The early history of Ryton Golf Club is intertwined with that of Tyneside Golf Club – now ‘up the hill’ in Ryton Village – with the distinction between the ‘upper classes’ and ‘working classes’ that is the subject of some good humoured banter even today!
In 1879, nine holes of golf were laid out at Ryton Willows – an area of land between the River Tyne and the Newcastle-Hexham-Carlisle railway land, now a Local Nature Reserve – by Mungo Park, the first professional at the Tyneside club and Open Champion in 1874. A local gardener (Mr M J Wake) was paid £3.18.0d (£3.90) for laying the nine greens, plus extra for the hire of a horse and roller to roll the greens. The nine holes measured a total of 2480 yards and were named Marsh, Stile, North, Mid, Tree, Table, Tyne, Boat House and Station, with bogeys ranging from 4 to 6 and totalling 44.
The course was seemingly well received at the time and was reported as being superior to the Leith Links, though not as good as those at Alnmouth, but “forms a very agreeable medium and certainly is the best place available in the immediate neighbourhood of Newcastle for playing the game” - a description that could equally well be applied today to the course at Ryton.
In 1891, the Ryton Working Men’s Golf Club was formed when on March 16th, 17 men met at Ryton railway station and elected a committee under the chairmanship of Mr W Orange. At that time the club was called the Tyneside Working Men’s Golf Club. Permission was granted for the club to play on the same ground at The Willows – their players distinguished from the Tyneside members by their more day to day clothing, as opposed to the Red Coats (as described further below). The first subscription was fixed at one shilling a quarter, though was soon reduced to 9 pence a quarter. The first competition was held on Good Friday 1891. In 1893, Club membership was limited to 40; in 1894 the handicap limit was dropped to 20.
Golf was a game for the privileged few (men) in the early years, and the early members ensured a local distinction by playing in red jackets, as a result of which they were known as the Red Coats. Knickerbockers and caps also formed part of the outfits worn on the course. Local people were encouraged to play and this fostered the beginnings of the Working Men’s Golf Club. This ‘Artisans’ Club took over the purpose built clubhouse when the parent club moved out and went to Tyneside (the Western Falls) in 1903.
The move west
Also in 1894, the Club’s name was changed to the Ryton Working Men’s Club. Ryton remained at The Willows site until 1911, when the course was relocated about 1km to the west, to the Dr Stanners site on the south bank of the Tyne. Here, a nine hole course was built and a wooden hut served as the clubhouse. Ladies were also admitted to the Club at this time, though it was 1928 before a Ladies Committee was formed. The first trophy for competitive golf for ladies was presented in 1931, the Jubilee Vase – a trophy still being played for by the ladies today.
From the names of the first members it can be seen that several of these were related and this tradition has continued over the years, with Ryton remaining as a ‘family club’, with a long tradition of friendliness.
In 1909 the Club changed its name to Ryton Golf Club, though the First World War interrupted play at the course and it was 1922 before golf resumed at the Dr Stanners site. During the First World War, much of the land at Dr Stanners was used for hay and other purposes. During this time the Ryton golfers shared the 18 hole, Western Falls course at Tyneside with the members there.
A new clubhouse for the Ryton members was opened in 1929 and was granted a license to serve alcohol in 1931. This was rebuilt in 1975 around the frame of the old wooden clubhouse.
From 9 to 18 holes and other progress
The course was extended to 18 holes when the adjacent land became available from the local council and the new 9 holes came into play for the first time on July 17, 1982.
In 1991 the Club celebrated its centenary with a dinner and dance held at the Federation Breweries Lancaster Suite on Friday November 16th, 1990 and in 1994 a new clubhouse was officially opened on Saturday 24 September.
In August 2011, the Club celebrated 100 years of golf on the ‘bottom nine holes’ with a pairs competition for all members, including nearest the pin on every hole and an optional fancy dress competition. 132 people took part on the day, though heavy rain interrupted the day’s events, resulting in the play off and 18th hole ‘shoot out’ for the nearest the pin winners being postponed until later in the year.