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Hitler

This club is famous for… the Hitler tree

This is a story of how two English heroes embarrassed Adolf Hitler on his own doorstep – and how a Lancashire club celebrates their legacy to this very day.
 

Golf may not have been part of the Olympics for more than a century, until Justin Rose grabbed gold in Rio last summer, but in 1936, under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler at the infamous Nazi games, the sport provided an intriguing sideshow to the main event.

Ten days after the Fuhrer had presided over the official competition, seven two-man teams went head-to-head at Baden-Baden for the Golfpreis Der Nationen – The Great Golf Prize of the Nations.

Even with war still three years away, distaste and mistrust with the German regime was growing and, of the 36 countries sent invitations, only six accepted the entreaties of German Golf Union president Kark Henkell.

But one of those was the English, who sent Hesketh member Arnold Bentley and Ganton stalwart Tommy Thirsk to represent them in a 72-hole tournament where the scores of each player were combined.

Hitler

At first, it all went swimmingly for the German duo of Leonard von Beckerath and CA Helmers.

Holding a five shot lead going into the final day, it is said the German foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop sent word to Hitler of an imminent home win.

As the dictator drove from Berlin to personally present the prizes to his charges, the English duo – thanks partly to two course-record 65s from Thirsk – surged to victory by four shots.

Where were the Germans? Frankly, who cares? (They were third.)

Folklore has it that Hitler, upon learning of the failure while in passage, furiously ordered his chauffeur to turn the car around. Henkell then conducted the ceremony.

HitlerA sideline to this story was that, along with the trophy and two gold medals, both Bentley and Thirsk were presented with another unusual prize – a small fir tree.

I suppose it makes a change from a potted plant, but Bentley’s tree found its way back to Hesketh where it was planted close to the clubhouse.

The tree survives to this day but it had to show incredible fortitude to get through the Second World War.

Nicknamed the ‘Hitler Tree’ by the members, it was frequently used as a urinal, which probably accounts for its rather unusual shape today.

The trophy went missing for many years until it was unearthed in 2004. Hesketh later raised the money – thought to be around £15,000 – to buy it at Bonham’s and it now resides in the clubhouse.

Click here for the full ‘This Club Is Famous For’ archive

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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