THE spirit which produced a golf course from farmland at Ford Bridge has continued through the last 40 years which are being celebrated at the Leominster club this week.

Leominster Golf Club was re-formed by a small and dedicated group of enthusiasts in 1967 and its reputation for fun and friendliness has remained unchanged.

The varied and testing 18-hole course with an impressive clubhouse which members and visitors enjoy today, however, is startlingly different from the first five-green venue of those days - and the benefits are a direct result of the foresight of those who brought about the club's revival in the aptly-named Swinging' Sixties.

At that time it was 27 years since golf had been played at Ford Bridge, but the history of the club in fact goes back to 1903 in a location at Kingsland, followed by a move to Steens Bridge.

As was the custom in those days of travel, the courses were near railway stations and this continued with a further move to Ford Bridge in the 1930s.

Forty acres of land were rented and the nine holes were quickly extended to 14 with a standard scratch of 67 by May 1939 when an exhibition match was played to mark the event.

The four players were England cricket captain Wally Hammond, Welsh amateur champion Albert Evans, club professional Fred Bartlam and Philip Peacock, a 23-year-old three-handicapper who was to become editor of the Hereford Times.

Unfortunately, the good times were shortlived as club activities were ceased during the Second World War and an attempted revival failed in 1947-48.

So it was not until early 1967 that Herefordshire GC professional Bob Harland's beginners classes in Leominster prompted a return to Ford Bridge where vestiges of old greens and tees were visible under six inches of grassland.

Harland judged that restoration was feasible and, with the co-operation of land owners the Helme family, an open meeting was called when it was decided to go ahead with renting the venue to work on the course.

A small band of players got to work and five holes were initially opened on the agricultural land and the first competition, a nine-hole medal using some holes twice, was held later in the year.

The following year a professional demonstration was arranged for the opening of nine holes and a lease was agreed that, although sheep would remain, cattle would not be allowed on the course and all fences around the greens were removed.

That November the committee resolved that only golf shoes could be worn on the course as Wellingtons were damaging the greens!

Those were the days when there was no access to water the greens and the clubhouse was a 12ft by 6ft old cricket pavilion, but in 1969 a new building was bought from the Sun Valley construction company and, with extensions and refurbishments, remained for another 30 years.

The layout of the nine holes was changed during the 1970s when other improvements included tree planting and the use of modern machinery when funds allowed.

A licence to extract water from the adjoining River Lugg was obtained and the greens improved accordingly but this led to frustration that sheep were still roaming the course.

It was felt long-term security was needed - and that meant ownership of the land.

The major step of purchase took place in August 1980 and some members felt that the debts incurred would be a millstone around the club's neck, but time proved otherwise. In fact such was the progress made that the club was able to extend the course to 18 holes when the chance arose to buy 30 acres from a neighbouring farmer.

The Bob Sandow designed extension led to the completion of 18 holes in 1990 and this was followed by many changes in the following years, culminating in moving the 18th green and making room for a new two-storey clubhouse and car park which was opened in 2000.

While work continues on the course, the creatures who share the pleasures of the land are not forgotten.

There is an abundance of wildlife which is encouraged by some areas out of play left untouched and the minimum use of chemicals and spraying has led to recognition from the English Golf Union with environmental awards.

A course with views for miles towards Wales and Shropshire, a variety of holes up and down to test all types of golfer and a spacious clubhouse to return to - Leominster is a hospitable members' club with facilities for men, veterans, ladies and juniors.

The surviving members of a small band of pioneers from 1967 have good reason to be proud of their achievements during this celebration week and members have much to thank them for - and for the contributions of those who followed in the tradition.