bob Charles, Christy O’Connor Jnr., Sandy Lyle, Mark James to name but a few. Even for the seasoned professionals the course proved to be a tough challenge and the eventual winner was Mark James who won in a three way play off after posting a score of only 6 under after four rounds. No doubt this achievement helped in some small way to his subsequent selection as Captain of the Great Britain and European Ryder Cup Team!

The Clubhouse has also seen significant improvements. The Castle Suite function room is a popular and attractive venue for weddings and other social events. The Lounge and Bar together with a separate dining room have been tastefully refurbished and the Ladies and Gentlemen Locker Rooms have also been completely renewed to provide first class facilities. The external patio offers panoramic views over the course particularly the 18th green and is a very relaxing place to enjoy a well-earned drink at the end of a round of golf. In 1986 the Club celebrated its 50th Anniversary and at that time a book was produced entitled ‘The History of the Castles of Wenvoe, the Wenvoe Estates and Wenvoe Castle Golf Club’. The book written by club members P.D. Smalley and M.G. Sherrard gives a detailed and interesting insight into the history of the Golf Club up to that time.