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Cheshire’s golfing poet creates centenary ode to a championship course

By Tim Taylor

ONLY a golf loving poet could capture the joy of Astbury’s course in Congleton with its lush tree lined fairways, ponds, impeccably manicured greens and a lay-out divided by the gently flowing waters of the Macclesfield canal.

Step forward one of the club’s 700 plus members John Hunter, who made his literary debut at the age of 71 last year with a book of 41 poems published on Amazon – Words Speak Louder Than Actions.

Astbury reached their 100th birthday at the end of April when they launched a summer of centenary celebrations with a Friday night dinner.

John, a retired IT professional and a single figure golfer, recited two of his poems, one of them an ode to the course, and presented framed copies to the centennial year captains, Dr Mike Sumner and Linda Stevens.

Astbury are hosting a major individual county final for the first time with the Cheshire Matchplay Championship starting on May 13.

Experienced observers of the county scene rate a 19-year-old Astbury entry, Sam Johnson, as one of the favourites for the title on his home course in his first year out of junior golf.

Last year, Sam finished six strokes clear of the field in winning the Cheshire Boys Championship at Delamere Forest.

A former pupil at Congleton High School, Sam is also a member of Wilmslow Golf Club. In August he will start an American golf scholarship at the University of Idaho, majoring in physiotherapy.

Other leading contenders for the county tournament are Jon Beesley (The Mere), Chris Chilton (High Legh Park), Matthew Dodd-Berry (Royal Liverpool) and John Kendall (Crewe).

The Astbury weekend which opened their centenary season included visits from Cheshire East councillor Denis Murphy, who officially unveiled a centenary planter alongside the first tee less than two weeks before the end of his third and last stint as mayor of Congleton.

The club held a two-day pairs Stableford competition for their members sponsored by the Congleton-based Beartown Brewery and won by Mark Ennis and Martin Gocol with 47 points

Celebrations off the course included hundreds of members chilling out in the spacious, elegant and packed clubhouse mulling over treasured memories from past decades.

Looking ahead to the club’s next 100 years, chairman Phil Richards forecast: “I expect our club will keep pushing itself to improve.

“We aim to build on our history of embracing gradual change and to carry on prudently investing in our excellent course and our welcoming clubhouse.

“This would enable us to firmly establish Astbury as the best golf club in South Cheshire”.

Beartown Brewery, which opened for business 28 years ago, is expanding in June with the launch of a brewery four times its current size.

Managing Director Joe Manning said: “The opening of our sparkly new state of the art brewery at the same time as Astbury are celebrating their centenary season is a happy coincidence.

“This brewery will bring a variety of new products to our range, which we hope will be loved by the golf club members and everybody else in Congleton.

“This is our second summer supplying brews to Astbury. The club has been a pleasure to do business with and I had no idea there were so many thirsty golfers in our town!”

Astbury’s website records how the inspiration for the club’s existence arrived in the early months of 1922 when three young men working in the Congleton town clerk’s office found a bag of disused golf clubs.

Said the club historian and former president Orville Taylor: “Fancying trying out the game, the three approached a local farmer for permission to use one of his fields to hit some balls.

“The idea quickly gained interest from others who were keen to join them. And so, the seeds of what was to become Astbury Golf Club were sown.”

Fire destroyed most of the clubhouse 43 years later in 1965. This led to enough land being bought to make room for an impressive new building, opened the following year with an exhibition match which involved Peter Alliss.

Orville has written a book called Astbury Golf Club, the first 100 years, out soon and published by a Congleton company,


By John Hunter

 What finer garden could there stand

On all of England’s pleasant land

Or wistful waterway divide

From which its lazy lawns be spied?


What rolling pasture could surpass

By grander views or greener grass

These placid pools and gentle slopes

That bear our secret dreams and hopes?


Could mightier or prouder trees

Stand tall on guard but such as these

That line each route and avenue

To honour those seen walking through?


And what adventure might await

Where lady luck or twist of fate

Might sway the final fateful roll

And win the day or lose it all?


So as great and graceful have before

Would that I for ever more

Still young at heart though old and grey

Be wandering its wonderful and winding way