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As you would expect, a club with more than a hundred and ten years of history has a rich heritage
and few stories to tell. Since day one we’ve had men and women as members and we continue to
strive to be a fully integrated and progressive club. A brief history of the club is detailed below.
Otley Golf Club was founded in September1906 by three gentleman: Fred T Hunter, J E Sharpe and
Edgar Shaw. Initially a membership was offered to the first 100 people at a price of £2.10. The club
immediately gathered 53 men and 23 women members and once the 100 spaces were filled a
joining fee was introduced.
At this stage there was no actual course. Land from Storris Hall Farm was leased with an annual
tenancy of £100. The stone still standing near the 3rd & 5th tees is part of the original gateway into
the farm yard.
In November 1906 work began on designing the layout of the course and plans
drawn-up for the original clubhouse on Bradford Road, opposite the current 6th green. After much
hard work, play was able to commence in the spring of 1907. The official opening of both the course
and the clubhouse took place on 28 th September 1907.
The first AGM was convened in February 1908 and Fred Waite was elected as the first club Captain.
The following year Fred presented the club with the Waite Challenge Cup, awarded to the winner of
a men’s knock-out, match-play competition which is still contested to this day. In July 1908 the club
was also admitted in to the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs. The women members held their first AGM
in 1915 and were also admitted to the Yorkshire Union the same year. At the same time discussions
were held and the club set about raising funds to buy the land on which the course was situated. The
money was raised and the deal was done in May 1915.
More trophies were donated by members and the Rose Bowl was first played for in 1916. The first
women President Mrs A R Duncan was elected in 1919 and the following year the Presidents Cup
was played for. The trophy remains and the competition evolved into a 36-holes, played in a single
day. The Great War brought some changes with a reduction membership, the course being reduced
to 9 holes with the other land being requisitioned to help the war effort. To mark the end of the war,
the sitting President, T H Kelly, presented the club with the Victory Cup. This is now played for with
an 18-hole stroke-play qualifying competition then a match play format knockout. The course was
returned to 18 holes and the membership recovered over the next few years to 375.
The 1920s saw bunkers introduced on the course for the first time, a move that no doubt caused as
many issues then as getting out of them does now. Women were at the forefront in this post-war
era and encouraged to participate in sport. The women’s section broke 100 members for the first
time. It was around this time that Tuesdays became the nominated competition day. This still
remains but competition days have been added in and women members can play any day of the
week. In 1926 the role of a Vice Captain was also created to assist the Captain in their duties.
The 1930s saw a few major changes, voting in the 1933 AGM to become a Club and to be managed
by the members instead of a Limited Liability Company. In 1936 the club also opened an extension to
the old clubhouse on Bradford Road which was welcomed by members and visitors alike. The
outbreak of the 2 nd World War in 1939 saw many changes at Otley. Innovation is often borne from
adversity and at Otley this was no different. Members grouped together and helped to maintain the
course along with some sheep. A local business, Tranmere Nurseries, provided us with two ground
staff and during the summers the Bramhope Firs Service practiced their drills on the course -
strategically watering it at the same time. President and Captains Competition Days were used to
raise funds for the Lifeboat Association and the Red Cross. This tradition of charity involvement by
the Club Captains and President still exists to this day.
Improvements to the course at the end of the war saw membership increase to 355. A limit was set
and a waiting list created to manage demand. At this stage various committees were reintroduced to
help run the club and course. In 1946 the West Riding Rabbits Golf Association encouraged the club
to form a Rabbits section allowing golfers with a ‘longer’ handicap to participate in team matches.
This is a tradition that is still keenly upheld with a Rabbits Captain presiding over this sections’
activities including competitions, dinners and away days.
The 1950s saw two more trophies introduced when L.A Wood (President, 1950) and F L Dixon
(Captain, 1950) created eponymous competitions. The L.A Wood is the most prestigious individual
competition for the Men’s Section and the F L Dixon allows mixed teams of men and women to play
Foursomes Match Play. 1956 saw the 50 th anniversary of the club and 3 consecutive days of Open
competitions were held for Men, Women and a Mixed, which was followed by a Jubilee Dinner.
In the 1960s the need for a new clubhouse was identified. A programme of course re-configuration
and expansion allowed the clubhouse to be relocated to the centre of the course. After much hard
work the new clubhouse was opened in January 1966. The Past Captains of the Women’s Section
donated the Past Captains Trophy, played for over 36-hole medal, to mark the occasion. The next 15
years saw the facilities further improved to take advantage of the stunning views across the Wharfe
Valley and the Dales beyond.
The 1980s saw both the 75 th Anniversary of the club and its move from the Bradford Golf Union to
that of Harrogate. The club was also to receive a request, from professional golfer Mark James, to
use the practice facilities and become its Tournament Professional. The request was granted and he
went on to have a hugely successful year culminating in the Captaincy of the European Ryder Cup
Team in 1991. The rest of the decade saw much investment in the course which had suffered some
damage after challenging weather conditions in both ’82 and ‘85. The Bandits, a social group of
retired men, was also formed to play casual golf and gives members new and old an opportunity to
After the Millennium, plans were drawn-up to improve the facilities in the lounge, dining room and
the kitchen. A toilet block was added to enhance the on-course facilities. The terrace facing the
course was extended to make the most of the views and to provide an excellent venue for the
Centenary of the club in 2006. The celebrations continued over a fortnight with lots of competitive
golf and culminated in a Gala Dinner, which had to be split over two nights to accommodate the
demand. In 2010, the position of Club President was opened to both men and women and the role
of Club Captain was changed to have both a Men’s and Women’s Captain and Vice Captains. 2019
saw the election of Mrs Winifred Varley as President, the first woman to hold this post.