This is a brief summary of the history notes compiled by the late Mr. J.A. Jane in 1986.
With the coming of peace in 1945 a group of energetic members began to canvas the possibilities of purchasing land and the development of a new course. The club’s old friend Mr. C.H.G Wood had been superseded by Dr. A.G.Abbott as President, and he and Mr.F.J. Flanagan began investigating the properties offering. Moorlands Estate near Picton Junction was inspected and turned down as being on the small side, the Taylor Property at Collie Bridge which later became the Burke Estate was looked over and declined for financial reason. Eric Johnston tells the writer that the first idea of the new locality occurred to him whilst he was fishing in the Collie River with the late Albie Gough, who as mentioned elsewhere, did yeoman service in establishing the first greens, opposite No 5 Tee site. Albie had began talking about the projected new course and Eric suggested that the vicinity of Eastwell was the very place. He knew the locality very well, having ridden over it many times with the Bunbury Hunt Club. He took the Committee members over it and the necessary action then began to purchase the area. Just immediately prior to this, a possible location at Henley Park a property south of Picton Junction between the west bank of the Preston River and the North Boyanup Road, had been inspected and discarded.
The Johnston brothers of old Leschenault then became interested and advanced the suggestion that Misses. Cecilia and Emily Clifton of the old “Alverstoke” farm near Brunswick be approached. They owned the property fronting the Old Coast road between Eaton and Australind, now called Clifton Park. Some delicate negotiations then ensued. At first the sisters were averse to releasing the land, price however after a visit by Messrs Abbott, Flanagan and E. Bentley they agreed to sell on certain conditions. The portion fronting the main road was to be alienated for private sale and the name of the Links was to be Clifton Park.
On March 21st, 1946 a meeting had been held to debate a proposal to form a Limited liability company with a subscripted capital of 10,000 pounds. The discussion does not seem to have led anywhere. At a special meeting on June 17th 1947, Dr. Abbott strongly urged the raising of finance with accent on further debentures, which was agreed to. The last social at the Sea Link club house was held on December 4th, 1947.
The writer feels that Messrs F.J. Flanagan and Dr. A.G. Abbott should be coupled together for the effectiveness of their work at Clifton Park. Both did a lot on the administrative side and Fred Flanagan was the moving spirit in tremendous amount of both planning and hard physical work on the course. He has to be thanked also for a large part in the successful negotiations in the purchase of the land from the Misses Clifton of “Alverstoke” of Brunswick Junction.
Dr. Abbott served the club from 1946 to 1952 and on the Committee for quite a few years and was the prime mover in many innovations. His introduction of the services of the waterside workers union to assist in the arduous clearing jobs following the bulldozer operations, was a great value to the club. He is also to be commended for his introduction of the precedent of three year limit of any Presidential term. Fred Flanagan served the club as both captain and President.
Both these gentlemen were honoured by the club with Life Membership.
There was a problem in the woodpile so to speak in regard to the water position. Old resident of the locality claimed that there was very little water to be found and what there was, was of very indifferent quality. The late Colin Campbell established some claims to be a water-diviner and on his recommendation a bore was put down near the ladies tee on the 11th fairway. This was done the hard way, by hand, and with Mr. F. Flanagan in charge was sunk to 147 feet and a supply found, not of the best quality as it turned out. Water remained a problem for quite a considerable period and further bores had to be put down. The services of contractor Bert Renfree, were sought and bores were sunk alongside No.2 fairway and beside No.16 fairway and between No. 11 and 18 fairway. Results were not always as greatly desired but, certainly a tremendous lot of work was put in. Very recently a very successful bore was sunk near 5th green and has given a large and good quality water. It must be said that the waters problems provided a first class headache for some years and too much credit cannot be given to Messrs Abbott and Flanagan and their henchmen for their eminent services to the club in this respect.
Whilst water problems were very acute it is still very necessary to attend to the construction of the fairways, greens and the many accessory jobs entailed. It has to be visualised that the property was actually a stretch of heavily timbered land and there were many problems connected with the survey work etc. The late A.E.(Albie) Gough who had agreed to supervise the green construction work put forward the idea of an aerial survey which was adopted. This proved to be very successful and helped considerably with the plans.
The services of the Royal Fremantle Golf Club professional Mr. T Howard who rendered yeoman work at the Sea Links were again requisitioned for the layout, but, unfortunately were not as successful this time. The difficulties encountered with the heavy forest and lacking a contour survey proved too much and Mr. Howard retired from the job. Mr. Gough’s idea of the aerial survey had cleared the way however and Mr. Joe Allen, another stalwart from Sea Links days was enlisted. A skilled surveyor he offered his services with the proviso that the club supply a chainman to assist. With Mr. F.J.Flanagan as assistant a complete contour survey was carried out. The whole eighteen holes were marked out as a retrospective view would show this to be one of the Club’s major successes. With one or two very minor modifications there has been practically no alterations to the layout. True it is that No.8 hole was turned on a axis about 15 degrees to the north and the tees on No’s 7 and 17 shifted a fee yards. The difficulty of playing into the sun in the late afternoons has been kept under complete control except with the above two holes in a minor degree.
Mr Gough supervised the original greens and instituted the bent type grass in Bunbury. They were at first only 25 feet in diameter but of course rapidly grew and were soon twice that size. The thorough use of the rotary hoe and heavy applications of fowl manure greatly helped. It is of interest to note these greens improved wonderfully well up to 1951 and 1952. Later a large nursery was added to help overcome difficulties experienced, trying to maintain the greens.
The Bulldozing of the fairways had been let on contract to C.R. Le Mercia of Brunswick Junction and all timber knocked down on these area as delineated on Joe Allens’s plan. The hard work did not cease here however and the President Dr. Abbot had a plan for further development. He addressed the Bunbury Waterside workers at a meeting and requested them to make their services available to the Club on a voluntary basis.
It has to be remembered that after the bulldozer had done its job a tremendous mass of tree trunks, branches, limbs and other rubbish was lying on the fairways. The litter was considerably above the height of a man and represented an awful lot of hard work to shift. Stumps above a certain size too could not be taken out by the dozer. At this work the waterside workers excelled and together with the assistance of a large number of willing club helpers proceeded to clean up, burn off etc. Up to fifty men were at work at times over a period of five months and the payoff was an 18 gallon keg after work. All the waterside workers were offered memberships either as players or social members.
It was thought at first that the timber salvaged would be saleable as firewood in Bunbury but this did not turn out as anticipated. It was too green for the wood merchants and of course the Club could not wait for it to dry. The stumps had to be
burned out in situ and in some cases gelignite had to be used. So heavily timbered was the area that the rough is still undergoing treatment albeit it is reasonably clean. As at this date the original dream of a beautiful park like effect is still somewhat distant. This will, it is expected to be realised ultimately.
Whilst the fairway and green development was being carried out, quite a bit of thought was being given to the provision of a Club house. The wartime restrictions as to sizes in squares, amount of materials and types were still in force and the Club had a major difficulty here to overcome. Fred Flanagan advanced the idea of endeavoring to locate something from the disposals groups of the Defence Department, who at this time were auctioning off various establishment. The P.O.W. camp at Marradong (near Pinjarra) came up for sale and the Club was successful in purchasing a Mess room and sundry building for dismantling and rebuilding on the Links. So the original Club House took shape as best the club could afford. Provision was made for a men’s locker room and a ladies locker room, a common lounge and an open verandah to serve meals in. At this stage no provision could be made for a secretary’s office, dining room etc. The same restrictions also applied to the Greenkeeper’s cottage. But, from purchasers from Marradong, enough materials had been secured to build a three roomed cottage alongside the Club house for the Greenkeeper. This cottage served until quite recently until it was replaced by a brick veneer building in 1965. In the very nature of things many renovations were carried out over the years but it is interesting to note that as at the present time the original building is still there in one form or another.
Quite a bit of discussion had taken place over a period as to the desirability of transporting and modifying the old Clubhouse at Sea Links over to the new course. This Clubhouse originally been designed and constructed under the supervision of Mr. Eustace Cohen of Perth, an old friend of the Bunbury Golf Club, and had proved very efficient and easy to run and the members found it hard to part with. However after long consideration of the difficulties involved it was decided to sell it and start afresh as described in the proceeding paragraphs. The old Clubhouse was eventually sold for $8000 together with some frontage blocks which realised $400 and the money became available for the new course.
Looking back in retrospect, it will be obvious that certain club members rendered yeoman service and their efforts were truly remarkable. Results such as those achieved at Clifton Park only stem from complete dedication. Mention has already been made of Dr. A.G. Abbott and F.J.Flanagan who gave so much time to the early problems. This does not mean that we can overlook quite a few others who contributed efforts of no mean order. These would include the late Eric Hancey, who for years handled the trophy side of all competitions with great success. As also mentioned previously the late A.E.Gough put in a lot of spade work on the original greens. V.A. Donaldson, now departed from Bunbury, but formerly associated in business with F.J. Flanagan, also helped a lot with machinery problems, repair work and finance. He was, of course, the originator of the Punchbowl annual trophy.
George Merritt, a club captain for some years, and associated for many years with Messrs Flanagan and Donaldson in their business activities, deserves a special mention in his efforts on repair work on Link equipment, rolling stock etc and was Officer in charge of the Club’s one-armed bandit in the difficult days, then a quite legitimate and prolific earner for the club. George Merritt, himself a skillful player, did a lot of coaching of new members, young and older ones.
I have reserved the final mention, Frank B.Green a club captain and a committee man of very many years standing. Frank has been, over very many years a tower of strength on the course. His work on the various aspects viz. greens, fairways, hazards, water reticulation and numerous activities has been immense. I have it on good authority that in one year alone he contributed one thousand hours of voluntary work. Frank was honoured by being made a life member.