at the Northern Golf Club

Northern Golf Club (Formally Essendon Golf Club) 1896-1912: 125th Anniversary

golf genericEssendon Golf Club which celebrates 125 years was one of the first of the metropolitan golf clubs. Interest in the game of golf had been transported from the Old Country and first landed in Geelong in 1891, then Royal Melbourne and a number of country towns, and Essendon in 1896. C.B. Milne of Ascot Vale had formed a club in June and three months later an Essendon Golf Club was formally inaugurated on 16 September 1896. Milne became the club’s first treasurer.

The new club which opened with thirty ladies and gentlemen had secured a lease on the Aberfeldie Estate south of Buckley Street. Interest in taking up the game was encouraged by Coiler McCracken, a founding member, whose mansion Earlsbrae, in Leslie Road, overlooked the course. 40 ladies were signed up at a meeting at his home and a committee was formed to give instruction.

Later in the year Coiler, Essendon’s second president and David Elder captain hosted the first of three annual Open events which attracted fields of one hundred of the best players in the colony. The events were generally won by the more experienced players from Royal Melbourne and Geelong.

Newspaper reports of the events gave Essendon credit for hosting and staging most successful events but had little praise for the course. They said that the Aberfeldie Estate had undulations, roads and ditches, fences and trees and small sloping greens and clay soil that became hard and unplayable in summer. It was reported at the time that the club had the prospect of a new location with more sandy soil. Meanwhile by the 1899 Annual Meeting in spite of course problems membership had grown to 97 with 45 ladies.

Essendon moved to its new course on a large piece of land at the Cross Keys in the valley of the Moonee Ponds Creek in 1900 and built a new clubhouse on the site. It allowed for putting greens to be laid out on more level ground but they hadn’t escaped the capeweed that was a problem in the summer months on the old course. The new clubhouse was formally opened by captain, Mr Frank Stuart and the Weekly Times said that Essendon Golf Club was one of the most flourishing in Melbourne and ‘the links vie with none other for picturesqueness’.

In October 1901 the McCrackens announced that they would be leaving the district and the new president Frank Stuart voiced the members’ appreciation of the support that they had given the young club and expressed regret at their departure.

By 1903 the club being unsuccessful in a bid to purchase the Cross Keys land had to move again, this time to the west side of the railway line and nearer to the North Essendon station. The Australasian noted that all clubs except RMGC were on precarious tenures. Nevertheless the membership roll was maintained.

The club moved again in 1905. The secretary reported that ‘the ground over which the club had played was early last year taken away, but suitable land had been secured in another part of the town’, at the Buckley Park Estate and the Mar Lodge property of the McCrackens. The committee laid out an 18 hole course with holes described as “real sporting holes” that should do much to popularise an already popular club. Membership increased after recent losses and the club declared a small profit. But a need for permanency was being considered.

The club thrived in its new location and by 1909 membership had reached 150 with lady associates in the majority. Three professionals were employed, Rowland Banks 1906, Edgar Martin 1910 and Sam Bennetts 1912 with dual responsibilities as greenkeepers and coaches. William Alexander Watt, acting Premier, became president succeeding Frank Stuart who died at sea while returning from England, and the club began to seek permanent links.

The Northern Golf Land Company was formed in 1912 to purchase a property in Glenroy where we play today. The old Essendon and Moreland Golf Clubs faded away at this time and after 16 years of a nomadic existence the Northern Golf Club was formed. The last Essendon Golf Club competition was played for the Farewell Medal on 9 November 1912.

In Brief:

  • Essendon Golf Club inaugurated 16/9/1896 – Closed down 9/11/1912. Operated for 16 years.
  • Fifth metropolitan club after Geelong, Sandringham (RMGC), Surrey Hills (Riversdale) and Kew
  • Played on four sites – Aberfeldie 1896 – 1899, Cross Keys 1900-1902, 1903-1904, Buckley Park 1905-1912
  • Constructed two clubhouses – Cross Keys, Buckley Park
  • Four Presidents; David Elder, Coiler McCracken, Frank Stuart, William Alexander Watt
  • Held Annual Open tournaments on Aberfeldie course
  • Champions include Daniel Dossetor, P.B. Stuart, Miss Munro, Miss Dossetor, Miss Stone, Mrs Jones
  • Membership opened with 30 men & ladies, 150 by 1909
  • Ladies in majority – managed own competitions
  • Created great interest in northern suburbs, attracted members from across Melbourne.
  • Professionals appointed: Rowland Banks, Edgar Martin, Sam Bennetts
  • Held Annual Balls in Moonee Ponds Town Hall
  • Involved in establishing Victorian Golf Association. F.R. Stuart first secretary
  • Played pennant 1899-1902, withdrew 1903, re-entered 1906. Won flags in 1908,1910
  • Formed Northern Golf Land Company to purchase new site in Glenroy in 1912
  • Amalgamated with members from Moreland and Royal Park to form Northern Golf Club.