History of the Club
Pau Golf Club is the oldest club in continental Europe. The development of this sport, can be attributed to the founding in 1856 of the Pau GOLF CLUB. During the Napoleonic wars and the Battle of Orthez in February 1814, some regiments of WELLINGTON's army were quartered in Pau.
Among the soldiers, two Scottish officers who were never separated from their golf clubs, and took every opportunity to practice their favorite sport. During their travels, they were impressed by the beauty of the countryside around Billère close to the gates of Pau. They decided that the banksz of the mountain stream, with the Pyrenees as a back drop would make an ideal setting for a golf course. Tests on the land showed that, because it was an ancient stream, the subsoil easily drained. As a result the land was free from mud, even during the winter. These conditions created an ideal environment, beautiful scenery coupled with an abundance of water for irrigation.
Thus once an agreement had been negotiated with the local land owners, the inhabitants could observe strange Scottish people dressed in kilts hitting a small white ball, with the aid of odd shaped pieces of wood.
So, what was this strange game played by people in skirts? Obviously, the war had resulted in some very strange people. Twenty years later, the same Scots came back as tourists,hoping to find memoirs of their earlier visits. This time accompanied by a few friends, and as always their golf clubs.
Little by little, an entire English colony became established in Pau. It left its mark on the era, by its customs and its traditional sports, horse-back riding, hunting, mountaineering, and golf. This created a need for a dedicated golf club.
Four years later, the Dr. A. TAYLOR published a treaty “On the curative influence of the climate of Pau.” He sent a copy to LOUIS-PHILLIPE in which he analyzed the climate; and its suitability for many sports, especially golf.
At the end of the century, in a new edition of Guide JOANNE, Henri O’SCHEA wrote about Pau Golf Club as follows “During the morning, following a nine thirty start, we will play golf until lunchtime, normally from one to two o’clock. There are some enthusiasts of the game zho, following lunch at the club, pass the whole afternoon there.
From then on, the life of the club was exclusively linked to the activity of the British colony, like a testament to the numerous souvenirs of all sorts: magnificent amounts of money, portraits of members, medals and engravings, like the ones representing the famous stagecoach of six horses, baptized ironically “The Rocket” that assured in eight hours the link between the Pau and Biarritz golf clubs..
The 1914 War marked a turning point in the history of the club, due to the departure of many Brits. This was emphasised during WWII, to the extent that the club almost ceased to exist.
Hitherto few French had interest in the club, due to its distinct British customs. After the war the fate of the Pau Golf Club was in the hands of the Palois. Following a period of low membership the club needed to attract a different clientele. At the same time it needed to survive on less income, sponsors, and fewer members. In addition the commune of Billère wanted to dispute the renewal of the lease relating to the course land.
After many difficulties, in 1960, a new vision was generated. A new lease was signed by Billère and the Town of Pau, this included a grant to allow to restore the land and club house. The club had to retain the traditional character of the club-house especially during the installation of electric power, central heating, and refurnishing.
The course was upgraded and az a result the membersip rose sixty people to around 350 over the curse of the next few years. The numerous players, who visit the club nowadays, agree that the renovationof the club house and course was a great success. We were able to conserve and add to the historic British character of the club.
The club house of the Pau GOLF CLUB is among one of the best buildings in the province, and at the same time retains the enviable distinction of being Europe’s oldest golf club in mainland Europe.
Author: Maurice LIETS