A History of Stoke Rochford Golf Club – “Lincolnshire’s Hidden Gem”
Tucked away behind the trees and an estate wall about six miles south of Grantham, just off the northbound carriageway of the A1 Great North Road between London & Newcastle, stands the immensely popular Stoke Rochford Golf Club, which has grown from one man's enthusiasm for golf during the 1st World War to the excellent course and Clubhouse of today.
It now forms one of the most attractive and interesting golf courses in Lincolnshire and the East Midlands, not for nothing earning itself the title of “Lincolnshire’s Hidden Gem”. With its interesting contours, 4 river holes over the Cringle Brook, its playability, except under the severest of weather conditions, and the tremendous variety of flora and fauna, it is a course to be reckoned with, and well worth a visit. A senior agronomist to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, and for 10 years an adviser to the Club, rated Stoke Rochford amongst the top 10 courses on his books. This is evinced by the high esteem in which it is held by the Lincolnshire County Golf Association, as well as by the number of societies and individuals seeking tee reservations. Each year it hosts the Kymin, Howell Hare Open and The Midland Youths (Closed) Championship, which is one of the 7 English Golf Union qualifying competitions for the English Junior Team, and the Club has acted as host for the English Schools competitions as well as many other county events.
Over the river from the 18th tee stands the magnificent Stoke Rochford Hall, built in 1846 and replacing the earlier houses of 1665 and 1774, and home until 1940 of the Turnor family. It is now a delightful Country House Hotel and Conference Centre. In January 2005 the Hall was tragically engulfed by a serious fire which destroyed part of the building, however, following three years of extensive reconstruction and restoration work, as well as a full external stone clean, the Hall has now been fully restored to its former Grade I listed glory.
It was during the 1st World War that Mr. Christopher Turnor developed an interest in golf and set out a few basic tees and greens from the front of the Hall to where the present Clubhouse now stands, two of which were "over the Lake". In 1923 a proper 9-hole course was set out and was first played on 18 February 1924. By the end of the year the Stoke Rochford Golf Club was formed and boasted 32 playing members paying an entrance fee of £1 and an annual subscription of two guineas. Mr. Christopher Turnor became the first Club President.
There were, however, two problems. The present 16th fairway was also the village cricket pitch, so arrangements had to be made to ensure both games could carry on, and because of cattle & other agricultural stock, all the greens had to be wired off with barbed wire. The former difficulty disappeared in 1929 when cricket there ceased, but the latter remained until 1979 when the Club was able to re-negotiate the lease of the course. It was in 1929 that W.H. Aitken, the Scottish international golfer and Member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club set out a new layout for the Course, followed by a further re-design of the course in 1935 by Colonel Stafford Vere Hotchkin, the owner and course architect of the internationally-renowned Woodhall Spa Golf Course, who designed a further 9 holes, taking the two holes in front of the hall out of use. Bogey was set at 75.
In the 2nd World War the course had to be reduced to 9 holes, and when Christopher Turnor died in 1940 it was entirely due to his successor that the course remained in being. In 1954 Mr. Alistair McCorquodale, husband of Major Turnor's daughter Rosemary, took over the estate and became the 3rd President of the Club. It was through his support, and that of the Estate, that the Club continued to flourish, and continued to develop it to become the renowned course that it is today.
Up to 1945 the course had been mown by a horse-drawn mower, or one pulled by an old Studebaker, but in 1945 the Club purchased its first "rubber wheeled tractor". It now possesses the most modern of green keeping equipment, which is continually being updated.
In 1947 the Course was restored to 18 holes.
Until 1962 the Stoke Rochford Estate had managed the Course and finances of the Club but in that year it offered to vest the management of both to a Committee of the Membership, which then stood at 218. This became effective in April 1963, which opened up tremendous opportunities for the Club to improve both the Course and Clubhouse. As a result the Course improved and developed beyond recognition, entirely due to the dedication of the Officers of the Club, as well as the Greens Chairman and the green keeping staff.
In the early days of golf at Stoke Rochford the players shared accommodation with the old Roadhouse, a wooden structure with white verandas, located at the side of the Great North Road, which itself had been based on a clubhouse Christopher Turnor had seen in Sussex. The Roadhouse was primarily a roadside restaurant with a facility for social functions. It catered for everyone from vagrants to millionaires, as well as the golfers of the day.
However, in 1963 the Roadhouse was destroyed by fire, and the Golf Club acquired a World War I wooden hut as its own Clubhouse. This sufficed in a very basic form until 1965 when, through well attended social functions, it was possible to make major improvements, which were followed up in 1971 by a new bar, and in 1975 when new changing rooms were added. It was in 1985 that the present brick Clubhouse was erected and in 1990 the new ladies' changing room and front of the Clubhouse were completed. During the winter months of 2005/6, the roof to the clubhouse was completely replaced and a major extension was added to the clubhouse.
This work upgraded the dining facilities and the whole clubhouse was refurbished and extended to provide a first class range of bar and catering facilities for members and guests alike.
The Club’s badge is an adaptation of the Arms of Christopher Turnor, and his motto, which is a pun on his name - "Turn Nor Swerve" - is eminently appropriate for the club golfer !
With its traditional parkland setting of rolling slopes, mature trees, and with the Cringle Brook threading through the course, Stoke Rochford forms a quintessentially English golf course, set against the backdrop of the truly outstanding Stoke Rochford Hall. The Club continues to reflect the values of the Estate in which it is set, and those of the Turnor / McCorquodale family, who have done so much to nurture and further its development. With its excellent drainage, its tight fairways with links-like turf, and the fast and rolling greens, Stoke Rochford provides an all-year round challenge to the most discerning of golfers, who will relish the opportunity to play on one of the East of England’s finest courses.
The purpose built Professional's shop is run by our highly respected Professional who, with his staff, are well qualified to give expert tuition and considered advice on every aspect of golf. The shop carries an excellent range of golfing equipment and clothing designed to satisfy the most demanding golfer.
Stoke Rochford welcomes visitors from far and wide, who will be assured of a warm welcome in the Clubhouse to go with a memorable day on the Golf Course.