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Origins of Rabbit Golf

The essence of a golf club is to create a place where members can enjoy playing competitive and social golf in a private environment and to be able to play inter club events such as team knockouts etc. Because golf clubs have always valued the prestige of having the best players, folk who can compete in and win these external events, the opportunity to represent one’s club can sometimes feel like its the sole domain of the lower handicapper.

This must have been a bone of contention for a Mr Kitching from Knaresborough Golf Club, in the dim and distant past. The minutes of a meeting at the club, dated 22nd September 1922 a proposal was made by Mr Kitching, seconded by Mr Broadbank “that a match be arranged with Oakdale Golf Club for Saturday next for players of 18 handicap and over”.

This is the first record we have of the beginnings of Rabbit Golf (although we have no idea why the word Rabbit was used).

By 1934 Knaresborough & Oakdale were joined by Pannal, Wetherby. Shortly after that Garforth, Low Laithes and Horsforth joined too.

The idea of forming an “Association” originated from a Mr Dibbs of Wetherby GC. A meeting was convened by a Mr Midgley who was the Captain of Knaresborough Rabbits at the time. (Was he the first Rabbit Captain?)

In October 1937, the clubs represented at this inaugural meeting held at Knaresborough GC were: Knaresborough, Oakdale, Pannal, Horsforth, Low Laithes, Wetherby and Garforth.

Mr Walker from Horsforth GC offered their club for an open competition if required.

1938 – The “West Riding Rabbit Golf Association” was formed.

1939 – Arrangements were made to increase the number of clubs and have an annual competition. This was called the Thornton Trophy which is still played for today. It was donated by a Mr Thornton (Wetherby GC), who then was asked to be the first President.

1946 – After the war was over a meeting was held at the Victoria Hotel in Leeds to revive the Association. The membership that year was 15 clubs.

1948 – Bradford Area was formed – The Norman Watson Cup was put into place. This was for the person with the best gross in the Thornton Trophy

1949 – The West Riding Foursomes Competition started. This became known as the Fowler Trophy when it was donated by Mr Fowler later that year

1950 – The Plowright trophy was started. This is an Inter Area competition. The Trophy was donated by Mr Plowright from South Bradford GC who would go on later to become President (1953/4).

1953 – The formation of the Halifax, Huddersfield and District Rabbit Golf Association

1954 – There were now 5 areas.

1955 – At the AGM it was agreed to change the name of the West Riding Golf Association to the Yorkshire Rabbit Golf Association (YRGA).

1983 – The Fred Brown Salver for the best Nett in the Thornton was first played for. Donated by the former President’s wife after he died as a memorial trophy.

2014 – The Association returned to be based at Knaresborough GC where it all began.

Today there 6 areas: Bradford – Flamborough – Halifax & Huddersfield – Harrogate – Leeds – Wakefield – and 103 clubs make up the membership of the YRGA.

So to conclude, did Mr Kitching have the original vision of a united fraternity of golfers, all with handicaps between 16 – 28 and aged 18 upwards? Who knows, but it was an excellent idea, which in its own way has created probably the largest golf club in the world and one that is still growing.