Lake Macquarie History

Waratah Golf Club

photo: waratah golf club,1900

For some years prior to 1901 golf was played on the Waratah Recreation Reserve on a links extending about a mile and a half from the Waratah railway station towards Styx Creek, and up by way of the Georgetown Hill.

In May of 1901 Waratah Golf Club was formed as a subsidiary of the Waratah Tennis Club, becoming the Newcastle ~ Lake Macquarie region's first golf club and second only to Maitland (est. 1899) in the Hunter. The club's object was to regulate the informal golf on the recreation reserve during the tennis off-season.

The golf club became autonomous in 1905, with a links on the Dangarville Estate and a small clubhouse on the remnant of which is still known as Dangar Park. It should be noted that as late as 1915 Dangar Park was still subject to stock grazing rights. This course was abandoned when the estate was subsequently sold. Play on both of these public lands was prohibited on Sundays, and in consequence, a small private layout was developed on part of Tourle’s Estate by member Edwin Thomas.

Waratah Golf Club Ltd. was formed on March 1st, 1911 to construct a new course, designed by professional golfer Carnegie Clark, on the recently purchased (for £1200) Tourle's Estate, fronting the south arm of the Hunter River. The meeting passed a vote of thanks to Mr Albert Augustus Dangar (son of Henry Dangar Snr.) for allowing the use of the Dangarville land for so long a term without charge. The Kerr Street links was opened - membership stood at sixty three, including country and associate members - with the clubhouse extended and relocated to the corner of Kerr and Bull Streets, Mayfield.

With the BHP seeking expansion along the Hunter River, enquiries commenced re an alternative site and in 1919 the BHP Co. purchased the Kerr Street course for £17,500 on the proviso that play could continue while a new course was being developed. The club paid Newcastle Wallsend Coal Company £25 per acre for one hundred and four acres at Cockle Creek near Argenton with easy access to the railway station and the tram line, important at a time when private car ownership was rare. The land, covered in lantana and ti-tree scrub, took months to clear but the location was superb, situated on the northern end of Lake Macquarie and framed by Cockle and Brush Creeks. Bullock teams were used to plough the fairways and members worked with their bare hands to shape greens and plant grass and trees.

photo: waratah golf club, cockle creek.1924

A first-class 18 hole golf course with tree-lined fairways and water features, designed by professional Mr F. O'Brien, and a two storied brick clubhouse were opened on December 3 1921 at a cost of £13,635, debt free. Mr Tom Heard was appointed as the club's first residential professional and greenkeeper. He lived in the relocated Kerr Street clubhouse off the first fairway, converted to a five room dwelling. Membership had increased to two hundred and fifty. The club also provided lawn tennis, putting and croquet facilities and enjoyed the satisfactory services of resident caretakers, Mr & Mrs Cuthbertson.

In June 1922, Waratah Golf Course was officially gazetted as a bird and animal sanctuary. On Saturday 19th July of 1924, a plaque and memorial portico was dedicated to the late Hudson Berkeley (former President) for service to the new course. His successor, Mr Henry Vincent Harris officiated. The first record of tree planting - fifty wattles, the ancestors of the present trees - was made in 1927. 1937 additions to the 1921 clubhouse included enclosure and an extension of the northern upstairs veranda. Activities during 1939 to 1945 were restricted, due to World War II.

Additions and changes to the clubhouse were opened in June 1954, only to suffer in a disastrous clubhouse fire in 1956. A town water supplied system for ten holes was established in 1968 despite problems of cost and water restrictions. This system was subsequently connected by volunteer member labour to treated water ponds at the Edgeworth Treatment works and eventually extended to the full 18 holes.

During 1985 and 1986 four thousand trees were planted on the creek side of fairways to give employment to a group of young people, followed by volunteer members planting a further six thousand trees, largely defining fairways and doing much to encourage wild life as well as greater player accuracy. The December 1989 Newcastle earthquake caused severe damage to the clubhouse. Along with the subsequent repairs, a major course drainage programme was also effected. An automated watering system and replacement of town supply reticulation was achieved in 1991.

The club's milestone centenary was celebrated in 2001, with a salute to the past, special programmes for the year and thoughts for the future of the club, culminating in the 2007 New Master Course Plan drawn up for taking the course into the 21st century. Plans were displayed in the clubhouse foyer and work commenced on new 2nd and 4th tees and a new 1st green.

On the night of 25 June 2008, the greenkeeping shed and all its equipment was destroyed by fire, which took dozens of fire fighters several hours to extinguish. Every piece of greens equipment, backhoes, bobcats were destroyed, with a lot of chemical damaged in a nearby shed. Losses were estimated at $1 million or more with the shed included.

Prominent golfers associated with the history of Waratah Golf Club include (without limitation) Neville Bell, Ray Carlin, Carnegie Clark, brothers Darren & Nathan Green, Bill Hughes, Ken & Col Johnston, F O'Brien, Brett Odgers and Beryl Tobin. Long term associations also have been formed with the Frith, Harris and Nelson families, among others.