Club History

Follow in the footsteps of golfing legends. The fairways and greens of WBGC have been graced by some of the greatest golfers in history, including Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, James Braid, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Lee Trevino and Greg Norman.

Founded in 1890 by JB Radcliffe and FW Wyndham, the original 9-hole course on Whitley links occupied a narrow strip of land with the clubhouse adjacent to what later became the ‘Spanish City’. The Club has had a varied and colourful history down the years; some of the significant milestones in the Club’s history are detailed below: 

29th September 1890 – An inaugural meeting is held at the Crown Hotel, Newcastle; 129 original members pay an annual subscription of 10/6 (that’s just over 50 pence!) . 

10th October 1890 – The Links is formally opened for golf, as a winter course only (October to June), due to the popularity of the links for non-golfing visitors during the summer. 

10th-11th October 1890 – The first competition takes place, featuring a large number of golfers from various parts of the country. Scratch prize – Davison Cup and 25 guineas; handicap prize – Wyndham Cup and 15 guineas. 

7th October 1891 – The first Annual General Meeting is held in the Continental Restaurant, Newcastle, with 151 members now on the roll.

9th October 1894 –  Ladies are invited at the AGM to join Whitley Bay Golf Club for the first time.

1st November 1899 – The Club rents a field near St Mary’s Island. 

3rd May 1902 – Whitley St Mary’s Golf Club is opened as a summer course with Lord Hastings being involved for the first time.

31st January 1902 – The first Annual Dinner Dance. 

1903 – The first inter club friendly takes place, with South Shields Golf Club. 

October 1903 – In light of continuing problems with both the winter and summer courses it is agreed to terminate the agreement on the St Mary’s course. 

1904 – The first Junior Section is formed. 

1906 – An agreement is drawn up for a course on Nicholson’s farm with a rent of £30 in the first year, £35 in the second and £40 in the third. George Rochester, a well-known professional from Alnmouth, is approached for his expert advice in the laying out of the course. The course covers 67 acres and has a total playing length of 2770yds. 

22nd September 1906 – A new clubhouse is officially opened (the building cost £297!) This modest structure (described at the time as ‘cosy’) stays in use for 58 years. (It is now used as the scout hut next to the Briar Dene pub). 

1910 – Agreement is reached to extend the course to 18 holes; this course is planned by Ted Ray, 1912 Open champion. 

1931 – In the inter-war years the Club organises various Open competitions in aid of local charities; in 1931, 478 players took part in one event. 

1934 – Two bridges are built over the Brier Dene, the larger of which survives today.

1940 – The first Captain’s Day, under the captaincy of Dr Cunningham. 

1947 – The first threat of opencast mining on the course surfaces.

1949 – 1955 – Opencast mining is undertaken on the golf course; due to the exertions of members and committee, parts of the course remain open throughout this period and close bonds are established with Ponteland, Tynemouth and Morpeth Golf Clubs all of whom offered course courtesy for WBGC members. 

14th July 1954 – Following the extraction of 1.5 million tons of coal, a new course is constructed and opened on this day with an exhibition match between Gordon Clark, Alan Thirlwell, Ian Cauldwell and Allan Slater. Preferred lies are in operation for two years until 1956. 

1964 – WBGC’s  new (current) Clubhouse is officially opened.

1967 – The Club purchases the field to the north of the site.

1970 – The new holes in ‘the field’ open for play and the club relinquishes their lease on the land to the east of Claremont Road.

1970 – The Whitley Bay Classic, the first professional tournament played over the course, is dominated by Lee Trevino, already US Open champion and destined for a stellar and trophy-laden career.

28th to 31st July 1977 – The most significant and important event in WBGC’s recent history is the Callers International Open tournament, sponsored by Roy and Ian Caller, owners of a chain of Newcastle stores. 130 golfers from all over the world play for the first prize of £5000. Big name players include Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Bob Charles and David Graham, all winners of ‘Major’ championships. The tournament is finally won by South African, John Fourie, who defeats Peter Butler, Ángel Gallardo and Tommy Horton in a ‘sudden death’ playoff, over holes 16 and 17. The course, thronged with spectators, looks magnificent and receives many plaudits.

1984/85 – Following protracted negotiations and under the guidance of then Chairman, Mr WJC Blakey, the club purchases the land on which the course is situated, an excellent investment for the club. 

2015 – Work begins on major changes to the course, holes 6 to 10 (in the ‘newest’ part of the course) undergoing major redesign and remodelling. What had been a flat and relatively dull part of the course is transformed by rebuilt greens, new bunkering and radical re-shaping and contouring of fairways and green surrounds. The development is made possible by the kind donations of Club member Mr Alan Anderson.

European Tour Event – Callers 1977

Held at Whitley Bay Golf Club, the Callers of Newcastle, named for its sponsor, the Callers Department Store, was a tournament on the European Tour held between the 28th to the 31st July 1977.

The tournament was won by South Africa’s John Fourie, who defeated Peter ButlerÁngel Gallardo and Tommy Horton in a four way playoff. The playoff started at the 16th hole. Butler and Horton bogeyed the first extra hole and Fourie won at the next after he made a par 3.