Forgotten Greens of Scotland
Forgotten Greens of Scotland

Castlecraig, Nigg

Castlecraig Golf Club.  Founded 1890.  Originally a private 9-hole course, it was extended about 1907 to 18 holes and controlled by the Castlecraig Golf Club, consisting at that time of about eighty members.  It was a mere ten minutes from Cromarty by ferry, so it served the north side of the Black Isle as well, and 6 miles from Nigg station. The visits of the Home Fleet to Invergordon every spring and autumn brought many visitors and also caused it to be open for Sunday play. 

   "A match between the Fortrose and Castlecraig Golf Clubs was played on the course of the latter on Thursday of last week at Nigg, victory resting with the latter by 17 holes.


Fortrose                                          Castlecraig


Geddie                 0                          J.M.Couper        1

K.T.Mackenzie    7                          D.Junor              0

B.Haldane           2                          J.F.Thomson      0

A.Mackenzie       1                           Linton                0

M.Kemp              2                           J.W.Lumsden    0

Dr Mackay          6                           Farquharson      0

                          ----                                                    ---

                          18                                                       1

   A foursome was afterward engaged in, with the following result : Dr Crerar and Couper beat K. Mackenzie and A. Mackenzie by 4; Lumsden and Linton beat Dr Mackay and Kemp by 6, and Haldane and Geddie beat Thomson and Junor by 1.  A return match is to be played to-day at Fortrose."   (RJ 12.5.1893)

The Fortrose and Castlecraig golf Clubs played a friendly game over the course of the latter on Tuesday, victory resting with the strangers by 9 holes. Scores:-


Fortrose                                          Castlecraig


Mr Lobban            0                        Sheriff Johnstone    1

Mr K. Mackenzie  4                        Mr J.W.Lumsden    0

Sergt. Kemp          8                        Mr J. Couper           0

Mgeddie                0                        Mr Junor                 0

Mr Stewart            0                        Dr Crerar                 3

Mr Gillanders, jr.  0                        R.R. Johnstone       8

Mr J. Henderson   6                        Major Burt              0

Dr Mackay            3                         Mr W. Johnstone    0  

                             __                                                       __  

                              21                                                        12

(RJ 22.9.1893)

  "The autumn handicap for the medal presented by Mr J.D. Lumsden was played for over the Castlecraig course on Wednesday.  Owing to the stormy weather the turn out of members was poor.  Best scores :- J.M.Couper, 96, less4-92;D.Junor, 109, less 11-98; Linton, 118, less 16-102; J.W.Lumsden 114, less 8 – 106; F.Thomson, 117, less 7 – 110."      

(RJ 27.10.1893)


   "The summer handicap for Mr St Quintin’s medal came off on the 12th inst, on the  Castlecraig course.  Mr J.D.Lumsden was the successful competitor, with a nett score of 93.  The best scores were made by Dr Crerar, A.Davidson W.Middleton, J.Couper, and D.Junor."   (RJ 20.4.1894)

Golf – Inter-Burghal Competition


   "On Saturday a team of the St Duthus Golf Club played a team representing Cromarty and Fortrose, on the links at Castlecraig.  The weather was fine, and the links in good order.  The St Duthus Club beat their opponents thoroughly.  The following are the individual scores:-


St Duthus                                            Cromarty & Fortrose


D.Macphail               6                             J.F. Thomson             0

W.W. Chalmers         9                            Sergt. Major Kemp     0

J. Munro                    8                            J.M. Couper               0

Dr Mackenzie            9                             G. Finnie                    0

J. Maclean                 9                             D. Junor                     0

W. J. Munro              7                             J. Gordon                   0

H.C. Robertson         0                              J.W. Lumsden           0

James Urquhart       14                             General Macintyre     0

H. Hutt                       1                             Dr Crerar                    0

A.J. Dallas                  9                             Dr Mackay                 0

                                  ----                                                             -----

                                   72                                                                0

(RJ 8.6.1894)


    “A team of the Fortrose Club went to Cromarty last week to play the return match with the Castlecraig Club, They found the course in excellent order.”  (NC 5.9.1894)


   "The handicap competition for the medal presented by Mr J.W.Lumsden, Perth, was played over the Castlecraig course on Saturday, and resulted as follows:

                                                Handicap                Net

H.Fraser                  79                       14                        83  

D.Junor                   95                       10                        85

J.D.Lumsden          97                       10                        87

J.F. Thomson         100                      12                        88

Sheriff Johnston  scratch                   -                         89

T.M.Murray            do                        -                         95

Sheriff Johnston presented the Club with a dozen balls, which were won by Mr Junor.

(RJ 28.9.1894)

   " The Invergordon and Cromarty Clubs engaged in a friendly game on Saturday over the Nigg course.  The day was of the best description, and the play on the whole was good.  Several low scores were put on by members of both teams.  The result was a victory for Cromarty by 8 holes. Scores:-


Cromarty                                          Invergordon


Captain Moray     0                                  Mr D.Macleod           3

Mr Junor              7                                  Mr Ross                     0

Mr Couper            0                                  Mr James Urquhart  3

Mr J.F.Thomson   0                                 Mr H.W.Graham       4

Mr Lumsden         6                                  Mr Calderhead          0

Mr J.A.Ross          5                                  Mr Brown                  0

Mr Spence             0                                 Dr. Cameron              2

Mr Linton             2                                  Mr Smith                   0

                            ___                                                               ___

                             20                                                                   12

(RJ 29.11.1895)

   "Cromarty is not without recreations for visitors, the place being the favourite resort of a large number of golfers.  The course of nine holes is situated on the north side of the Ferry and is considered one of the best in the north of Scotland.  The view from the course is a splendid one, embracing on the one hand the famous Sutors, and on the other the winding Cromarty Firth, with Ben Wyvis as a background. 

   The course lies along the beach, a magnificent stretch of sand, and is of great variety.  There are many natural hazards.  The turf is all that can be desired being in the centre of a large stretch of bent.  The greens remain much as they were formed by nature, only raking and rolling being necessary to keep them in excellent condition.  Whin, broom, and bent are the punishments of erratic players, but the good golfer can appreciate the exceedingly fine pieces of sandy turf.  Large natural sandholes await the unwary on every hand. 

   One strong point about the course is that after a week’s rain one is able to play immediately, owing to the porous nature of the turf.  Being under the shadow of the North Sutor, which shelters the links from north and east winds, and having such a very dry climate, this course bids fair to come to the front as one of the best sporting greens in the north – From Golf Illustrated."   (RJ 13.5.1904)

   "Play for the autumn medal presented to Castlecraig Golf Club by Mr J Lumsdon took place last Thursday.  Mr John Junor was the winner with a score of 88.  There was a large entry.  Mr Nuttall was second with 89."   (RJ 9.9.1904)


The Ross-shire Journal

September 16th  1904


Golf :-  The competition for the handsome cup presented by Colonel Ross to the Castlecraig Golf Club, took place on the course on Thursday of last week.  There was a numerous entry, but, unfortunately, last year’s winner, Mr Green, was unable to be present.  The day was wet in the morning, but it cleared up splendidly in the afternoon.  Mr S.N Mackay won the cup with 93 less 17-76, Mr John Junor being second with 83 l3 less 3 -80."   (RJ 169.1904)

Castlecraig golfers - 1904

   "The golf course is being daily well patronised, while the ferry appears to be doing a brisk trade.  We understand that arrangements have been made for a jetty being built below the old pier.  This will supply a much needed want, and will doubtless make Nigg and its splendid golf course still more widely known." 


   On Saturday the cup presented by Col. Ross of Cromarty, under handicap rules, was won by Mr J.Linton, Castlecraig. The Autumn handicap medal was also played for, and won by Mr G. Rose, from scratch."   (NC 6.9.1905)

   “Colonel Ross, of Cromarty, presided at a meeting of the golf club on Saturday, and explained that, as their nine-hole course was congested during the past season, Captain Evans of the Dreadnought suggested that as it was probable the Fleet would often be in the Cromarty Firth during the next few years it would be a great convenience to the officers that the course be extended to eighteen holes. 

   It was agreed to extend the course as suggested, and Colonel Ross, the proprietor, at once assented to this.  The cost will be considerable, as in addition to the formation of greens, &c., a part will have to be fenced with wire netting to keep off rabbits.  The local members agreed to the doubling of their annual subscription, and it is expected that the golfing officers will heartily co-operate.

   A Committee of Colonel Ross, Cromarty; Colonel Maxwell, Castlecraig, with Messrs G. Rose and J.A.Ross, Nigg, were appointed to get the work done soon.”

(S 20.10.1908)


 “Mr McHardy, Inverness, who has now laid out over eighty courses during his life as a golfer, has recently visited Nigg and laid it out for an eighteen-hole course. Up till now it has been a nine hole course.”   (NC 11.11.1908)

Castlecraig (Nigg) Golf Club


The parish of Nigg had a very good golf course, thought by some to be the finest natural course in the world. It was in existence at least by 1893 (1) as a private 9-hole course, extended about 1907 to 18 holes and controlled by the Castlecraig Golf Club consisting at that time of about eighty members. The visits of the Home Fleet to Invergordon every spring and autumn brought many visitors and also caused it to be open for Sunday play. It was a mere ten minutes from Cromarty by ferry so it served the north side of the Black Isle as well.

   In "Easter Ross," Alexander Polson, schoolmaster of Nigg, described the course thus:-

   "There is a convenient little Clubhouse fitted with lockers. The course is an excellent one and is capable of great development and improvement. The soil is sandy and inclined to moss, making the surface rather soft. The greens are excellent and have been formed from the natural turf and are good evidence of what can be made of it by care and attention. The holes provide plenty of variety, both with regard to length and difficulty. There are two splendid short holes, surrounded by natural hazards, a ditch having to be crossed in each case. About eight of the holes may be reached by the long player with two strokes, but for the average player they mean three. Three of the holes are three shot holes, the others drive and iron or drive and pitch. The hazards throughout are natural, there being only one or two artificial bunkers. They consist of hillocks, ditches, sandy patches with bent and rough ground usually to punish the unwary player who leaves the fairway.

   To take the holes in detail ­ the first hole is a three shot hole for the ordinary player, but may be reached by two extra good strokes. The fairway lies over undulating country with a wide sandy gully to trap a topped drive. The second or Sea Hole is a plateau, guarded in front by a deep gully, while beyond lies the beach. It can be reached by a drive and a short pitch. The third and fourth are new holes and still rather rough, but promise to become splendid holes. Here straight driving is essential as rough country lies on either side. The third or Quarry Hole usually requires three strokes and the drive must be carefully placed clear of a long ravine extending in the direction of the hole. Going to the fourth, rough ground and a road have to be carried from the tee, after which the passage is easy. The green lies on a low plateau. The fifth or Spion Kop, is one of the familiar kind where the green lies on the top of a steep hill or escarpment. This escarpment is the line of the old beach when the sea stood higher than it is at present. On the way to it the player has to carry a fairly high hill with his drive, and at the same time avoid a quarry on the right. The sixth is the Short Hole, a massive shot over a deep hollow and ditch with the green on the top of the bank beyond. At the seventh once more a ridge has to be crossed with the second. The eighth is flat, but two ditches have to be crossed on the way. At the ninth a ridge must be carried with the second, after which the green is within easy pitching distance. The outward half extends to 2600 yards and the Bogey score is 40.

   Coming home, the way to the tenth hole lies over a series of hillocks with a burn on the right all the way. Three shots are usually necessary to reach the green. The eleventh, a short hole, is a tricky iron shot with a ditch in front and on the left, a wall on the right, and rough ground beyond. The twelfth is a drive and pitch with a burn to trap a topped drive. At the thirteenth or long hole we descend the old coast line and reach the older part of the course, where the ground is firmer. A big natural bunker has to be carried with the second shot. The fourteenth hole lies in a cup and provides an admirable approach shot. At the fifteenth and sixteenth we again cross the burn. The sixteenth green is an undulating one on the side of a hill and requires a carefully placed approach if the succeeding putt is to stay near the hole. The seventeenth may be reached with a good drive. The last hole lies over undulating ground, the green itself being in a wide hollow near the Club house. The inward half is 2455 yards in length, making the total length 5055 yards or just under three miles. The Bogey home is 40, making the Bogey for the round 80."

   The golf club book was in the possession of Mr Alex Fraser formerly of Honeysuckle Cottage, who was one of the club's greenkeepers. He moved to Alness in the 1970's, and since then the book seems to have been lost which is a great pity as it contained the names of many notable people who played at Nigg.

   If the reports of the Ross-shire Journal are anything to go by, the year 1931 was a busy one for the golfers at Nigg. In June that year the Maxwell Medal was played for and won by Mr Christopher Mackenzie, Nigg Ferry, and the Spring Handicap medal was won by Mr A Skinner, also of Nigg Ferry. In October that year, Sir George Dick-Lauder presented a solid silver quaich for the Castlecraig course. The first winner was Mr David Malcolm, Cromarty, with a score of 80 (16) 64.

    Also that year, in June, the Ross-shire Journal reported that W Mackenzie, professional of an Australian Golf Club and a native of Nigg, won a tournament in Sydney. According to an Australian newspaper report he won the trophy in a field of "most of the leading amateurs and all the prominent professionals," so the golf course at Nigg must have been a good training ground.

The Castlecraig (Nigg) Golf Club - References:-

(1) -  Ledger of Ferry Inn, Nigg

Length of Course,  5116 yards - Par 72

             Hole No.    1         2        3        4         5        6        7        8        9

Length in yards    312     125    284    240    363     108    291    356     329

                      Par    4        4        4         4        5       3         4        4         4

             Hole No.    10      11       12       13       14     15       16       17       18

 Length in yards    300   170    290    500    448   292    120      318    370

                     Par     4        3        4         5        4       4        4          4        4

(Scorecard 1936)

The 1939-45 War ended the golf course by taking several of the holes, and in spite of valiant efforts to restart it after the war, they came to nothing. It is understood that the various club trophies were handed out to people with varying degrees of association with the course, and that was the end of golf in Nigg. The course itself is constantly in the news as industrial ideas appear, and it is zoned for oil purposes now.  Source: Tain  and District Museum


Major Trophies: Clayton Medal, St Quintin Medal, Ross Silver Cup

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