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The 1880’s was the decade in which golf became firmly established in East Anglia. Clubs were formed at Felixstowe in 1880, at Great Yarmouth in 1882, Southwold and Aldeburgh in 1884 and Royal Cromer in 1888. Perhaps a significant factor in each case was the easy availability of suitable land. The survival of Outney Common, granted to the town by one of the early Dukes on Norfolk, made golf possible at Bungay.
On the 8th Jan 1889 six men of “substance” met to discuss the possibility of bringing golf to Bungay. Mr Mann informed the meeting that he had obtained permission from the Bungay Common Owners to make “Links” and play golf on the common, it was unanimously resolved to form a Golf Club to be called “The Waveney Valley Golf Club”.
A 9-hole course was quickly brought into play but two years after the club’s formation James Braid was called in to double the size of the layout.
Authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming in their book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses take up the story in this edited extract: “the original course was nine holes, designed by Willie Fernie. During the years 1889-1900, one new hole was created, a long hole was split into two the second time around, and seven alternative tees were built.
Following the arrival of Braid, nine of the ten greens remained and he added another nine. In a general reconstruction adding some 700 yards, he kept six of the original names, dispensed with three, and the club invented twelve more. Of these, seven are in use today. Gorse partly determined the layout of the course, though today’s course is more compact as the gorse has been severely cut back.
Braid returned in April 1906 to play an exhibition match against Bob Jacobs who was the professional at the time. His nephew related that Bob was so nervous on the first tee that Braid took him back to the club house and gave him a double whisky! Braid won 8 up. One of the Clubs earliest and arguably one of the most famous was Sir Henry Rider Haggard who had already achieved considerable success as a writer of adventure stories such as King Solomons Mines. In 1915 he became President, but the Club became temporarily discontinued because of the war.
The disappearance of golf from Bungay was short-lived and never complete. A group of devotees formed a temporary club in August 1917 with a nominal subscription, made a nine-hole course and continued to play around the fringes of the military encampment. A month before armistice was signed, three members of the committee met to appoint a temporary Hon. Secretary and to prepare the Club for revival. This was established on Easter Monday 1919 when an AGM of nineteen members unanimously approved the Club be continued.
In recent years the Club has grown and grown and now has 600 full members. However, it is always good to cast an eye back to the Clubs origins and take a minute to appreciate the difficulties that many clubs encountered in their formative years and be thankful for the wonderful course we enjoy today.
The terrain is basically heathland, rising and falling gently though, occasionally, suddenly, there is a ravine. Some of the greens are set in fascinating positions and add an extra degree of difficulty to a very interesting, old-fashioned course.