HISTORY OF RAF GOLF
Sadly the records of the formation of the Society and much of the pre-Second World War activities were lost when the London home of the secretary was demolished by a bomb during WW2. However, it is known that the RAF Officers’ Golf Association was formed in 1921 and a set of rules drawn up which remain the basis for the present rules. The original management consisted of a committee of 7 drawn from the Air Ministry, Cranwell, Halton and the Inland, Coastal, Bombing and Fighting areas. Membership was limited to officers on the Active Service List and Auxiliary and Special Reserve Forces. Retired officers could continue their membership provided that the subscription of 5/- (25p) was “promptly paid”. Three additional areas – Western, Central and Air Defence Group – were included from 1935. The organisation remained until 1938 when the RAF Command structure evolved and the numbers reduced to 6 including the Air Ministry and Cranwell.
Two meetings a year were held, both of 3 days’ duration, in Spring and Autumn. The inaugural Spring Meeting was held at Sandy Lodge in April 1921 with the Autumn Meeting at St George’s Hill in the same year. Subsequent meetings in the early years were staged at Porter’s Park, Sunningdale, Berkhamsted, Oxhey, Walton Heath, Denham, Wentworth and Moor Park. The Championship Meeting held in the Autumn was for all members of the Association and from 1926 there was a championship title at the Spring Meeting for serving officers. Inter-Service matches were introduced in 1922 with the RAF defeating the RN but losing to the Army and Civil Service (this latter match was discontinued in 1928). The RAF had to wait until 1931 before becoming outright champions and this was for the only time before WW2.
On 17 April 1945 the Society was reformed under its present title and in 1946 opened to all ranks, serving and retired. The WRAF was included from 1949. Gradually the Society established itself on much the same lines as before. The annual subscription remained unchanged at 5/-. Inter Command and Inter Group matches became a feature of the calendar and the Society retained the responsibility for selecting the RAF Inter-Service Team. Regional meetings were proposed but this idea was abandoned for lack of support.
Meetings continued to be held at first class courses (and this is still the case) and in 1956 a 4-day meeting was held at St Andrews with an entry of over 150 players. The Provost of St Andrews presented the prizes. The daily green fee of 7/6 (37p) had to be paid in cash by individual players to the starter before play. The 3-day meetings regularly attracted over 100 players and in 1954 more than 200 members played the Spring Meeting at The Berkshire. The total membership during these years exceeded 1000. After a gradual decline in numbers it was thought prudent to raise the annual subscription from £1 to £2 in 1973. Veterans competitions were started in 1952 with an additional Handicap Cup from 1967. The age was fixed at 55 but after 1978 this was increased to 65 since this more accurately reflected the age of the participants.
In 1971 the Inter-Services Sports Board decided that it was no longer appropriate for the Society to be responsible for selecting the RAF representative team and, since public funds were involved, for ex members of the RAF to be subsidised. This led to the formation of the RAF Golf Association (RAFGA) in 1972 which is confined to serving members and responsible for all golf within the RAF. Thus the RAF Golfing Society reverted to the role of a Society consisting mainly of retired members.
During the last 25 years there has been a steady increase in the number of matches against golf clubs and the fixture list now contains 10 such matches in addition to matches against the other 2 Services and several societies. One regional meeting which was started in 1975 with 8 players is the Scottish Tour. This has proved exceptionally popular and has gone from strength to strength. Perhaps its popularity is due to the fact that members gather to stay at the RAF stations Lossiemouth and Kinloss which evoke memories for many members. The Tour regularly attracts 30-40 members. Another welcome addition is the Yorkshire Meeting at Fulford designed to cater for the participation of the more northern members of the Society. This has also proved to be a popular venue with attendance often in excess of 30.
Since 1922 the office of Honorary Secretary has been held by only 5 members, a record of which any Society would be proud:
- 1922-1951: Wg Cdr Cecil H. Hayward MBE
- 1951-1976: Wg Cdr H.D. ‘Nick’ Nicholson FCA
- 1976-1993: Gp Capt John S. Hart FIMgt FIPM
- 1993-2009: Gp Capt Harry A. Griffiths
- 2010- Gp Capt Roger F. R. Carr MBE BA