In the Begining...
From the ruins of a 'white elephant' resort designed for Sydney's leisured classes arose Mona Vale Golf Club which celebrated its 85th birthday in 2012. This article written by history writer John Morcombe (Manly Daily Saturday, August 3, 2002) reports there have been plenty of bunkers and water hazards on the way.
The history of Mona Vale Golf Club is the story of the long and laborious task of converting a swamp and sand dunes to a rolling green golf course and a clubhouse that grew from a tent.
The first golf course at Mona Vale was part of the Oaks Polo Pony Stud Farm, an opulent and grandiose Riverina-style resort for the well-heeled of Sydney developed by George Brock about 1900. The golf course was a minor part of the resort, which also comprised a race and polo ground and several grand buildings. At the southern end of this expansive estate Brock built an ornate three-storey mansion as a clubhouse and accommodation and four single storey villas that also served as accommodation.
Brock spared no expense building his dream resort but it was built on the unfulfilled promise of a tramway that would have brought guests to his door. He was unable to repay his loan and was eventually forced to sell what had become a white elephant. The whole estate was subdivided and put up for auction in 1907 but the sale was not a success and further auctions were held over following years.
Worse still, the three-storey mansion was gutted by fire in 1912 and rebuilt in a less flamboyant style but it never returned a profit and gradually decayed. But while the estate languished, the locals took things into their own hands. About 1920, a grey-bearded Scot named McFarlane scratched out a crude three-hole golf course and began to attract fellow hackers to his course.
Slowly the number of players grew and it became necessary to expand and relocate the course parts of which encroached on private land. Kitchener Park, which was owned by the Commonwealth but vested in Warringah Council, was chosen as the site for the new golf course and permission was obtained to develop it. A nine-hole golf course was developed by voluntary labour and a greenkeeper was hired about 1925 to maintain the course and, in October 1927, it was decided to establish a proper club and draw up a constitution and rules.
The club possessed no club house so a tent was used until one could be obtained. Eventually an old ambulance station on the corner of Pittwater and Barrenjoey Roads was obtained and moved to the course to become the first clubhouse. Over the years the clubhouse was expanded and a veranda was added.
In the early 1930s, Warringah Council decided to drain the swamp in the centre of the present course and the club agreed to contribute part of the cost of the work in return for a lease of the area.
The Salvation Army, which owned land south of the swamp agreed to sell part of its land to the club but the sale fell through when the Salvos insisted that the land be covered by a covenant preventing play and liquor sales on Saturday.
When World War II broke out many club members enlisted and the Commonwealth exercised its right to establish a camp on part of the course. To prevent or stall a feared invasion by Japanese forces a tank trap was built across the course from Turrimetta to Mona Vale heads and barbed wire entanglements erected next to the beach. Although the influx of defence forces to the area briefly lifted the club's bar sales, the clubhouse was later commandeered for use as administration offices and officers' mess for the nearby army camp.
With the end of the war and the filling in of the tank trap and removal of the barbed wire entanglements the club resumed its place in local life, but the course had been damaged and downgraded by the military activities and it was not until 1947 that the course was reopened.
With the return of enlisted men and with new members swelling its ranks the club was in a position to extend its clubhouse in stages and permission was sought to extend the boundaries of the course and enlarge it to one of 18 holes. In 1956, the club signed a lease with Warringah Council for additional land and an extra nine holes were laid out.
The land in question, south of the existing course, was owned by the Salvation Army and was resumed by the County of Cumberland, vested in Warringah Council and a large portion leased to the golf club.
The new 18-hole golf course was officially opened in August 1960, with most of the work involved having been done by club members. But the euphoria of the new 18-hole layout was soured when the clubhouse was destroyed by fire in September 1961.
Along with the clubhouse, almost all the club's records were also destroyed. An igloo-type corrugated iron shed was obtained and used as a temporary clubhouse and, after two years of hard effort a new clubhouse was built and officially opened in November 1963. The igloo hut was removed and used as an equipment shed.
Since then the club invested much effort in improving the layout of the course, upgrading the drainage and beautifying the course by planting trees.
The ringing of the bell is acknowledged as a special event such as a hole-in-one, a birthday, or even an addition to the family but most assuredly the 'ringer' pays for the next round of drinks at the bar. But what about the history of the bell itself?
Known as the Terry Trousdale Memorial it was presented to the Mona Vale Golf Club by some of his shipping friends to be competed for annually.
The 'ESSEN' Bell came from the original 'ESSEN', a single-screw steamer of 5878 tons class, completed in August 1912, for Deutsche-Australische Damp G.E.S. Essen was employed between Hamburg and Australia until, on August 1, 1914 she left Port Pirie in South Australia and was instructed to proceed to Delagua Bay - a then neutral port. By the time of her arrival, Portugal had declared war on Germany and 'ESSEN' was interned and subsequently declared a war prize.
In 1917 she was renamed 'Inhambane' and in 1924 was sold to a Portuguese firm which operated her between Portugal's African Colonies and Europe.
There are no records of her activities in World War II, but after the war she was employed in the Caribbean between the United States Gulf Ports and Lisbon. In June 1955 she was again sold, this time to the OLISFRA Navigation Company of Peru, renamed 'Vassiliki' and employed tramping.
Finally in April 1959 she was brought to Hong Kong for scrap-after nearly 47 years of adventure and service on the high seas.