Golf club overturns 90-year ban on Germans

18th May 2007
Daily Mail

A golf club has finally axed a law banning Germans and Austrians from playing on the course - nearly 90 years after it was introduced in the wake of World War One.

Filton Golf Club in Bristol marked the historic occasion by letting Hugo Berger, whose grandparents came from Austria, tee off wearing the national dress of his ancestors.

Filton Golf Club in Bristol marked the historic occasion by letting Hugo Berger, whose grandparents came from Austria, tee off wearing the national dress of his ancestors.

Club members introduced the regulation at an AGM in May 1919 banning all Germans and Austrians from entering the club house or playing on the 18-hole course.

Of the 200-strong membership 90 had just fought in the Great War and nine members had been killed. Another, Manley Angell James, won the Victoria Cross.

They decided: "No person of German or Austrian extraction, whether naturalised or not, shall be allowed in the clubhouse or on the course."

The long-forgotten rule had remained on dusty leather-bound ledger ever since, until it was unearthed by centenary committee chairman Alan Barclay.

Hugo Berger: Getting into the spirit of things in Austrian dress

Mr Barclay, 66, a retired Rolls-Royce worker, made the discovery as he researched a book to mark the club's 100 anniversary and was shocked to find it still in force.

He said: "I was absolutely astounded. I thought 'my goodness'. I was just as amazed really to find that nobody ever came up and said 'we have got to rescind that'. It just sat there for 88 years."

The course sits in the shadow of the Bristol Aerospace Company, which built the famous Bristol F.2 Fighter biplane during World War One.

Now the site is home to European plane giant Airbus and aircraft engine firm Rolls Royce. Both firms have a large number of Germans working for them.

Also a plane flies from nearby Filton Airfield to Frankfurt once a week.

Members unanimously decided to scrap the legislation at an AGM last week and marked the occasion by asking Hugo Berger to tee off.

The long-forgotten rule had remained on this dusty leather-bound ledger since 1919

But despite the original rule the club does have one German member. Anna Fischer, a young lady from Germany, joined two years ago without realising that she was forbidden from playing at the club.

Mr Barclay added: "I could not believe it when I found this law banning all Germans and Austrians.

"It must have been passed because there was so much hatred of the Germans for causing such loss of life during the war.

"Obviously there is now friendship between our countries and it is not the kind of law you want a modern club to have, so finally we got rid of it.

"Even though it has been on our books the prohibition has not been enforced for many years and it has been lost in the mists of time.

"We are now good friends with the Germans - apart from when they beat us at football, obviously.
"We want to make it clear that people of all nationalities and races are welcome here at Filton Golf Club."

Retired merchant navy seaman Leonard Scott, 83, a club member since 1961 who served across the globe during World War Two, welcomed the move.

Mr Scott, from Brislington, Bristol, said: "Live and let live. We've got enough problems with one thing or another without this being a thorn."

Greens chairman Jim Henderson, 58, who will be club captain for the centenary year, said: "The most famous German golfer is obviously Bernard Langer and I guess the law would have meant he was banned from playing here.

"We might invite him to come here for our centenary celebrations and play a round to show that we are now friends with the Germans."