Changes in the course of history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 12:00am

Members enjoying an excellent cuppa or sipping gin and tonics on the porch of the exclusive Hong Kong Golf Club can be forgiven for not being able to remember the day in 1889 when 13 men moved to acquire land for a course in Kowloon.

Although that first attempt failed because the military authorities refused to co-operate, the government offeredsome land at Happy Valley, marking the official start of the game in the territory.

The site though was far from ideal as it flooded easily during the summer rains and, while golfers happily swung a club with gusto on the rudimentary layout, they were later limited to playing between certain hours.

A move to lay out another course for ladies ran into difficulties and demands from the soccer and cricketing fraternity, although amicable, promoted a desire to move.

The women golfers persisted and a six-hole course laid out in 1898 at Deep Water Bay was another step towards establishing the game.

But it was not until 1908 that a bid was made to build a course at Fanling after a trip up the Shum Chun River for a picnic by a party who were stunned by the beauty of the area.

Getting to Fanling in those days was not easy: members had to take a two-man rickshaw into the hills above Kowloon, walk to Sha Tin, go by police launch to Tai Po and proceed from there by pony, sedan chair or rickshaw.

The original clubhouse, called the Dormie House, was built a year after the railway was pushed through in 1913.

The railway was a godsend to golfers.

On arrival at Sheung Shui, they were met by eager rickshaw riders. There were no tee-off times in those days; whoever got the first rickshaw and arrived ahead of the pack was assured of teeing off first.

The present clubhouse was opened in 1989 and Fanling now offers three beautiful 18-hole layouts - the Old Course, Eden Course and the New Course.

The club, which shed its 'royal' tag after the change in sovereignty in 1997 now caters for about 2,500 members with facilities at Fanling and Deep Water Bay. And while members and fans watch this weekend as golfing stars bid for the Hong Kong Open trophy, they could do well to remember they are there courtesy of those hardy pioneers more than a century ago.