Golf Starts in Wolverhampton

The course at Penn Common is arguably the oldest in the Wolverhampton area, dating back to the early 1890’s when a group of distinguished local gentlemen and dignitaries, notably Charles Mander, Neville Mander, W Wentworth Walker, W R Lysaght, Mein Wilkie, Thomas Graham and Dr Biggam, founded what was then called The South Staffordshire Golf Club.

By mid-1893 the club had nearly 100 members and a nine-hole course had been laid out. The Barley Mow Inn was used as the first clubhouse and Samuel Jones from Hoylake was the first professional. Dr Biggam was to become the first Captain and Mein Wilkie, partner at a Wolverhampton accountants, the first Honorary Treasurer. T F Waterhouse was the first Honorary Secretary and The Earl of Dartmouth President.

At the turn of the century the club was thriving and had been extended to eighteen holes totalling 4,700 yards. The clubhouse had been extended to a pavilion style although the original Barley Mow Inn was still open to the public.

By 1904 the Committee were looking to relocate the club and ultimately secured a plot of land in Danescourt, Tettenhall and in 1908 The South Staffordshie Golf Club relocated there. Some members decided to stay at the old course which became Penn Golf Club.

Famous Characters

Two of the most colourful characters ever to grace English golf played their first tentative shots at Penn Golf Club. One was Archie Compston, who rose to be a leading professional and friend and tutor of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor when he gave up the throne for love of American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The other was from the other extreme of the social spectrum - Charlie Stowe, a Black Country miner who crashed through the class barrier to reach the highest peaks of amateur golf.

In their early days these illustrious golfers needed on occasion to shoo away horses and cattle to play their shots because of local grazing rights on the ancient common. Thankfully, all that became history when members bought the land from the Duke of Sutherland in 1955.

Charlie Stowe was born in a cottage on the common and lived all his life in a little semi near the course, his front parlour rumoured to hold a mountain of splendid silver cups and cut glass, all mementos of his days of glory. He started as an artisan at Penn because he couldn’t afford the fees. But by the time he was 26 he had won Midland championships and in 1935 was summoned from the coal mine to play for England. It was the start of an amateur career that saw him string together a long list of victories for his country.

Then in 1938 he was a member of the first GB&I side to beat the Americans in the Walker Cup. He did his part by beating the redoubtable Charles Kocsis. Stowe also came close to winning a major three times, being runner-up in the Amateur (1948) and the English Championship twice (1947 and 1949). His Black Country humour was legendary. When the England captain suggested he would phone him for a game, Charlie replied: “Telephone? We ay on the bleedin’ gas yet!”

Archie Compston (sacked by Kidderminster at 16 for idleness) was one of Britain’s leading pros from 1925 to the early 1930’s and came close to winning the Open, being runner-up in 1925 and 3rd in 1928. But he was best known for his close association with the Prince of Wales, a keen golfer, and also for his incredible 18 up with 17 to play victory in a challenge match against the mighty Walter Hagen.

Penn can look back with pride on two outstanding golfers who cut their first divots on the common.

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