AS he looks out of the clubhouse window, overlooking the first tee, Crook Golf Club captain Peter Shaw can see the exact point from which the club’s opening tee shot was struck in 1919.

“Aye,” he chuckles. “And I bet it was windy that day too.”

Crook Golf Club, perched on the top of Low Jobs Hill, is celebrating its centenary this year, with a programme of events beginning with a centenary ball last weekend. T

he club has long offered one of the North-East’s most unique golfing tests – it has often been said that its undulations mean it helps to have one leg longer than the other – and the anniversary has sparked a detailed trawl of the history books.

“The club actually started in June 1919,” said Mr Shaw, who followed in his father Les’ footsteps as the pair became the first father-and-son duo to have captained the club.

“It was set up by Dr George Yuille Caldwell, who rented the land here off JH Thompson, who had the Hole In The Wall farm.

“The club paid £18-a-year for the rent of the land, but for that, they also got the rent of some horses and equipment to cut the grass.

“It was originally a nine-hole course, and the original nine holes are still part of the course today. The big difference back then, though, is that the greens were all square because they had barbed wire fences going right around them. That was because the horses that cut the grass were living on the course.”

Stephen Spark Wraith was the club’s first captain in 1920, with the original membership mainly comprised of professional Crook residents such as doctors, teachers and members of the clergy. Always progressive, however, the club had a ladies section from the outset.

It joined Durham County Golf Union in 1922, by which time it boasted 97 male members, 61 females and 16 juniors. Today, membership numbers stand at around 280.

“It was popular right from the start, so there was a need to get some facilities at the course,” said Mr Shaw. “They couldn’t really afford to build anything permanent, so they organised to transport two of the POW huts from the camp just down the road at Harperley.

“They formed the original clubhouse, and they lasted right the way through to the 1970s, when they were replaced by the brick building that’s here today. Even then they didn’t disappear though. They were used as greenkeepers’ sheds right through to the mid-1990s.”

The course grew to 14 holes when the club was able to purchase some neighbouring land near Helmington Row in the 1960s, and adopted its current 18-hole design in the 1970s when it was able to lease an additional pocket of land on the former Bowdon Colliery site.

“The new course was opened in 1976, and there was another major development in 1996 when we extended the clubhouse to its current size,” said Mr Shaw. “That was a big thing because it meant we were able to become a much bigger part of the local community. There’s nowhere of a similar size anywhere in Crook, so we’ve become popular for weddings, christenings and community events.”

Golf remains at the heart of what they do though, and thanks to the erection of a wind turbine on golf club land in 2015, the club boasts much stronger finances than many others in the region.

“We’re probably one of the most stable clubs around, and we’re proud of that,” said Mr Shaw. “There’s been lots of ups and downs in the last 100 years, but we’re probably in a better position now than we’ve been in for a long time.

“We’ve always been seen as a bit of a feeder club for some of the bigger clubs in the county – Bishop or Brancepeth maybe – but we’re proud of the fact we’re also seen as a welcoming, social place to play.

“We’ve got plans for the future – we want to build a swing room and practice facilities and get into the local schools – and hopefully we’ll have another successful 100 years.”