Our History

Royal Perth Golf Club: An Ongoing History

A History of Indigenous Land-use

Since 1895 Royal Perth Golf Club has occupied three sites on the banks of the Derbarl Yerrigan –Burswood Island, Grove Farm in Belmont, and South Perth. The Club wishes to acknowledge the Whadjuk people, the traditional custodians of the land on which these courses have been built. It acknowledges that these sites were long used for shelter and sustenance and respects the continuing Whadjuk culture and its contribution to the life of this city and region.

A History of Golf

Royal Perth GC stands apart in the history of WA sport due to its place as the State’s first golf Club. From early 1895 a small group of men gathered to play golf socially on abandoned farmland at Burswood Island on land overlapping with the current Belmont Park Racecourse. In August of that year, these men formed the core of a meeting in Perth’s Government House ballroom to discuss the formation of a golf club. This resulted in the inception of the Perth Golf Club. The Club has continually developed over nearly 130 years, and on three locations.

Burswood, 1895-1900

The location selected for the first course was the site that the Club’s founders had been using for social golf at Burswood. It was here the Club’s first competitive rounds took place on October 5th, 1895.

This initial nine-hole course soon proved to be unsuitable. Deep trenches built to drain the low-lying former farmland provided unique hazards, but the course constantly flooded during the winter golf season and was infested with weeds. Access to Burswood was also poor, and the Club had insecure tenure over this inadequate site.

Grove Farm, Belmont, 1901-1907

Another disused farm, Grove Farm in Belmont, was selected as the location for the Club’s second course. This was again a nine-hole riverside course, and the opening competition was played in May 1901. Membership at the time was “between seventy and eighty”, with no category for women. Unfortunately, once more there low-lying areas that were unplayable in wet weather, and weeds and mosquitos remained a problem.

By 1902 the Club was negotiating access to vacant reserve land in South Perth, and the matter became urgent following a particularly wet winter in 1905.

South Perth, 1908-the present

The Club’s planning for the lease and occupation of reserve land in South Perth was fulfilled with the opening of the new links by Governor—and Club President—Sir Frederick Bedford, on August 22nd, 1908. This move to a more accessible location created demand from women, and the Perth Ladies Golf Club was formed in May 1909.

The new course, designed by members, was initially nine holes; was briefly eighteen holes, which then became twelve, fifteen, and sixteen holes. It was 1928 before the course was permanently extended to eighteen holes. Additional changes during the 1930s continued to add length and in 1938 produced the layout familiar to current players.

Another significant moment for the Club came in 1937 with the granting of the Royal charter, and the name change to Royal Perth Golf Club.

Following the Second World War Royal Perth took a place on the national stage as a site for tournament golf. Men’s professional tournaments commenced with the 1949 Australian PGA Championship, and have included the WA Open on numerous occasions, and the Australian Senior Open between 2009 and 2012. For amateur golf the women led the way with the Club hosting national championships in 1953, 1959 and 1965. The men’s Australian Amateur Championship followed in 1967, 1979, and 1985. Since 1958 the Club has hosted the City of Perth Amateur Championship—a major event on Perth’s golfing calendar for amateur men.

Recent years have seen regular improvements to the course and clubhouse. The Club marked major milestones in 2008 (100 years at South Perth) and 2020 (125th anniversary). The centenary of women’s golf at Royal Perth in 2009 was highlighted by the amalgamation of the men’s and women’s clubs.

A History of Champions

Royal Perth GC takes pride in the many well-known members who have enjoyed national and international success as amateurs and professionals. These include Maxine Bishop, Stephen Collins, Eileen Dawson, Terry Gale, Val Gmeiner, Stephen Leaney, Brett Rumford, and Kristie Smith (Jones).

The Club has also been a major force in local golf with a rich history of success in the local men’s and women’s pennant competitions.

A History of Leadership

For many years, Royal Perth GC has provided much of the senior management of golf in WA, including numerous members serving as the President of Golf WA (and its predecessor) and as President of the WA Ladies Golf Union.

Nationally, five Royal Perth members have been Presidents of Golf Australia, and Eileen Dawson served as President of the Australian Ladies Golf Union, 1982-1985.

A History of Community Engagement and Charitable Fundraising

Royal Perth GC has long played a prominent part in the community of South Perth as one of the City’s earliest and largest sporting organisations. Many local organisations hold their meetings at the Club and numerous community functions are held in the clubhouse.

Since 1934 the women members have contributed annually to Perth charities though an organised program of fund-raising. In 2001 the men members began contributing to charities in the City of South Perth. The annual charity days are a focal point of the Club’s community engagement.

Further Information

A more complete history of the Club can be found in two books; Jack Lee’s Royal Perth: The History of the Royal Perth Golf Club (1978); and Phillip Pendal’s Royal Perth: A History of Golf in Australia’s West from 1895 to 2008 (2008).

Historical Photo Gallery

Historical photos of Royal Perth Golf Club may be viewed by clicking the below link to the City of South Perth online Library portal: 

Royal Perth Golf Club Historical Photo Gallery