Here is the historical timeline of Bury Golf Clubs construction
Bury Golf Club
Blackford Bridge, Bury, Lancashire, England
Listed as a new course built over existing course from 1920. Listed in MacKenzie’s 1923 Brochure, and constructed by skilled foremen under MacKenzie’s supervision.
New 18-hole course, constructed by Franks Harris Bros.
The Bury Golf Club was formed in 1890 and a 9-hole course on a site at Redvales in Bury was soon laid out, with Harry Vardon as the club’s first professional. The course was extended to 18-holes in 1907 but the pressures of World War I, along with the residential expansion of the town, meant that the land at Redvales would be needed for housing and a new road to Radcliffe. Determined not to see their club go under, two men were primarily responsible for finding the club a new home at Unsworth – Norman Duxbury, a paper-maker of the firm Yates Duxbury of Heap Bridge, and Sam Roberts, a coal merchant from Bury.
The site chosen was just under 100 acres of leased land at Blackford Bridge, and once the decision to relocate had been made, Norman Duxbury contacted the leading golf course architects in Britain, the firm of Colt, MacKenzie and Alison, to get their views on the site, and on 31 January 1920 MacKenzie’s wife Edith replied by a hand-written letter on her husband’s behalf, saying that “My husband is away and won’t be back until Tuesday – when he will write to you. His fees are ten guineas a day and expenses.” MacKenzie then wrote back and also sent a telegram on 3 February to Norman Duxbury, explaining that he could only visit on Thursday arriving on the 2.39pm train. He had an appointment Thursday morning, “but might possibly be able to cancel it, if you think it essential I shall proceed by an earlier train.”
He then went on to say that it would be difficult to arrange any other day to visit during the next ten days as he had an appointment on every one of them – an indication of how busy MacKenzie was in those immediate post-war years. He enclosed his scale of professional fees with the letter, a copy of which is in the club’s archives – it is a typed document of three pages rather than a printed one. Enclosed with it was a printed letter from the partnership offering their services to give advice on course up-keep. The next day MacKenzie sent a telegram to Duxbury asking him to have an Ordnance Map of the site ready for his visit the following day.
Mackenzie visits Bury
MacKenzie visited Bury on 5 February 1920 in the afternoon, and that same day hand-wrote his report, possibly on the train on the way back to Leeds. The report was not particularly detailed and comprised four hand-written pages:
Moor Allerton Lodge,
Report on Proposed New Golf Course at Bury
The land available is just sufficient for the purpose of making a really good 18 hole course, but it is advisable to acquire all the land marked on the plan as there is not too much ground to spare.
There can be no possible doubt that the formation of a Golf Club on the proposed site will be a great financial success & this is so for the following reasons :-
1. The ground is admirably adapted for Golf, it is exceptionally undulating without being too hilly & the turf will become really first class under proper treatment – the soil is light & there are exceptionally fine pockets of sand on the land.
2. The site of the proposed Golf Course is unusually accessible to a large population. The trams from Manchester to Bury pass the gates of the proposed Club House, and moreover there appears to be a surprising shortage of really good golf Links in the immediate neighbourhood.
The more I see of Golf Courses the more I am impressed with the fact that nothing pays so well from a financial point of view as constructing the course really well. It creates an immediate demand for membership & results in permanent popularity & prosperity.
A good Golf Course should attract a great number of players from Manchester and outlying districts. The land is worth little from an agricultural point of view, but for the purpose of Golf is worth fully £70 to £100 an acre, and if the Committee can obtain it for less (taking into consideration its accessibility) they may consider themselves lucky.
Cost of Construction
The Cost depends on the standard required. It must be born in mind that labour costs 2½ times as much as before the war, but on the other hand much can be done to minimize this by the use of labour saving machinery. At a cost of £3000 an 18 hole course could be constructed which would compare favourably with any in the district.
Cost of Upkeep
The upkeep of the Course when once constructed should be much less than the great majority of inland links – the turf is of the slow growing variety, the drainage is good & there is unusually good sand on the site. The upkeep should not amount to much moe than £1000 a year.
Feby. 5th 1920”
Duxbury wrote back to MacKenzie on 11 February advising him that there was “every chance of the Bury Golf Club starting on the land which you have reported upon,” and asking him for his fees to prepare plans for the course and how soon they could be ready. He further asked how soon the club could expect to have the first 9 holes ready for play, and whether MacKenzie could recommend a contractor or supervisor to carry out the construction work. MacKenzie replied to Duxbury by letter the next week and mentioned that 9 temporary holes could be ready by the summer, but not permanent ones “unless the weather was exceptionally favourable and a great number of men were employed at once. If a sufficient number of men were employed the whole of the 18 holes could be completed in the late autumn.” He wrote that he was prepared to recommend a contractor but did not say who that might be.
Duxbury replied the next day by letter and telegram asking how soon MacKenzie could come to visit Bury, “and prepare a scheme for the proposed new course. I hope it will be convenient for you to come at an early date as we are of the opinion that further land will be needed, if this is so, we shall only have the opportunity of acquiring same during the next few days.” On 19 February Duxbury wrote and wired MacKenzie asking him to devote Thursday and Friday to visiting the site to set out the course, but it would appear from a number of telegrams that MacKenzie was finally able to fit a trip to Bury into his schedule, arriving on the 11.30am train on Wedenesday 25 February.
What courses and costs?
MacKenzie then prepared his plan of the new course for Bury, advising Duxbury in his letter of 8 March 1920 that he was forwarding it to him by separate post. He had previously offered to send Duxbury a list of courses with their construction cost and he included the list in this letter:
“London Flying Club (new Course and heavy clay
with few natural features) £10,000
Felixstowe Golf Club (complete re-construction)
Troon Golf Club (complete re-construction of
relief Course) £2,000
Sheffield Municipal Golf Course £5,000
Nelson Golf Course (18 holes) approx. £3,000
Timperley Golf Course (reconstruction)
£2,000 to £3,000
Shipley Golf Club (new Course) £3,000
Grange-over-Sands (new Course) £3,500
Balmoral Golf Course, Ireland
(re-construction, heavy clay) £3,500
Cleckheaton Golf Course (heavy clay)
£2,000 to £3,000
There are several other courses varying between £1,500 and £3,000.”
MacKenzie advised Duxbury to “spend between £2,000 to £3,000 and have the Course made tip-top.” He further indicated that while the work on the course was in progress he would “make plans of each individual hole, showing the contours of the greens, the position and the measurements of the heights, widths, etc. of the hummocks and bunkers.”
Visit to Alwoodley and Moortown
On 29 March, MacKenzie again wrote to Duxbury, inviting him and his committee to visit Leeds to show them the Alwoodley and Moortown courses “as I shall probably be at home part of Easter.” In the event he could not show them round personally he had written letters of introduction to each club, and the visit was subsequently arranged for Tuesday 6 April. After the Leeds visit, letters then followed back and forth between Duxbury and MacKenzie, with Duxbury advising on 12 April that the “Committee of the Bury Golf Club have decided to place the construction of the new 18 hole golf course in your hands.”
Contractor and cost?
The total cost, including MacKenzie’s fees, was not to exceed £3,000 and, no doubt impressed by what they saw in Leeds, asked for the 18 greens to be of a similar size and design as those they saw at Alwoodley and Moortown. They also requested that the course be ready for play in the spring of 1921. In his reply of 14 April, MacKenzie was at pains to point out that he worked in much the same way as an ordinary architect and “that it is not in any way in the nature of a contract,” suggesting the club employ “Messrs. Franks Harris& Co. as contractors, who are at present doing the New and Eden Courses at St. Andrews, Felixstowe and several other Courses for us, and who have in the past done most of the famous new courses at home and abroad.”
MacKenzie mentioned he was meeting with Claude Harris at Felixstowe that week and would “discuss the matter with him.” As Harris was coming north “next week to visit one or two other Courses he is doing for me,” the implication was that he would arrange to bring Harris to view the site at Bury at that time. This visit was duly arranged with Duxbury for Monday 26 April, and MacKenzie wrote confirming that he would visit the course that Monday by car around 3pm, but that Claude Harris was unable to come due to a previous commitment. MacKenzie’s visit that day necessitated a “new scheme”, presumably due to changing land circumstances, a sketch of which Duxbury requested he receive “as early as possible,” and MacKenzie responded the same day indicating that he and Claude Harris would visit Bury together on Saturday 1 May. This visit finally occurred, with the two men arriving in Bury on the 10.10am train.
On 5 May 1920, Duxbury wrote to MacKenzie informing him that the Committee had decided at their meeting the previous evening that the design of the new course would be “left in your hands” with a fee of £300 inclusive of expenses and that he would design the course so that it did not involve an expenditure exceeding £3,000 inclusive of his fees. He advised that he was also writing to Franks Harris to confirm their engagement to construct the course and enclosed a copy of that letter. In his delayed reply of 11 May, MacKenzie apologized for not replying sooner as he had been away from home, and again reiterated that “it must be clearly understood that this is in no way a contract to do the work for £3,000,” and that he would use “all my skilled ability to give you the best value for the money expended.” In a telegram sent the following day Mackenzie advised he would be “visiting golf club by car Friday afternoon,” being Friday 14 May.
Although not explicitly stated in any correspondence, the Franks Harris Bros. construction team had started on site around this time, as Duxbury expressed in a letter to MacKenzie on 17 May his disappointment that the contractors were using the club’s tools and that MacKenzie should see to it that they have their own “labour saving tools at once.” Further Duxbury confirmed that the expenditure should be focused on the completion of the greens, “even if the tees and bunkers along the fairway are not made as per your plan.” In early June, Duxbury again wrote to MacKenzie stating that the contractors had now nearly finished the work on two of the greens and that he wanted to express the committee’s disappointment at the shape of these greens, saying that “they seem to be constructed with several steps or terraces which are so abrupt, that in our opinion they could not be mown properly,” and asking MacKenzie to visit to discuss this issue with him. MacKenzie replied with a short hand-written letter that started by saying “I think you are probably right” and that he had asked his partner “Capt. Alison” to visit the course early the next week. He confirmed that when he visited last he was “not quite satisfied with some of the work, but there is nothing that cannot be altered readily without any great expense at this early stage,” and that he would “also take an early opportunity of visiting you again myself.” Here is an example of one partner covering for another in the partnership when other commitments prevented one from making an inspection, and Hugh Alison visited Bury to check on construction progress on more than one occasion.
After his visit, Alison wrote to Duxbury on 14 June to say that he had gone “very carefully” into the matter of the 16th green with Gee, the site foreman, and outlined the necessary alterations. Confidently he stated that, “these have probably been completed by this time, and will no doubt prove satisfactory. I have set out some more work for Gee, and have written to Dr Mackenzie and Mr Harris.”
Duxbury confirmed on 28 June that 9 temporary holes were first played over on “Saturday last,” and asked MacKenzie if they could defer construction of the 14th green as they had played this as their 8th hole and the contractors had already pegged out the greensite. He requested that MacKenzie send the plans for the 3rd, 5thand 13th greens so that the contractors could get started on these greens without any interference by the golfers using the temporary course. MacKenzie replied on 29 June to say he was sorry that he missed him on the telephone and that he had arranged for Alison to visit on Thursday 1 July, arriving around 8.30am and leaving again at noon. He asked Duxbury to ask Alison about the 14th green and that Alison would give the men sufficient work to go on with. He proposed to visit the course with Claude Harris on “Tuesday or Wednesday” of the following week. Following his inspection, Alison reported to Duxbury by letter on 3 July when he was back in London that the work was progressing satisfactorily and that he had given Gee “plenty to be going on with. I was very glad that you did not come up, as it was one of the wettest days I have ever been out on. I hope that you are pleased with what has been done, and that we shall meet on some future occasion.”
MacKenzie and Harris visited Bury on Tuesday 6 July, arriving in Bury around 5.30 pm from Scarborough where Harris was building a new course for MacKenzie, and went out to the course. They stayed the night in Bury and possibly inspected the course again the next day. MacKenzie wrote to Duxbury on 10 July saying that the greens would cost around £20 each to turf and that, given the heavy rainfall, he had found the course to be surprisingly dry, but that all new greens were wet in their early stages and this could be remedied by forking. On Monday 19 July, MacKenzie sent a further letter to Duxbury stating that he was “just off to visit Courses at Troon, Pollok, the New & Eden Courses St. Andrews & Dinsdale Spa,” and that he would not return home until late on the night of Tuesday 20th, and that he would contact him as to when to expect him on Wednesday. He also made a P.S. at the end of the letter “do not forget to send the plan. If you can get more ground it will be advisable.” Even with construction underway for a few months the site was still being added to.
Alison inspected the works on Monday 9 August, arriving around noon, with Harris having informed Gee of his visit, and again on 27 August, arriving from Macclesfield around 5pm. MacKenzie visited the course around the middle of the following month and on 22 September Duxbury wrote to MacKenzie complaining of the “deplorable condition of many of the greens during last week owing to flooding,” and decrying the lack of drainage in most of the greens. The committee had asked him to relay to MacKenzie “their disappointment that your visits to the course have been so few.”
MacKenzie replied on 26 September that he would be sending instructions to Franks Harris about the drainage and that “during my visit last week” he gave instructions for all the greens to be forked. He wrote that, “My visits have been sufficiently frequent to see that the Course was constructed according to my designs, and the work compares favourably with that on any golf course.” In an exasperated tone he added, “I have been working seven days per week for several months, and I cannot do more,” a clear indication of how busy he was in the immediate post-war years. He concluded by saying “Your committee may be assured that everything is satisfactory, and that I have devoted a considerable amount of thought to your links.”
MacKenzie paid another visit to Bury on 6 October, shortly after sending the letter, arriving on the 2.39pm train. Recorded correspondence in the club’s archive is very sparse past this point, whether correspondence has been lost or simply did not exist in the first place is not known. Duxbury wrote to MacKenzie in middle of February 1921, but this letter is not in the archives, just Mackenzie’s reply of 22 February. He wrote that he was more than gratified with the construction work at Bury and doubted “if there is any inland course in existence where so much good work has been done at such a low figure, viz: £2000, corresponding to £600 or £700 pre war. The holes and the Course generally are delightfully interesting, and I am quite sure that the Course will have a great reputation in the Manchester district.” He added that it would be unreasonable to expect the course could be in good playing condition at such an early stage and that three years would be needed to see it at its best. He added in a hand-written postscript that he would take the earliest opportunity of visiting Bury.
The final piece of correspondence in the archive is a letter from Duxbury to MacKenzie dated 23 September 1921 asking him to visit Bury to discuss a few matters concerning the course. It is not known if he visited as requested, but it would seem likely that he did. Nine holes were open for play in 1921 with the subsequent nine the following year.
The club’s official handbook, written by golf writer Robert Browning, later noted that the course had been laid out by “the famous firm of Colt, Mackenzie and Alison” without specifically mentioning that Dr MacKenzie was the architect. He went on to note that they had “made excellent use of its diversified natural features and boldly undulating contours; there are no two hole alike hardly even two which lie in the same direction. With a total length of close on 6,000 yards, the Blackford Bridge course provides an unusually varied and testing round.”
Changes made to course layout
There have been changes made to the course layout in that the old 9th 10th & 11th holes have gone when Sunnybank Road was extended.
Also the original 1st hole is now the 4th and the 16th hole is now the 1st.