llkley Golf Club was founded in June 1890 and is the third oldest golf club in Yorkshire.
The first Ilkley course was a 9 hole links on Rombald’s Moor where stone walls, streams, ravines, bracken and boulders all came into play. Although the greens were said to be good, the bogey score of 40 for a fairly short hole course gives some idea of the difficulties. Tom Vardon was an early professional at the club and his more famous brother, Harry, actually won his first prize as a professional golfer on this course in 1893. This was £5 for a 36 hole score of 162. During his illustrious career he won the US Open as well as winning the Open Championship a record six times.
Below: The old 7th tee with the eleventh tee in the background c1910
Above: Greenstaff and their equipment in front of the Clubhouse c1900.
The desire for an 18 hole course caused the Committee to look elsewhere and they finally settled on the Club’s present site by the beautiful River Wharfe. Work commenced on the new course in February 1898 and the Club actually played its first medal competition there in June of that year.
To mark the opening of the new clubhouse, an exhibition match took place between Harry Vardon and five times Open winner and famous golf architect, James Braid, on 13 April 1907.
Over the years some of the greatest golf architects have advised on the course design, including Alister MacKenzie and Harry Colt.
The course is set in beautiful surroundings with each hole giving delightful and fresh views of the river, the colourful moors or attractive woodland and farmland.
Although the planting of trees on the course around 1970 has a major effect on both the scenic and golfing aspects of the course, it is the river that dominates the opening seven holes. As a result, sacrificing length for straightness can often be a sensible policy. However is not a severe test of golf, more a most enjoyable challenge on a first class course in a delightful surroundings.
In more recent times world-class golfers including Peter Thomson, Colin Montgomerie, Mark James, Christy O’Connor and Gordon Brand have graced the fairways.