A Short History of Bellshill Golf Club
The beginnings of the club are lost in time, but thanks to the memories in 1998 of two of our oldest ex-members, both ladies, one in her 90's, the other in her mid-80's, a very accurate picture has been compiled. In the early 1900's, golf had entered a boom time, a new ball to replace the old 'guttie' ; the rubber core 'Haskell' was introduced in 1901; Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J H Taylor, the great triumvirate, were at their peaks and general interest in the game had intensified. Against this background, a public meeting was held in 1905 at the local Bellshill Academy School to consider the formation of a golf club. Approval was given and it can be assumed that the prime movers in the enterprise were the first presidents of the club who were charged with the remit to lease land, draw up plans for a Clubhouse and a constitution. The club was formed on 2nd May 1905 with a membership of 60. Ground on the Orbiston Estate was leased and a 9 hole course was opened about 3 weeks later. The first Presidents of the Club were W Neilson, Doctors A Findlay and J Muir, and R Gibson.
Members outside of the Clubhouse
William Neilson was the real force behind the initiative. He is believed to have been a bachelor; the local agent of the Bank of Scotland, and the Session Clerk of St Andrews Church. His name is remembered in the Church and in the Neilson Hall in Bellshill, and by the Neilson Cup in the Golf Club. It is a remarkable coincidence that the Captain of the Club in Centenary year 2005 was also called William Neilson. The area which was chosen for the original 9 holes is of considerable historical interest in that it covered a sector of the site of the famous Orbiston
Settlement, which survived for a tempestuous 3 years from 1825 - 1828. The settlement was an experiment in "Community Living" along the lines of the New Lanark and traces of its existence are still to be seen to on the Golf Course and environs. The roads used by these early settlers are to be seen today as the 'gully' running across the 1st fairway in front of the present 15th green, joining up with the practise area platform running along the line of the hawthorn bushes, actually a continuation of the gully, and the roadway crossing halfway up the hill over the present 15th & 16th fairways. These were originally roadways to and from the mill which was situated on the south side of the Calder Water. The actual building to house the settlers was only ever partially completed and, after the failure of the experiment, it was demolished. The foundations however still remain, overgrown in the woods immediately to the rear of the 1st green, over the track road.
The Clubhouse before it underwent change
The ovens for the settlers were situated to the left of the current 15th tee and were still visible, albeit in a dilapidated condition, in the late 1960's. In the early days the course lay in the middle of open countryside. The nearest dwellings were 2 farms, Bankhead which was 50 yards or so short of the entry to the present Clubhouse, and Orbiston Mains which was about 50 yards from the old Clubhouse, which is now the private dwelling house halfway along the right hand side of the 1st fairway and called "FAIRWAYS". The nearest private dwelling house in 1905 was the "White House", which lay to the east side of
the Bellshill to Motherwell road, at the foot of where the present street Bankhead Avenue is today. The original Clubhouse was the building FAIRWAYS mentioned above and was completed in 1906 for under ÂŁ300! This building served the Members until 1924 when the current Clubhouse was constructed on its present site. In 1911 the course was extended to 18 holes with the leasing of the far field, the land adjoining present day Strathclyde Park. This area rejoiced in the name of "The Lawn Park". It is a most pleasant thought to imagine the inhabitants of Orbiston House, which stood immediately to John Panton meets some members the rear of the present 11th green, gazing over this beautiful area of grassland and naming it "The Lawn Park".
Our present 9th hole, whose green is in the same area, is called "The Pillars"`, signifying the
supports to the entrance or portico of Orbiston House, which can still be seen standing about 100 yards south and east of the present 9th green, and going towards the walk which in past times led to a walled garden, later to be Simpson's Nursery. The additional 9 holes were laid down in this parcel of territory and caused a slight alteration to the order of play and numbering of the holes; the original 4th became the 13th, with succeeding holes following suit. As the popularity of golf increased, the demand for more clubhouse space was increasing. The present Clubhouse was built in 1924 for approx ÂŁ2000, the money being raised by the issue of debentures to the Members. These debentures took until just before the 2nd World War before they were all cleared. The move to the new Clubhouse meant that a new last green and the 1st had to be built. In effect, the original last hole became the 1st and the original 17th became the last. From 1911 to the end of the 2nd World War, there were various minor changes to the course involving slight movements of tees and greens, plus general improvement to course playability.
During the war years the Club survived due to the dedication of those members steeped in the welfare of the Club, as exemplified by the momentous decision to obtain a drinks license! Apparently there were several extraordinary general meetings held before it was agreed that only beer would be available. Later, however, the full range of beverages came on stream. In the 1950's an opportunity to purchase the course, as it was then, was taken up and effected to the tune of about ÂŁ4,000. Some 15 years later a further opportunity arose to purchase an additional 24 acres comprising the 2nd field, the triangle of land including the present 14th hole, 13th green, and 12th tee. This land was purchased at a cost of ÂŁ4,000. The deal was easily struck since the estate had apparently changed hands at this time, and the new owner had in fact been born in Orbiston House and was sympathetic to the Golf Club. The acquisition of this additional land meant further restructuring of the course, with new greens, tees, and order of play, which emerged as the course layout that exists today. A contract with Gavin Hamilton Ltd of Stonehouse, dated 24th June 1968 at a cost of ÂŁ9,651.0.6d, was settled to prepare new holes and landscaping.
Restructuring has continued to this day with lengthening and shortening of holes, moving of greens, installation of new and additional drainage. The Clubhouse itself has been enlarged and enlarged again in 1971/72 and 1994/95, after purchase of adjoining dwelling house and land, which allowed the Clubmaster to move from the Clubhouse, and free up badly needed space for locker rooms and office accommodation. In 2005 the club celebrated its centenary year. A number of events were held throughout the year with officials from various local clubs attending. To commemorate this milestone in the club's history a bridge across the "gully" at the 15th hole was built and was christened The Centenary Bridge.
Members gather to celebrate the opening of the Centenary Bridge
Following this, another bridge was built, this one across the ditch in front of the 10th tee. This bridge was christened The Lindsay Bridge, after Past President and longest serving member Jimmy Lindsay. Our picture shows Jimmy with his two sons, Mike, Captain of Bellshill in 1990, and Gordon at the official opening of the bridge.
Jimmy with sons Mike and Gordon