​​ Golf | The Foundation of Darwen Golf Club | The Early Days of Darwen Golf Club 
The Lady Members of Darwen Golf Club | Richard "Dick" Burton



Inland golf courses towards the end of the 19th century were essentially farmers’ fields. They were shared with cows and sheep and criss-crossed by walls and hedges. Special rules were adopted allowing players to retrieve their balls from animal droppings, clean them and place them elsewhere. Wilpshire Golf Club opened in 1889, followed by Pleasington in 1891 and Blackburn in 1894.

The Foundation of Dar​wen Golf Club

Foundation Of The Club
In 1912 the Council thanked the then Captain (Mr. R. C. Haworth) for his gift of a book to record the formation and history of the Club. Sadly this journal appears lost to us and so a detailed knowledge of the beginning is not available but various sources have provided the following information.
The Blackburn Times of 1903, reporting upon an anniversary of St. Stephen's Church, Tockholes, mentions that a Mr. Corfield was instituted to the living on the 12th November, 1889. He was educated at Trent College, Cambridge. He was the fifth son of the Rev. Frederick Corfield, T.C.D.
His family seems to have combined peace with war, for all his male relatives were either in the Army or the Church.
One cousin, General Charmer, C.B., had the proud distinction of winning the Victoria Cross during the Afghan Campaign, and his sister was the authoress "Crona Temple".
Mr. Corfield himself was an athlete of no mean ability in his college days at Cambridge; He possessed cups won in rowing and running contests. A chance happening in the Summer of 1891 led to the forming of Darwen Golf Club. The Rev. Corfield walking back from Darwen to Tockholes over Winter Hill was surprised to encounter three men knocking a golf ball around with a curved stick. Already interested in the game of golf and being a man of vision, he saw the possibilities. His germ of an idea grew over the winter and in the spring of 1892 he and these three men set about forming the golf course.
On a certain Saturday afternoon the party of four, having received the necessary permission from the farmers and arming themselves with a spade (with which to make the holes) one club and one ball, went forth to play the game according to the then recognised rules.
History does not record how that was possible with only one ball but it was that first excursion which led to the suggestion that a golf club be formed.
At a meeting in September 1893 attended by seven people, Darwen Golf Club was born and the first officials elected. Those were the Captain Sam Shorrock, Secretary G. C. Sames and Treasurer P. C. Winterton. Although it was initially of nine holes only and with no club house, Darwen Golf Club flourished.
After financial discussions were agreed with the local farmers the Club was in being.

The Early Days of Darwen Golf Cl​ub


Early Days - Looking Towards Sunnyhurst And The Tower
The rent of the land was £23/10/- per annum and the "Clubhouse" was a room at "Dicky" Heyes farm at Hawkshaw.
As the Rev. Corfield had been so enthusiastic, shown such initiative and worked so hard, the committee made him an honorary member in 1897.
In 1894 the membership had increased to 80 and in consequence a second room was hired at the farm. The rent was now 3/- per week. Subscriptions were raised from 10/6d for gentlemen and 5/for ladies and boys to £1/1/- and 10/6d respectively. An entrance fee of £1/1/- was instituted which fortunately did not seem to restrict the appeal of the game.
The proficiency of the members improved so quickly that in 1895 the Club actually played a challenge match with the Blackburn Golf Club. Surely one of the earliest recorded inter-club matches in East Lancashire.
In the year 1896 The Darwen News thought fit to point out that golf had caught on in Darwen and that the local club now had 86 members, a fair proportion of whom were Scots. These same gentlemen were planning to put up a Scots Cup for competition in the near future. The author continues to say "that possibly many people only see strong men waste hours knocking a small while pillule about". But he continues "let the critic feel the magic grip of the cleek, let him once smite this small white pillule, and his opinion changes, from being one of the more prosaic of games, golf becomes one of the most entrancing".
"The Darwen Links" the paper claims, are the best in this part of the county. There is also a report of the Annual General Meeting, held in the offices of Mr. Broadbent the solicitor. Dr. Gifford was elected Captain and presided over a meeting where it was reported that the club had the sum of one shilling and seven pence in hand as a result of the year's working! "This", The News went on to say, "speaks well for the enthusiasm of the members". "Indeed" it adds, "had this been a football club or a cricket club the Treasurer's smile would have rivalled King Sol's".
Obviously the new game was in Darwen to stay, and the news reporter felt that it might have important social consequences, for he adds "never marry a woman until you have watched her play a round. Be unobstructive as you do so, the lady's character may well be an open book".
Incidentally, the paper reported at the same time that in a tournament for professional players held at Dumbarton in Scotland, prize money of £25 was offered; and that some professionals could earn between £25 and £300 per year. Our leading professionals today should raise a memorial to these pioneers. But let us also remember that values are relative - one report of the time also says that a Darwen woman was sent to gaol for four months for stealing £1 19s. - less than one half of a year's subscription.
The Club was in being and despite periods of trial and tribulation has made excellent progress.
During the years 1920 and 1921 there was much discussion about the future progress and development of the club. The game was appealing to a wider section of the community and so senior members decided it would be advantageous to form a Limited Company to be known as Darwen Golf Club Limited. To this end, eleven of these members signed the necessary applications and these were witnessed by John Herbert Morris (a chartered accountant) who became the first Honorary Secretary of the Company (to be known as the Club).

The Lady Members of Darwen Golf Club

Within two years of inception, Darwen Golf Club opened its doors to lady members and in 1895 it was recorded that there were twenty-four full lady members whose play and competitions were to be governed by the Club Council.
Lady members and juniors, as is the case today, were accepted as honorary members, their subscription being a reduced one.
It would appear that there was always a cordial liaison between the gentlemen and the ladies. There were many mixed competitions organised and enjoyed - frequently followed by social functions. The gentlemen from the outset took great interest in the ladies' golfing prowess and initially they were responsible for the supplying of prizes.
The seeds of monthly competitions must have been inspired then, probably filtering through from other sources, because Mr. Broadbent offered a prize of a bracelet to be played for monthly. The most frequent winner was to win the same outright at the end of the season. There is no mention made of the outcome should there have been a draw or even a three-way tie. It may be that the sport would have required Marquis of Queensberry rules - at any event there are those today who, with tongue-in-cheek, would welcome benefactors of such largesse.
By the early 1900s it was apparent that the ladies were enthusiastic and interested enough to want to form their own section and so, in 1908, they elected their first Lady Captain, Mrs. W. A. Smith; a Lady Secretary, Mrs. Knowles and four Committee Members.
The first ladies match was recorded against Blackburn ladies in 1909. During these formative years, the gentlemen were largely responsible for locating the handicaps and at this time the categories seemed to be those with a handicap of 22 or less and those of 22 plus.
Two of the competitions which seemed to be much in favour at this time were 'an approach and putt competition' and a 'long distance competition', which after some research would seem to be simply a longest drive competition. Perhaps it is that these two forms of competition lent themselves more easily to the dress of the day. When we consider the voluminous skirts, high frill blouses and atop all, a boater, present day members cannot envisage eighteen holes of golf dressed in this attire and battling with the prevailing westerly breeze (frequently near gale force) at the highest point of this Pennine course. There are many who insist that Darwen ladies are an Amazonian race apart when they visit our course. Certainly it is not for the faint hearted but then many visiting gentlemen are of the same opinion.
With the advent of the 1914-18 War, competitions were much restricted and if and when any were played, all monies went to War Funds and to the Moss Bridge Hospital Fund.
After the war, the membership flourished but it appears that in many instances it was as a social affectation rather than an attempt to play serious golf - not many ladies were attempting to play in the competitions. In 1925 the Ladies Section donated £25 to the Club to help fund the cost of the new windmill which in those days stood near the present tenth tee and was essential for the pumping of water. As from that year it has been the custom for the ladies to be involved in fund raising, not only for their own cause but in support of the Club in general - and this continued show of concern and endeavour has always been much appreciated by each succeeding Captain.
In 1928, the ladies joined the new E.L.L.G.A. and started to enter their team competitions. The Lady Secretary reported that more interest was being shown in the affairs in general and that forty ladies were present at the A.G.M. On June 3rd, 1930, Darwen played host for the first time to an E.L.L.G.A. major competition, the Scratch Trophy, and in the following year the course received its first official L.G.U. S.S.S. - it was assessed as 74.
Sadly the ability to raise teams was failing and for a while Darwen withdrew from the E.L.L.G.A. competitions.
With the onset of another World War, as mentioned elsewhere, all sections of the Club were at a near standstill and it was a great relief when golf cudgels could he taken up again.
For a few years in the 1940s Darwen withdrew from E.L.L.G.A. but reapplied for membership in 1951 and was accepted in 1952. Darwen has continued to play a full supporting role since then.
Although the course has been re-vamped and re-organised on several occasions, it has never been reduced in yardage, quite the contrary, but in 1954 the L.G.U. re-assessed the S.S.S. It was marked down to 72 and in 1956 still further reduced to 71. Today, after a further adjustment, it stands at 70 and it is perhaps this par and the convolutions of the course which visiting ladies find so difficult to handle.
Over the years, it is pleasing to note that the silver division of the Ladies Section has gradually increased and, for the first time, we have one lady golfer in the gold division, Mrs. L. Noblett, who in pre-centenary year was chosen to represent Lancashire. It is her score of 71 which presently stands as the recorded course record for a Darwen lady player.

Richard "Di​​​ck" Burton 

From Cobden Mill to The Open Championship…
Richard Burton was born in on the 11th October 1907 on a farm at Winter Hill in Darwen. The Burton family lived in a farm next to the Darwen Golf Club before moving to Lynwood Avenue. Richard was the youngest, but tallest, of three boys and with his brothers, Tom & John, used to watch members hacking away past their farm which was just above the clubhouse. As they had no golf equipment themselves they had to make do with hitting bobbins from their Mother’s workbasket around the farm with an old walking stick. Eventually the brothers were given a few old hickory shafted clubs and they now felt they could take on the world. Upon leaving school Richard went into the mills and while still in his teens he was a four-loom weaver at Cobden Mill, which later became Crown Paints, in Darwen.
a11 cobden headline.jpg

Richard started out as a caddie at Darwen Golf Club before applying for the position of greensman, preferring it to working the looms at Cobden Mill. After a number of years he then replaced his brother John as the Club Professional when he moved to the Hillside Club in Southport. Three years later he was appointed the Professional at Hooton Golf Club, which is now known as Ellesmere Port Golf Club, which gave Richard more opportunity to play competitive golf. Also around this time Richard’s remaining brother, Tom, was appointed the Club Professional at Darwen to complete a unique trio for the Burton family. 
a12 shot1.jpg

In 1934 Richard won the Northern Professional Championship, the first of many titles, the following year he collected the Dunlop Northern Tournament and made his first appearance in the Ryder Cup for Great Britain. He was also runner-up in the Dunlop Southport Tournament, semi-finalist in the “News of the World” and third in the Scottish Penfold Tournament. In 1936 Richard added the Leeds “Evening News” Tournament to his list of titles and he was runner-up in the Dunlop Southport Tournament again but made the England team to play the Annual match against Scotland, the first of three consecutive appearances. 1937 saw Richard win the Dunlop Southport Tournament and he also appeared in the Coronation Match for King George VI. He appeared in the Ryder Cup again and was appointed the professional at Sale Golf Club in Cheshire and was the Club Professional until 1946. The following year brought more success, winning Manchester & District Championship, being selected for the England team to play Ireland & Wales and finishing joint 4th in the Open, held at Royal St George’s in Kent, eight shots behind Reg Whitcombe. Apart from his Open triumph in 1939, he also won the True Temper Tournament, partnering Fred Robson and lost in a play-off to A.H. Padgham for the “Silver King” Tournament.
a8 Clubhouse StAndrews.jpg

He will always be remembered for winning The Open Golf Championship on the old course at St Andrews in 1939. His first three rounds of 70, 72 & 77 put in him contention after finishing fourth the previous year. Richard started his round already knowing that he needed to score 73 or better to win the title as his rivals had completed their rounds. He didn’t start well as he 3-putted at the first but it said a lot about the character of the man that he recovered and carded 2 birdies in the last three holes on the front line to go out in 35 and leave him in a great position. On the more difficult second part of the course Richard used his long driving powers to full advantage, he played cautiously at the treacherous 14th for a five and avoided the dangerous sandtraps on the 17th. His win was achieved in style with a birdie on the 18th to win by 2 strokes from Johnny Bulla and was given a tremendous ovation by the large crowd. His winnings were the grand sum of £100.
1939 Open Championship – Final Leaderboard
Richard Burton
70-72-77-71 = 290
+2 over par
Johnny Bulla
77-71-71-73 = 292
John Fallon
71-73-71-79 = 294
Bill Shankland
72-73-72-77 = 294
Alf Perry
71-74-73-76 = 294
Reg Whitcombe
71-75-74-74 = 294
Sam King
74-72-75-73 = 294
Martin Pose
71-72-76-76 = 295
Bobby Locke
South Africa
70-75-76-75 = 296
Ernest Kenyon
73-75-74-74 = 296
Percy Alliss
75-73-74-74 = 296
a13 worldno1.jpg

The Mayor of Darwen sent a telegram on behalf of the townspeople, congratulating Richard on the tremendous feat. The Darwen News said of the victory that the town was proud “so great a championship should rest in such worthy hands” and a poem was written by A.B. Robinson which also appeared in the newspaper to celebrate his achievement…
To The Winner of The 1939 Open Championship
This feat of “Dick” Burton’s is hailed far and wide,
And one in which Darwen takes especial pride:
“May his courage and confidence never grow less”
And the victory he’s won lead to greater success.
When all the excitement “has gone by the board”
Ye golfers of Darwen I ween can afford:
A well deserved tribute, can offer today,
Our product! Game enough, to keep out U.S.A.
“Twas here on the heights that we call “Winter Hill”
He earned his first ha’pence, and got the first thrill,
While acting as caddy, for men of re-nown,
Who found recreation in sight of the town.
Alas! Far too many, of a fine noble crew,
Have played their last “round”, as all golfers must do,
Their memory still lingers, old stagers still here,
Are proud of a youngster St Andrews doth cheer
We are glad that young Burton’s “last round was so good”
The keenest of rivals, and storm, withstood,
His task was no light one (who now takes his stand),
With Herd, Braid, Vardon, Taylor and Cotton’s of our land.
In these days, when critics so often repine,
The result, was a tonic, for nineteen three nine,
And proves to the world, whilst we’ve Burton’s alive,
“In a fair field” great laurels, to gain will contrive.
We are well pleased to know, and the “old club” is proud,
 He was cheered to the echo, by one mighty crowd:
Our valley re-echo’s what sportsmen have done.
Since our townsman “Dick” Burton, the “Open” hath won.
His name crops up in many quiz nights as the answer to the question “Who held the Open Championship for the longest time?” as Richard won the Open in 1939 and then World War 2 broke out and it was not played again until 1946. Just after winning the Open, Richard was heavily beaten 10&9 by the South-African Champion Bobby Locke in a £250 Challenge match at the Mere in Cheshire. A few weeks later he was serving in the RAF and never really had the opportunity to capitalise on his success. The fairways at the Old Course at St Andrews ended up being used by the RAF as runways.
a7 locke headline.jpg

When the Open Championship resumed in 1946, Richard, still the holder of the title, then wrote to the Royal & Ancient “Dear Sirs, Please find enclosed my fee of five guineas for this year’s open. I will bring the trophy back when I come.” It’s hard to imagine Tiger Woods showing similar modesty nowadays.
The attempt to defend his title in 1946 was unsuccessful and he could only finish 12th, twelve stokes behind eventual Champion Sam Snead and eight behind Johnny Bulla, the runner-up for the second Open Championship running, albeit seven years apart. In 1947 he came close again, finishing 5th behind Fred Daly, but this was the closest he ever came to reclaiming the Open but continued to play in the Tournament until 1968. The only other Major Tournament Richard competed in was the US Open in 1946 but failed to make the cut, he never competed in the PGA or the Masters Championships.
When asked, later in life, if he regretted not being able capitalise on the Open Championship win he replied “I was lucky enough…a lot of those who watched me at St Andrews also went off to war and they never came back. Some of my friends didn’t make it either, I did.” Richard also helped the war effort by raising money for the Red Cross by playing charity matches Henry Cotton, who was also serving in the RAF.
Richard represented Great Britain in the Ryder Cup on 3 occasions, 1935, 1937 & 1949. Richard’s record read 2 wins, both in foursome matches, & 3 defeats, all in singles matches. In the 1935 event which was held at the Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, USA on the 28-29th September Richard was not picked by Captain Charles Whitcombe for the opening foursome matches, which ended with the USA leading 3-1. He was second out the clubhouse, however for the singles, facing  Paul Runyan, reigning PGA Champion and nicknamed “Little Poison”. He was certainly poison for Richard that day even though he constantly out-drove his opponent by 20 or 30 yards and after only being 1 hole down at the turn, Burton’s putting let him down and Runyan won easily 5&3 to set up a convincing victory for the USA by 9 points to 3.
a1 ryder driving.jpg
Two years later the event was held at the Ainsdale Golf Club in nearby Southport on the 29-30th June. Chris Whitcombe was again the captain and this time selected Richard in the Tuesday foursomes and partnered Percy Alliss, father of Peter, against Henry Picard, who would go on win both the Masters & the PGA Championship in the following two years and his partner, the delightfully named Johnny Revolta, PGA Champion in 1935. Alliss & Burton went on to record Great Britain’s only win of the day by 2&1. This was also Henry Picard’s only defeat in the Ryder Cup. GB ended the day only 1 point behind. The following day didn’t get any better for the GB team, losing the singles matches and succumbing to defeat by 8 points to 4. Richard played the legendary 7-time Major winner Sam Snead but lost heavily by 5&4.

The 1935 Ryder Cup Team

After World War 2 the Ryder Cup resumed in 1947 but Richard was not selected for the team as Great Britain suffered it’s worst ever defeat 1-11 to the USA, Sam King winning the final singles match to avoid the whitewash. Richard was re-instated into the team for the 1949 event, held at the Ganton Golf Club in Scarborough on 16-17th September. In the foursomes Richard partnered Arthur Lees and extracted some revenge on Sam Snead as he triumphed by 1 hole against Sam and his partner, former PGA Champion Lloyd Mangrum. Great Britain led after the completion of the foursomes by 3 to 1 and looked in a great position to win the Cup for the first time since 1933, needing only 4 more points in the remaining singles matches the following day (7 points was the winning target back then). However it was not be, Great Britain won only two points in the singles and the USA retained the Ryder Cup by 7 points to 5. Richard lost his singles match 3&2 to an inspired Clayton Heafner. The USA were 5-3 down overall when Clayton suddenly hit form, finishing 3-3-4-3 to win a crucial match for the States.
a6 headline63.jpg
Richard is also known for hitting a record-breaking 63 at Wilpshire Golf Club in 1938. He achieved the feat during a fourball partnering fellow Sale Golf Club member Mr Wroe against the Wilpshire Professional Arthur Pass who was partnered by J. Read, a well-known East Lancashire left-hander. As it was achieved in a fourball it cannot be recorded as a record but however the feat is still talked about today among the members of the Golf club. They played 36 holes, but it was the evening round in which Richard set the course alight. During the first round, Richard hit a 67, a round of –5 at the time, and his side won 2&1. In the evening round Richard hit 2 eagles, 6 birdies, 9 pars and dropped at shot at the short 8th hole, where he took a 4. Amazingly they only won the match by 1 hole, their opponents playing some fine golf and only 3 holes were actually won, all the others were halved. The turning point of the match was when Richard holed out for an eagle on the 16th while their opponents could “only” manage a birdie!
Burton’s scores that evening were as follows;

burton pic.jpg
Richard was described as brave, tough and totally lacking in caution and his feats became legend, in 1946 he was appointed the Professional at Coombe Hill Golf Club in Kingston, Surrey, and it is said that he once bet a rival that he could beat him using only a putter – he lost his bet – but only on the 18th hole! When he played fourball with other members, rather than pair up with another member he would take on all the other 3, give them full handicaps, and still won more often than not. He also reputedly could hit the hole at the 120-yard 17th with every club in his bag, including the putter.
a5 darwen badge.jpg

In 1986 Darwen Golf Club decided to honour all the Burton brothers and added the Dick Burton Gross Trophy and the Dick Burton Memorial Club Trophy to their 1987 fixture list. In 1989 a further two trophies were donated, The John Burton Gross Team Trophy and The Tom Burton Nett Team Trophy and the title of the competitions were changed to “The Burton Trophies”.  Darwen also proudly displays half-a-dozen engraved irons with which Richard used on his way to victory at St Andrews.
a4 burton trophies.jpg

BBC commentator and golf legend Peter Alliss remembered Richard in a letter to the Darwen Golf Club during it’s Centenary Year in 1992 “I remember Dick Burton very well…watching him play in his Air Force Uniform…I can see him now, borrowed clubs, no proper golf shoes and going round Ferndown in 68 or 69 everytime he played. I particularly remember his backswing and the immense power he seemed to generate with very little effort.”
Richard is still celebrated at Sale Golf club as the last proper “club professional” to win the Open. Today they have The Richard Burton Lounge and The Richard Burton Trophy is played for every July on the same weekend as The Open Championship. They also have on display the putter he used to win the Open. He had originally given the putter to Mr & Mrs Tommy Tennant who were good friends during his golfing career and Mrs Dorothy Tennant generously donated it to Sale Golf Club.
Burton Room full display.jpg
Richard died in February 1974, aged 66, in a Hospital in Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey after a long illness. He always displayed great powers of concentration and a temperament which could cope with the biggest of occasions, none bigger than winning the Open Golf Championship.
Richard Burton with Claret Jug V3.jpg 

By Roger Booth with inspiration and thanks to Mary Painter, Darwen Library Manager, Darwen Golf Club (www.darwengolfclub.com), and special thanks to Christopher Boyes, Secretary of Sale Golf Club (www.salegolfclub.com) for the use of some of the photographs.