It seems that golf was played in the Goulburn district on a number of grazing properties in the 1880s-on such property was “Strathallan” (now occupied by the NSW Police Academy), owned by H.c.L. and R.R. Payten. Three attempts were made to introduce golf to Goulburn residents in the 1890s, but it was not until 18 August 1898 that the Goulburn Golf Club opened its course. On the first occasion, in the early 1890s, a course was proposed on land south of the main street, but Frederick Horn (a noted builder and ex-Mayor) engaged the solicitor J.T. Gannon in a successful protest to the Goulburn. Around 1896 C.M. Shaw, manager of the Bank of Australasia, with the assistance of E.W Kelso, principal of King’s college, laid out what was described as an “apology for a golf course” six miles south of Goulburn on the Gibson property “Burrungurroolong”.
In 1898 an 18 hole course, known as South Hill was laid out “starting at the back of Mr Helm’s residence in Auburn Street South and going back to South Hill, the residence of W Chisholm, taking a turn back to Mr Guymer’s cottage and back to the starting point past Dr McKillop’s cottage, the distance being three miles”.
At the outside there were eighty members of the South Hill course, and the elected office bearers were: President, R.E. Connolly; Secretary, C.M. Shaw; Committee, A.B. Chisholm, J.S. Turner, A. Sendall and EM. Ibbs. It is generally recognised that due to the efforts and enthusiasm of C.M. Shaw he is the “Father” of Goulburn Golf Club.
In 1899 the first interclub match was played in Goulburn against a team from Royal Sydney, about which the Sydney Mail had this to say: The Goulburn caddies, like the genus wherever golf is now, are amusing. The caddie of one Sydney man had to be repeatedly admonished for jeering at the other side, and the caddies usually had with them an admiring string of brothers and sisters, each pleading for the honour of carrying a club. The consequence was that just when a particular club was required the particular section of the parry honoured with its care would be discovered exhibiting the treasure to awe-struck small boys on some remote part of the ground – then there was the outspokenly commendatory caddie, the caddie cynical, the caddie derisive and various other varieties.
In the Royal Sydney team were Leonard Dobbin and R.A. Warden-the latter was described by Dobbin as `a person golf owes much to in the State, through his efforts to introduce the game into regions of the South and West where golf was previously unknown’. These gentlemen stayed on at Goulburn for a couple of days and, together with the committee, completely recast the course by eliminating one hole together and making two new ones.
In 1900, following a disastrous flood, the Club moved to a site near the northern suburb of Kenmore. It used Confoys Hotel as a clubhouse, and operated there for approximately three years, the members justly claiming to have the first abundant supply of amber liquid since the formation of the Club.
Then in 1903 the Club moved to its present location, renting the property from Sydney University, which had acquired the eighty acres as a result of a bequest by Captain William H. Hovell (of Hume and Hovell fame). Captain Hovell had been given the land as a grant from the colonial Governor, and he left it in trust until such time as a university was built in Goulburn; his good intentions tied up the land for thirty-five years after his death in 1875.
The present clubhouse was occupied in 1912 and, to gain access across the Mulwaree River, a swinging suspension bridge was built-it withstood many major floods until eventually replaced by a bridge for vehicular traffic. About this time, 1910, J. Merrilee was employed as professional for a term not exceeding four weeks for one pound per week, his duties being to supervise course improvements and to instruct members on the finer points of the game. It was not until 1925 that the Club engaged a full-time professional, W McKenzie, who was responsible for the design of the new 18 hole grassgreens course that came into play the same year (he was the same W McKenzie who served as professional at The Australian from 1930 to 1964).
Two Goulburn members won the Australian Open Championship whilst they were members of the Club: Lou Kelly in 1933 and Bruce Devlin in 1960. Devlin was also a member of the successful Australian Eisenhower Cup Team for the 1958 event played at St Andrews, and today he lives in the USA where he has continued his golfing career and interests. In recent times another Goulburn golfer, Brett Ogle, won the 1985 New South Wales Amateur Championship and has appeared successfully in national and international events since turning professional. Judy Perkins (nee Mancell) and Leonie Oxley are two outstanding golfers who have come from the ranks of the Goulburn associates.