Express & Star

Midland Golf League still on course after 50 years

Celebrations are planned this year to mark the 50th anniversary of the proud history of the Midland Golf Scratch League.


The league was formed by Handsworth Golf Club duo Bill Blake and John Shaw with the latter still serving as the league organiser five decades later.

Since its inception in 1975, MGSL has grown from seven founding members to 45 clubs across eight divisions in 2024.

Sandwell Park Golf Club embarked on a remarkable period of success at the turn of the century, as they lifted six titles in 10 seasons, including four in a row between 2006 and 2009.

Pete Cole is the most successful captain in the league's history, but humbly insists his role was made simple by a special group of players.

"It was brilliant. Great times and a great team," Cole remembers with a proud smile.

"I was at an age and a handicap when I was really too old to play. I was off four at the time but there was no chance of getting into that side off a handicap of four.

"As captain, I basically just arranged the fixtures, picked the team, made sure they all got there, did the paperwork, hung up their shirts and sent them out.

"They were a stunning side. I think the total handicap of all eight added up to three or four.

"I couldn't even find a place for club members off two, which is unbelievable. Nobody never turned up. I used to take my clubs every time just in case but I never got a game.

"They were an easy team to manage and it was lovely to be captain of that side."

The MGSL also had its very own Leicester City story as a newly-promoted Beau Desert GC (The Beautiful Wilderness) defied the odds to lift the title in 1984.

Ben Rhodes, who was the club captain during that eventful era, recalled the club's history with pride.

"We joined in 1979 and we won Division Two in 1983, lifted Division One in 1984 and were relegated in 1985," he revealed.

"We had a turbulent three years there but in terms of the Leicester City comparison. Most of the clubs are all from around the Birmingham area, whereas Beau is over 25 miles from Birmingham.

"We were classed as a club out in the sticks and we were very much the weaker golfers compared to some of the other clubs, but we were very good match players and that's what the competition was.

"The club is very proud of its connections with the Midland SCRATCH Golf League. In fact, we're still members of it.

"We're not in the top division, but like all clubs, we have our ups and downs. We have a picture of the winning side that's in the club house and a plaque will soon be displayed to detail our title win."

Organiser John Shaw tells us that there are plans to raise funds for a commemorative dinner at Sandwell Park GC for the 50th anniversary.

Money raised from the sale of the plaques will help them towards arranging that dinner.