A meeting of like minded local business and professional men held in the Devonshire Arms pub at Dore in July 1895 led to the formation of a new golf club in the area.
It started life as the Dore Golf Club but would go on to be known as one of the most prestigious golf clubs in South Yorkshire, the Abbeydale Golf Club. What almost certainly spurred on these local luminaries to establish a new course was the desire to find a closer place to play the popular sport of golf, which was becoming hugely popular with the ‘well to do’. Many of the founding members already played at Lindrick, a course which had itself only been played on for a couple of years. However, getting to Lindrick would generally require a train journey from Sheffield Victoria to Shireoaks and then continuing the journey by a horse drawn wagon. This trek was apparently made a little more bearable though the installation of a practice putting area in the waiting room at Shireoaks Station!
What might surprise many readers is that the first home of Abbeydale Golf Club, or Dore Golf Club as it was first called, was laid out in fields at Ryecroft Farm, located as it is now, just off Dore Road, bordering Ecclesall Wood. This first course comprised of just nine holes with a par score of 34, the shortest hole being 158 yards and the longest was 365 yards. The dining room at the farm was used as a clubhouse and the annual subscription for the 61 members in that first year was one guinea. Golf was short lived at Ryecroft however and when in 1897 the newly married James and Henrietta Farnsworth took over the farm, they were determined to quickly restore the land to a more traditional purpose.
There is now little if any trace that a golf course ever existed at Ryecroft Farm. Urgently needing a new home, the club committee contacted the up and coming Scottish golf professional Alex ‘Sandy’ Herd, based then in Huddersfield for advice over a new location. Herd, who was to go on to win The Open at Hoylake in 1902, recommended land on the nearby Beauchief Estate as very suitable. This area, dominated by the ruins of the former Beauchief Abbey was well served at that time by the nearby Beauchief and Abbey Dale railway station.
A further link between Beauchief and golf was that the current tenant of Beauchief Hall was one William Wilson, a member of the historic snuff manufacturing dynasty - Wilsons & Co (Sharrow) Ltd, still trading today based at Sharrow Mills.
Wilson was a vice chairman of Abbeydale Golf Club and whilst it was not in his gift, he would presumably have put in a ‘favourable word’ over securing a tenancy for the land. The club committee negotiated a five year lease with Edward Sampson, the representative of the Strelley-Pegge-Burnell family who were long time owners of the Beauchief Estate and whose ancestors had completed Beauchief hall in 1671, partly by using stone reclaimed from the ruined Abbey.
The move to the new site saw the club’s name changed to Abbeydale and the adoption of an illustration of the Abbey as its motif which is still used today. Herd laid out the course initially, as at Ryecroft Farm, over just nine holes varying in length from 130 to 520 yards long. Golfers used the nearby Abbeydale Hotel (now the Beauchief Hotel) for a clubhouse facility and a railway shed made a useful locker room. In 1906 a wooden clubhouse was erected in the grounds of where the Beauchief Hotel is now as a base for Abbeydale members.
Perhaps fittingly, the committee members who were used to finer surroundings, continued to take advantage of the considerably more salubrious facilities found in the Sheffield city centre hotels for their meetings. The changes must have found favour locally as a steady increase in numbers saw membership rising to 85 in 1898 and by 1910 a limit of 160 gentlemen and 60 ladies had to be imposed.