The club has been in existence since January 1896 when about 50 gentlemen of the town of Great Harwood met at the Wellington Hotel – the meeting heartily approved a motion that the golf club should be formed.
The early years were spent on land at Belmount on the west side of the town where thirteen holes were constructed. The club remained at Belmount until 1927 when notice was served that the lease of the land would not be renewed. A general meeting was held to wind up the club, but was postponed when it became clear that land had become available at Harwood Bar, the club’s present location.
As the purchase of the land and the subsequent construction of a nine-hole course presented a formidable financial problem, a Limited Company was formed with the issue of 100 shares at £5 each and £2,000 worth of debenture shares. The club eventually moved to the site it still occupies in October 1927.
By July 1928, the course, designed and laid out by Mr F. Palmer of Entwistle (Captain of Darwen GC) was ready for play. On the 21st of that month, the new Great Harwood Golf Club was officially opened by Mrs Noble, wife of the local cotton manufacturer, Thomas Noble JP. The first ball was driven by F.H. Williamson of Rossendale, the President of the East Lancashire Golf Association (of which the club was a founder member)
In 1933, a man by the name of Maurice Ormerod, who had been professional at Peel GC on the Isle of Man, arrived at the club. This was the first of three engagements at the club for Ormerod. Since then there have been five other professionals at the club, Harry Watson Stephen Berry, Wayne Lennon, Alan Rodwell, and Kerry Caven.
Playing with Ormerod in 1936, Alf Padgham recorded a score of 64 during an exhibition match held the day after he won the Open Championship at Hoylake. Padgham even brought with him the famous Claret Jug and his photograph together with this trophy occupies a prominent position in the clubhouse.
The Golf Club suffered a serious interruption to its golfing activities in 1954 when the Ullswater/Manchester water pipeline – a five-foot diameter water-carrying pipe came across the course. The excavations were horrendous and three fairways were affected. This was the first of three such disruptions. Two additional pipelines were laid in 1956 and a further on in 1971. The water pipes running under the course carry 20% of the total water consumed in the North West – enough water in one day to provide a cup of tea for every member of the human race!
The clubhouse underwent a major expansion in 1954 and a further expansion was carried out in 1968 with the addition of a prefabricated first floor building, which housed spacious locker rooms and toilets together with a snooker room. Another single storey extension was built in 1987.
Today’s clubhouse now bears no resemblance the buildings of years gone by. In 2003, a major building project took place and today the golf club boasts one of the finest clubhouses in the area, with a spacious dining/bar area enjoying views out over the course.
On the course, the most successful golfer the club has produced is Gary Hindle, whose talents were rewarded with selection for the England Boys Team in 1975. Since then he has represented the East Lancashire Golf Association from 1975 to 1992 at Junior and Senior level and was in fact Captain of the ELGA team for two years. He also represented Lancashire on numerous occasions from 1975 to 1986.
His record in the Harold Ryden Trophy (the ELGA Championship) is outstanding, having won the trophy five times – four years in succession from 1978 to 1981. He won it again in 1987. In addition he has been runner up three times.
The son of former secretary Ken Hindle, Gary has also won the ELGA Scratch Medal on four occasions. Other successes have come in the Southport Bowl, Wright Trophy (twice), Batty Trophy and the Blackburn Salver, all won while playing off a +2 handicap.
Another plus two handicap golfer who represented the club was John Aspinall who joined the club in 1962 and immediately broke the amateur course record with a 68. He had spent some time in Northern Rhodesia where he won the Central Federation Amateur Championship. He was probably the finest putter ever seen at Great Harwood and his touch on the greens was little short of magical. Sadly he died at the early age of 58 but is remembered with affection by those who were privileged to know and play golf with him.
As well as outstanding individual performances, teams representing the club at prestigious golf tournaments have also been most successful. The club has won the ELGA gross prize eight times between 1949 and 1994 – a remarkable achievement given the comparative small membership. They have also won the ELGA handicap prize on five occasions from 1948 to 1994. John McNeil, Mike Parker, Neil Godwin, Mike Catlow, David Thornton and Clive Dunn have all been individual winners in this competition.
The Club has won the ELGA mixed foursomes event once in 1965 and has also won the Tom Nuttall Memorial Trophy for the best team gross score in 1972 at Bacup Golf Club, when Peter Edwards and Jean Hindle won the best gross.
The Golf Club has also produced three ELGA Presidents. Percy Haworth 1949 – 51, Dr T.J. Pittard 1965 – 67 and David France 2004 – 06.
Other individual successes in ELGA competitions have come in the shape 0f David Aspinall (son of John), who was winner of the Boys Championship in 1966 – and Eddie Wilson who won the Seniors Championship in 1978.
The Ladies Section has flourished over the years and it too has had its fair share of success, winning the ELGA Handicap Shield in 1962, 1982 and 1998. In 1974 in another remarkable effort, Jean Mercer and Jeanette Holt reached the semi-final of the national Daily Mail Foursomes played at Hillside GC, where they were beaten by the eventual winners and then in 1994, Delice Powdrill recorded a significant triumph in by winning the prestigious Francis Smith Trophy.
Two lady members have served on the ELLGA Executive Committee. Mrs Jean Mercer, who was President of the Association 1988 – 90, and Mrs Audrey Dean from 1987 to 89.
The junior section of the club has produced its fair share of accomplished golfers besides Gary Hindle. Others to have represented ELGA are Andrew Dean – who was Captain of ELGA Juniors in 2004 – and Nathan Dunn who, between 2004 to 06, represented the Lancashire under-16 side. Dunn is one of a few Great Harwood juniors who have gone on to enter the professional golf ranks.
Dunn has played on the EuroPro Tour and has enjoyed success in several northern events. Steve Berry combined his professional duties with that of head greenkeeper, Jay Spibey is teaching professional at Moorend Golf Club and Ian Baron had a spell as assistant to Alan Rodwell at Blackburn Golf Club.
John Twissell, a past Junior Champion at the Club was long-time professional at Clitheroe Golf Club while Ryan O’Connor is now General Manager at Southport And Ainsdale GC.
The club celebrated its centenary in 1996 and launched this landmark by holding a “Flag Raising” ceremony at the Golf Club on the 7th January. The flag had been presented by a loyal member, Rex Bradley, and the event was attended by the Mayor of Hyndburn.
At the 1996 Annual Dinner of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, held at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, Great Harwood Golf Club was represented by the Centenary Captain Ian Holt and then Secretary Alan Clewer. During the course of the evening the Captain was presented with a Royal Crown Derby commemorative plate by the Chairman of the English Golf Union Executive, J.B. Flanders Esq. This plate is now on display in the trophy cabinet as is a similar commemorative plate presented by the ELGU to the Centenary Lady Captain, Jean Wood.
Many celebrities have played golf at Great Harwood, among them the comedian Dickie Henderson, keyboard player of the Peddlers, Roy Philips and Donald Peers of “By A Babbling Brook” fame. Local footballers Lucas Neill, Tony Parks and David Dunn have also stepped out on to the Great Harwood links.
1987 saw some of the world’s finest snooker players at the Club. Eric Parke was Captain at that time and was the Tournament Manager for famous snooker table manufacturers E J Riley. Parke used his influence to attract a number of well-known snooker celebrities to take part in a Pro-Am Tournament. Among those playing that day were Willie Thorne, Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor.