RAF Cottesmore Golf Club
By Steve Hopkins
Royal Air Force Cottesmore history
RAF Cottesmore was built in 1935 in response to heightened tension in Europe. The airfield opened in 1938. By 1940 RAF Cottesmore was home to the RAF's heavy bombers. In May 1942, Cottesmore Bombers were called up to take part in 'Bomber' Harris' "1000 bomber" raids over Cologne, Essen, Bremen and Dusseldorf. In 1943, the US HQ Troop Carrier Command took over Cottesmore and by 1944, Cottesmore had a 2000ft hard runway and housed 3700 US servicemen equipped with Dakotas. These troops were to take part in the Normandy landings in June 1944, then later on in September, Cottesmore Dakotas launched in support of Operation 'Market Garden', and dropped 1362 US paratroopers south of Nijmegen. When victory was declared on the 8 May 1945 the Americans departed for home.
Early post war years were turbulent and the station was home to various training units until March 1954 when Cottesmore was handed over to 3 Group. In May several squadrons of Canberras moved in, making it the first time that front-line squadrons had been housed at Cottesmore. The Canberra however was not destined to stay at Cottesmore long and by February 1955 they had all departed.
In 1957 it was announced that Cottesmore was to become the home of part of the RAF V-Force and a new 9000ft runway was built. Victor aircraft arrived soon after completion of the runway to carry out quick reaction alert (QRA) duties from 1962 until their disbandment in 1964. Soon after the Victors left, 3 squadrons of Vulcan bombers arrived and took over the QRA duties. In 1969 the entire Cottesmore Vulcan wing moved to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
Between 1969 and 1975 Cottesmore was home to 90(Signals) Group and 115 Squadron equipped with Argosy and Varsity aircraft. The Argosy was used in a transport role and the Varsity for the checking of airfield approach aids. Three Canberra units followed, 360, 98 and 231. 360 Squadron was unique in that it was a joint RAF/Royal Navy squadron. In 1975 all the squadrons relocated elsewhere when a periodic defence review announced that Cottesmore was to be handed over to Care and Maintenance.
In 1979 a Tri-National Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Britain, Germany and Italy, which confirmed the creation of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) at Cottesmore. TTTE was officially opened on 29 January 1981 and consisted of three squadrons of Tornado aircraft flown by staff and students from all three participating countries. In 1998 the three nations decided to go their separate ways, and that together with the requirement to find a home for squadrons returning to Britain from Germany, led to the disbandment of TTTE.
Mid 1999 saw the arrival of yet another aircraft type at Cottesmore, the British Aerospace Harrier (Jump Jet) GR7, with two squadrons returning from Germany to their new home. Their sister squadron joined them in June 2000 forming the Cottesmore Wing of 'Joint Force Harrier'.
At the same time, planning was conducted to move 800 and 801 Naval Air Squadrons, equipped with Sea Harriers (FA2), to Cottesmore. On 28 February 2002 it was announced these aircraft would no longer move but RN personnel would. The FA2s will be replaced with GR7s, with the loss of one RAF squadron in 2006. Eventually there will be two Navy and two RAF squadrons based at RAF Cottesmore, flying the upgraded GR9 Harriers.
Royal Air Force Cottesmore Golf Club History
Royal Air Force Cottesmore is one of the few RAF stations lucky enough to have its own golf course within the station boundaries. A 9-hole/18 tee course totalling 5767 yds from the white tees.
The course was built, following agreement by the three nations involved with the TTTE. A suitable area on the north side of the airfield was identified and construction began, and using money from differing sources, the Nations themselves and various grants, in 1985 the course was officially opened.
The course was open to all military personnel, military employed civilians and local sponsored civilians. At the height of its hey day the club had over 200 members and was bringing in revenue of £40000 a year. A full time green keeper was employed and the course was well maintained.
Slowly, as with many areas around the UK local golf clubs opened up, Greetham Valley, Rutland County and Stoke Rochford to name a few and personnel of a certain standard began to leave to play these more challenging golf courses. As with all RAF stations, persons come and go due to postings etc, and with the demise of TTTE in 1998, a reduction in the numbers of personnel at Cottesmore was seen.
A change of green keeper also saw a reduction in personnel joining or renewing their membership because the course was falling in to a state of poor upkeep, as he was unable to maintain the course himself, only putting 3 hours a day into it. The rough was a foot high at times and rabbits and birds were attacking greens.
In December 2002, the club folded due to the poor green keeping and hence lack of funds coming in. In January 2003, a small committee was put together to see if the club could be resurrected. Deciding to give it a go, reducing the annual fees from £120 to £60 for service personnel and £180 to £120 for civilians, the plan was to bring in £6000 for the year, plough it all back into the course and hopefully maintain a fantastic facility for all to use. On a self-help basis, so the outlay was kept to a minimum, the machinery was checked over and grass cutting began, with some personnel putting in 20 and 30 hours a week as well as working full time to get the course in a playable condition.
The greens were our main concern and it was decided to put the care of these out to tender. A small team from Burley Park Golf Club at Stamford won the contract and began a program that would hopefully recover them. Within the first year, with a vast improvement to the course, £12000 was raised.
Another problem we have is the age of the machinery we use, and the poor state of repair when we took it over. Over the year 2003 the fairway mower, a Ransom TM214 Hyd 5, was stripped one unit at a time and refurbished by our equipment team. The greens mower, a Toro Greensmaster 3000D, had its cutters reground by a local specialist and later on in the year we purchased a second-hand utilities cutter. Up until this time we were having to change the heads over on the Toro as we had a set of utility cutters as well as greens cutters, but this was time consuming as we only had one set of motors, so these had to changed as well.
All this hard work has paid off and so far this year we have taken £10000 with hopefully plenty more to come. Most of our income comes from a mid week competition for high to mid handicap players (28 - 13), from 8 RAF stations around the area. Along with casual green fees of £5 a round and the annual fees of the 110 members we now have we hope to make more improvements to the course this year. The tee boxes on the 5th and 14th holes need replacing, where people have taken divots on the short par 3s, but due to no seed/soil mixture the ground was never replaced, making it very uneven in places.
The yellow tee markers are made from upturned plant pots filled with concrete, the reds are small blocks of wood painted and with cut down flagsticks as spikes. These we would like to replace with standard tee markers, golf ball shape or logs.
As you can see it is all done very much on a self help basis. None of us currently have any national qualifications, we just do what the guys from Burley Park tell us we should be getting on with. We have a dedicated committee and a nominated head green keeper, who draws up a weekly cutting program. This is distributed and personnel are expected to cut their delegated area, be it tees, greens, fairways or surrounds. We must be doing something right however, as we have just been re-affiliated with the EGU and Leicester and Rutland Golf Union and this will now unable us to issue certified handicaps, which will hopefully encourage more people to join.
Any sports facility or golf club that has any spare equipment around that they feel could go to a new home and be used without too much effort being spent to recover it, can give me a call at RAF Cottesmore or e-mail me using the details below, we should be able to travel to most places to collect if necessary.
Thank you and good golfing.
RAF Cottesmore Golf Club
Mr Steve Hopkins
C/o Sgt's Mess
Tel: 01572 812471