Forgotten Greens of Scotland
Forgotten Greens of Scotland

Sutherland's Private Courses.

The following Private courses have been identified in Sutherland:


Balnacoil Lodge


Dunrobin Castle


Gualin Lodge


Skibo Castle


Tressady Lodge

Balnacoil Lodge

The lodge with the former course in the foreground

Balnacoil Lodge, Nr Brora. A nine-hole course in the grounds in front of the lodge

Dunrobin Castle Golf Course

Rosshire Journal October 14th, 1904


The Duke Of Sutherland has decided to lay out a private golf course at Dunrobin. Mr J. Sutherland, secretary of Dornoch golf club has been entrusted with the work of laying out the new course. The Duke, the Duchess, and Mrs Chaplin, his grace’s niece, are ardent votaries of the Royal and Ancient game.


John Sutherland


John Sutherland – John Sutherland was born in 1864 the son of a Dornoch shoemaker. He began playing golf at 14 and was admitted to the club three years later, making scratch at once. Sutherland was appointed secretary in 1883 – a position he held for an amazing 58 years. Sutherland first competed in the Amateur Championship in 1891 at St. Andrews, and was a consistent attendant for the next 20 years. If there had been a prize for distance travelled most years he would have won it.

John Sutherland

No one knows precisely when golf began at Dornoch, records indicate the game had been played there as far back as 1630. We do know the ‘modern’ game came to Dornoch in the 1870s with a nine-hole golf course. The Dornoch Golf Club was officially founded in 1877. In 1886 Old Tom Morris was engaged to layout a proper golf course, staking out a new nine thus extending the course to 18 holes. Sutherland carried out this work over the next few years. Old Tom deserves credit for getting things started but without question Dornoch was Sutherland’s long term project. Throughout his tenure he continually improved the courses including a major redesign in 1904, which included extending the ladies course to 18 holes.

In 1902 Golf Illustrated wrote of Sutherland: “He has given great service in laying out and altering, not only his own green but many of those in the neighbourhood.” Sutherland was invited in 1891 by the newly formed Brora Golf Club to layout a nine-hole golf course. He returned to Brora in 1902 and extended the links to 18 holes. That same year he laid out Skibo a private course for none other than Andrew Carnegie. In addition to Carnegie’s private course Sutherland designed and built private golf courses for the Duke of Portland at Langwell, the Duke of Sutherland at Dunrobin and Mr. Eric Chaplin at Stoer.

Sutherland taught the game to future professionals Donald Ross, Alec Morrison and Tom Grant, and this quote from The Scotsman may indicate which pupil he favoured, “John Sutherland I know was proud of the Dornoch boys who carried the fame of his native town across the Atlantic.” One wonders what impact he may have had upon Ross the golf architect. As a young man Ross was both an apprentice to a building contractor and one of the best amateur golfers in the region. Members of the club urged him to go to St.Andrews to learn club-making, however his family wanted him to continue in the trade of carpentry. When the club promised to make him their professional, his parents consented and he was off to St. Andrews and Forgan’s golf shop for a brief apprenticeship. From 1893 to 1899 Ross was Dornoch’s first professional and presumably worked closely with Sutherland, who acted as the club’s secretary and greenkeeper (Sutherland was a self-taught expert in agronomy whose advice was sought throughout the UK). It is difficult to say to what extent Sutherland influenced Ross but it appears at the very least he laid his foundation.

In addition to his club responsibilities, John Sutherland was the Town Clerk, and beyond his public duties he advised Lord Rothermore and WT Tyser of Gordonbush on financial matters. He was also a successful Estate Agent. Sutherland even found time to write the golf notes for The Daily News, and contributed several articles to Golf Illustrated. Through his writing Sutherland was largely responsible for publicizing this islolated gem, and as a result the course attracted an impressive list of pilgrims including the Newton, Joyce and Roger Wethered, John Low, JH Taylor, Ernest Holderness and others. John Sutherland died suddenly at his home Golf View in 1941.

Gualin Lodge

Gualin Lodge, between Rhiconich and Durness. A 9-hole course on the estate, once owned by the Duke of Sutherland.   (AB) 

Skibo Castle Old Course

Skibo Castle, Sutherland.  A 9-hole course, on the Cuthill Links, laid out in 1898 by John Sutherland, Secretary of Dornoch GC, in the grounds, belonging to Andrew Carnegie

The castle during renovations

Scotsman September 26th 1898


Opening of a new Golf Course At Skibo.   .


   "Skibo golf course was opened last week by the little daughter of the proprietor. The course is situated four miles south west from the famous Dornoch Links : in fact, these links are a continuation of the same belt of sandy bent land on the Skibo estates. They are separated from woodlands by the river Evolex, a burn of no mean size, not unknown to heavy spates in the winter. Over this water Mr Andrew Carnegie has caused to be constructed a stout footbridge, 40 yards long, made of pine beams, and capable of resisting the pressure of a moderately heavy volume of water.

   The ceremony of opening this bridge and the adjoining golf course last Thursday afternoon was probably unique. Mr Carnegie and party arrived at the waters edge, preceded by the castle piper, who, playing his pipes, led the way across the bridge : the baby’s coach followed, the castle party, workmen, and castle estate servants bringing up the rear, arrived at the first teeing ground the millionaires child was lifted from her coach, and Mrs Thomson, one of the castle visitors, guided her chubby hands to the handle of the club.

Margaret Carnegie, as a baby, opening Skibo golf course by playing the 1st hole, helped by Betty Thompson and Nana.


Little wonder a hearty round of applause greeted her first shot

   “ The iron King” thereafter made an interesting speech, referring to the bridge as being the first work done by him on his Sutherland property, and to the agreeable relations which he hoped to see in the future established between laird, tenants, and all others connected in any way with Skibo.

   A picnic feast terminated the proceedings. Mr Carnegie has already set about preparing a library for his village of Clashmere, and extensive improvements are about to begin at the castle."                        (S 26.9.1898). 

 Scotsman April 7th 1904 


 "No visitor to Dornoch leaves the district without making an effort to see the stately castle where Mr Andrew Carnegie has made his Scottish home, and the golfer, naturally turns his steps in the direction of the Skibo Private Links. A few minutes drive from the castle, past the gorgeous swimming baths, with their interior of solid marble, brings one to the little club – house by the links, neatly constructed in rustic fashion. Mr Carnegie’s recreations out of doors consist chiefly in fishing and golfing. He is indeed a keen golfer. His club – house and links bear all the appearance of it. The walls of the club room are hung with golfing pictures, including Lee’s well known “ A grand match at golf” in which Sir David Baird, Bart, and Sir Ralph Anstruther, Bart, are engaged in a foursome with Major Playfair and Mr John Campbell of Saddell, and in which also figures a former proprietor of Skibo.

   The Skibo lairds sense of the humorous and his appreciation of a good joke are reflected in the fact that a prominent position has been given to a framed page of “ Golf Illustrated” with the cartoon by “ E.M.,” which appeared immediately after the Hoylake Open Championship of 1902. Some time prior to the championship, it may be recalled, Mr Hilton had written something to the effect that Herd was off his game. Herd, as it turned out, won the championship with a score of 307. Mr Hilton took 314. The clever cartoon shows herd ( No 307 ) Ringing up No 314.“You there, Mr Hilton ?

Aweel, wha said decadence ? A’m Sandy Herd ye ken” The picture, with due appropriateness, has been hung over the telephone instrument communicating with Skibo Castle.

   On the links are again seen traces of the handiwork of Mr John Sutherland, who has done so much for golf, and golfers in the north. Mr Sutherland, indeed, laid out the private green of nine holes,which affords Mr Carnegie and his friends, and those about the estate, to whom he is kindly granted the privilege of playing, many pleasant hours at the Royal and Ancient Game. Needless to say, the nicely situated course by the side of the Dornoch firth is kept in tip top order."  

Carnegie and friends at Skibo Links

Skibo links today which was built over the original nine holes.

Carnegie at At Andrews Golf Club, Yonkers, New York

The clubhouse on the links

Following Andrew Carnegie’s death in 1919, the links became fallow.


In 1992 a new 18-hole course was laid out for the Carnegie Club on the Cuthill Links, but little of the original layout was used.

Wait a minute, that's my missus, how the hell did she get inside Skibo ?. Obviously got friends in high places !!

Tressady Lodge Golf Course


The Tressady Lodge golf course was brought to my attention when I was making enquiries about another defunct golf course in the same district in the parish of Rogart. I had contacted the local heritage group in Rogart ( Sutherland ) to ask if they knew anything about the course and a lady with the wonderful name of  Christina Perera, their secretary, contacted me with information on a completely different course entirely which had been located at the lodge. It’s not every day that you can come up with a bonus of two for the price of one, but that’s exactly what has happened on this occasion, so well done, and thankyou to Christina and the Rogart Heritage Society. However, it does not end there, Christina also tipped me off about the history of the lodge and details of some of the people who used it as a sporting lodge and holiday location at the end of the 19th century. Sporting lodges in Scotland were very popular and would be rented out from their owners to the well heeled and wealthy gentlemen, or families who came to Scotland from all over the country to enjoy some old fashioned Victorian hospitality north of the border. You can access information on many of these sporting lodges on this site, ( classified as Private ) however, I suspect that I have only uncovered a small number of these exclusive locations, and that there are many more still to find in the future. The Rogart heritage society have informed me that there was in excess of 50 sporting lodges in Sutherland alone. The research continues.

One of these well-heeled gentlemen who used the lodge on an annual basis, usually in September, was called Mr Linley Sambourne, famous at the time for his sketches in the also famous, “ Punch Magazine” based in London. Mr Sambourne kept a detailed diary of his daily activities, and it's from these entries in the diarys that we have uncovered information on the golf course at Tressady. The information in the diarys describe his movements from boarding the train in London, his journey, all the way through to his arrival in Sutherland, and thereafter, a daily account of his holiday at Tressady. The entries in the diary are in most cases, abbreviated, and can be, to some extent, of less interest to many readers, and with this in mind I have taken only the extracts which have details of the golf course. I have also only given one example of a typical monthly entry of the diary to give you a feel and an understanding of my previous comments, however, I fully appreciate that the diary of Mr Sambourne, in a complete form will be, and probably are, of great interest to researchers in other fields outside of golf. The diarys begin in August 1889, which I can only assume, was his first ever visit to Tressday, but I have included only the info and samples from 1890 onwards, which was the starting date for the golf course.

Sambourne far right ( coutesy of Rogart Heritage Group )

Sunday August 31st 1890                Samples Of Diary


On train to Scotland. Woke at 7.30. Washed etc. Past Stirling & Wallace Monument. At 9.30 Perth. Saw Foot. Great hurry. No time for breakfast, train 1hr late. Foot got into my coupé. Pleasant chat. On by train to Inverness. No lunch at Forres. Everything shut. Shared lunch with Foot. Quite enough. Whiskey & soda at Inverness. Into Highland Railway. Dozed along. Read Review of Reviews. Got to Rogart all right, 1¾ hrs late. Up to Tressady 6.15.

Found all on lawn. No gun arrived. Wrote off & sent key. Wrote M. Dressed & dinner at 8.0pm. Good claret. Whist after, lost 6d. Ryle, Vernon, Claude, Richards (Wenkum), Harry Newton, Cobbold, self, Foot.


Monday September 1st 1890


Marking Out Golf Course


Rogart. Up 8.0am. Found candles burning. Won't do. Bath. Breakfast. Found that nails stuck through boot. Annoyed. Had to change them. Down. 3 groups photod. Goodbye to Claude. Walked up home beat, Vernon, Foot & self. Harry Newton lent me gun. Very good. Got grouse. Gun would not open. Began to rain. Very wet. Put mackintosh on. Off again. Round by Ryle's hut. 2 pictures. Lunch after. Birds shy & wild. 8 brace, 2 brace snipe 4 hares.

Home 5.30. Saw Newton marking out Golf course. Foot done up. Had tea. Bath. Wrote letters & diary. Slight diahorrea. Down to dinner. Arrival of Hobhouse. Good dinner. Champagne. News after that Richards (Wenkum) had shot a dog. Gloom. Cobbold left dinner with diahorrea. Cards after. Lost 1/-. Bed 11.30. Read Withered Arm. Woke 2.15. Bad dream, could not fly away from Vanity Fair.


Sunday September 7


Tressady. Woke quite early & read ‘Swallow's Wing’. Bath. Out in sun & stroll up to Kitchen garden. Eat gooseberries. Down at 10.0am to breakfast. Dept had been to the burn. Felt very weak & seedy after. Awfully hot, changed coat. Read ‘Life & Death’ after. Got into hammock & read Heroditus etc. Vernon came & talked & Foot in tree. Lunch. Table groaned. After back to hammock & smoke cigar of Cobbold's. Read ‘50 years on trail of Heroditus’.

Tea outside. Photod. Tortoise race. Bowls. Went up to see Golf played. Heavenly evening. Ryle went back for letters. Letter from M & from Brightmore to say F.C.B ill in bed. Went back & wrote letters. Dressed. Dinner. Claret. Told about Stanley after. Final of Go Bang. Dept played. No whist. Bed 11.30. Read Rudyard Kipling till 1.0pm. Slept comfortably.


Monday September 8


Tressady. Up at 8.5. Bath. Shave. Down to breakfast 8.15. Felt still very seedy with cold. Out after. Heavy dew. Cigarette. Read Rudyard Kipling's 'Black & White'. At 10.40 Cobbold left in omnibus with Ryle for paint & Dr Martin. Up in room & wrote diary. Sent boots off. Went down & lay in hammock till lunch time, reading The Field & Margio's ‘Crucifix’. Lunch, Dr Martin, Foot, Dryhurst, self & Newton.. After felt weak & seedy. Went & lay

on hammock & on sofa in Drawing Room until 3.30. Foot & self played Dryhurst & Newton at Golf. Won 4 holes to 1. Hit ball well. Back for letters & tea. Headache came on very bad at dinner & after. Very careful what I took at dinner. No Champagne, no whiskey. Smoked cigarette. No cards. Dr Martin gave me a pill to take. Bed 11.30. Read ‘A terrible responsibility’. (Red ink across page: This night at 11.0 Sir William Gordon Cummings cheated at cards at Tranby Croft, Arthur Wilson's place at Hull. Afterwards known as the

Baccarat case. Saw the jury give verdict against him on Tuesday June 9 1891.)


Tuesday September 9


Tressady. Woke by repeater 3.17. Still splitting headache & tossed about, sleep after. Up 8.0am. Frightful tongue & 2 spots on chin. Very seedy. Bath. Breakfast. Stroll after. Tortoises lethargic. Hobhouse haemorrhage in lungs. Dryhurst's jersey. Martin, Richards, Foot & Dryhurst went to Lairg. Vernon & Newton went to loch. Talk with Ryle after about yacht. Hobhouse & Ryle to paint. Pipe. Began to work. Worked in morning & sketched out drawing of drosky driver. Down to lunch. After took book to read in Smoking Room.

Dozing until 5.0pm. Letters from à B & F.C.B. None Marion. Wrote after & went up & played a round with Vernon at Golf. Lost & won. The ‘TEE’, play the ‘Odd’, play the ‘Like’. Back. Wrote letters. Party late from fishing. Not back till 8.0pm. Dressed. Moderate dinner. Smoke. Whist after. Lost 2 rubbers, 3/6. Drew for sweep, ‘Surefoot’. (Red ink across page: 2nd night of Sir William Gordon Cummings cheating. Exposed before the Prince of Wales at Tranby Croft.)




Sunday September 4th 1891.


Tressady, Rogart. Up 9.0. Breakfast 10.15. Good breakfast. Dull cold day. Pipe after. At 11.0 golf match. Scored for Foot & Newton. Thring & Vernon. Played one round with Moon. Self took 60. Lunch. Royle came over.

Good lunch. Cold beef, chutney & rice. After lunch played 2nd round. Marshall & Richards also. Very painful attack of P all day. Rather seedy. After tea went up & saw match between Richards & Newton against Foot & Thring. R & N won by 4 holes. Lost 2/s to Moon. Suspicion of cold in head. Read before dinner. Washed shirt etc. Wrote letters. Made offer for Ramsgate to Vinten. Wrote Roy & my mother. Dinner. Took Miss Taylor in. Good dinner. Claret. Game after. One of things guessed other side of moon. Pipe after. Sleepy. Bed 11.50. M stayed up. Washed shirt. Did not change plates. Read ¼ hr & bed 12.15. Gum boil on wane. (Red ink across page: Golf match all day on Tressady links. Rather seedy all day.)


Thursday September 8th


Tressady, Rogart. Up 8.0am. Breakfast 9.0. After decided for great Golf tournament. Newton & self T'd off against Thring & Vernon. Played 12 holes before lunch. Won by 5 holes. Divided 5. They only won two holes. At 1.0 got camera & took photos of Marshall, Dept etc. Richards & Marshall beat Foot & Dept. Lunch. Doubts about lawn tennis. Had to play 2nd round Newton & self against Richards & Marshall. Played 12 holes. Just won by one hole & the match at 5.0pm. Tea. Read The Wreckers. Letter from Mite & long one from Tabs describing poor Tony's death. Very much in pain from P & tired. Dinner 8.0. M had been with Lady M & Miss Taylor to call on Lady Fitzhardinge. Met the Duchess of Wellington & Countess of W. Golf dinner. Made speeches about old King Canute & Marshall etc etc. Game after dinner. Wrote out & filled in with adjectives. Whist. Won 6d. Up at 11.50. Changed plates & read Times about Eastern Papyrus. Bed at 1.0pm. Game of adjectives. (Red ink across page: Great Golf Tournament all day.)


These entries carry on in the same vein every year up to 1902, however, you can get the idea from the samples etc, and the mention of Tressady and all golfing, stops in September 24th, 1901, when his last words are,


“ Left Tressady For Ever.”



The following information from Christina in the heritage society might help to explain why Mr Sambourne decided to terminate his annual visits to Tressady.


( The vast majority of the sporting estates and lodges were rented not on a weekly or fortnightly basis as they might be today, but for years at a time. It was actually Vernon Watney who had the let of Tressady Lodge and shootings as well as angling at Shin in Lairg.  The first record I can find for this is 1889 and his name appears in the valuation roll for perhaps a dozen years following. So Sambourne was visiting the Watneys rather than having a regular let of the lodge and shootings himself. 

You’ll see VJ Watney in the prize giving lists for the competitions. Watney came from the famous family of brewers and his brother Claude is also referred to in Sambourne’s diaries.


In 1901 Watney bought (rather than rented) an estate in Oxfordshire. This may have been one of the reasons he gave up the let of Tressady when he did and hence Sambourne’s statement “Left Tressady for ever”.  Perhaps another reason for giving up Tressady might have been the shooting and fishing were better elsewhere. From around 1905 Watney took a let of deer forest near Loch Broom as well as a Fannich Lodge. Vernon Watney and subsequently his son, Oliver Vernon Togo Watney, continued with this let, adding Achnasheen in 1920 and Cabuie (?) in 1925 right up until 1940 and probably beyond.) 


Mr Linley Sambourne died in 1910, aged 66 years old.

As I have been unable to find an actual formation meeting, it can be seen from the following results that a club had been started with a secretary, membership, and a greenkeeper to keep the course in order, so it is obvious that other guests at the lodge throughout the year were using this golf course. I suspect that the course would go to the wall during the first world war. It would also appear that Tressady Lodge has had its fair share of noteable, and some not so noteable guests throughout the years, but perhaps i should refrain, and stick to my main subject, the golf. 

Much to ponder.

Station at the turn of the century as they would see it.

Sambourne at work

Tressady Golf Club, The Field, 20 Sep 1890


The first medal meeting of this club was held on Thursday, Sept 11, and proved a great success. The new course was in excellent order thanks to the skill and attention bestowed on it by the green-keeper, John Bannerman. The medal fell to Mr Linley Sambourne, a younger player of great promise, whose success was deservedly popular. Appended are the scores of the first six competitors.


                                                                                 Gross              Hcp                        Net

Mr L. Sambourne   ………………………………..  98                   18                          80

Mr H.E. Richards    ………………………………   82                   Scr                         82

Mr H.A. Newton    ………………………………    90                    6                            84

Mr T.A. Fort            ………………………………   93                    8                            85

Mr V.T. Watney     ………………………………    102                  12                           90

Mr F.J. Dryhurst      ……………………………      129                  18                         111               


Tressady Golf Club, The Field, 19 Sep 1891


The annual medal meeting of this club was held on Sept 5, and though some disappointment was felt at the failure of last year’s winner (Mr Linley Sambourne) to retain the medal, yet the form of the scratch player, this year’s winner, was of a very high class, and fully compensated the spectators for any discomfort due to the weather. The scores of the first six competitors are appended. Owing to indisposition Mr C D Waller did not play.


                                                                                   Gross            Hcp                        Net

Mr H.E. Richards   …………………………             82                Scr                          82

Mr A.T. Thring       …………………………             103               9                            94

Mr V.J. Watney    ……………………………            118              15                          103

Mr T.A. Fort          ……………………………          116              12                          104

Mr L. Sambourne   …………………………             134              18                          116

Mr H.A. Newton    …………………………  .          134               5                           129


Tressady Golf Club,The Field, 17 Sep 1892


The third annual medal meeting of this club was held over the club links on Sept 3, in splendid golfing weather. A large number of members of the club competed, but owing to the generosity of the handicapper, and to the fact that the younger members of the club showed a marked improvement in their game since last year, the scratch players (among whom were Mr H E Richards, last year’s medal winner, and Mr Marshall) did not figure high on the list. Appended are the scores of the first six competitors.


                                                                                       Gross           Hcp                      Net

Mr A.T. Thring     ……………………………                94              12                         82

Mr A.W.Moon     ……………………………                 107            24                         83

Mr J.A. Fort       ……………………………                   97              13                         84

Mr V.J. Watney     ……………………………                127            30                         97

Mr L. Sambourne    …………………………                 131            30                        101

Mr H. Newton     ……………………………                 109             6                          10


Tressady Golf Club The Field, September 23rd, 1893


The fourth annual medal competition of this club ( Rogart, Sutherland n.b. ) was held on Sept. 9th and was one of the most successful meetings yet held on these links. Three former medal winners were competing ; but they were not successful, and the medal fell to Mr H.A. Newton, one of the oldest members of the club. The greens have been much improved since last year, thanks to the untiring energy of the secretary, Mr C.D. Waller. Appended are the scores of the first nine competitors.


                                                                                               Gross                    Hcp                Net

Mr H.A. Newton  …………………………………               88                         8                    80

Mr J.A. Fort      ……………………………………              94                         8                    86

Mr V.J. Watney   …………………………………                108                      20                   88

Mr H.E. Richards   ………………………………                 90                      Scr                   90

Mr A.T. Thring    …………………………………                102                      8                    94

Mr M.R.L. Marshall    ……………………………               113                      12                  101

Mr L. Sambourne  ……………………………                     127                      16                  111

Mr F.J. Dryhurst      ………………………………               146                      30                 116

Mr L. Taylor     ………………………………                      147                     30                  117


Tressady Golf Club, The Field, 15 Sep 1894


The fifth annual medal meeting of this club was held on Sept 1, and produced an exciting finish. The winner, Mr Marshall (the popular ex-secretary of the Woking Golf Club), played in his usual steady form, and secured a well-earned victory. Appended are the scores of the first five competitors, and also of the winner and second in the ladies’ prize (presented by the secretary Mr C D Waller), which was competed for on the same day, and only won after a very even struggle.


                                                                                          Gross          Hcp                     Net

Mr M.L. Marshall  …………………………………          89             12                        77

Mr V.J. Watney      ………………………………               96             18                        78

Mr H.E, Richards       ………………………………          86             Scr                       86

Mr L. Sambourne    ……………………………                108            20                        88

Mr H.A. Newton     ………………………………             96              6                         90




Mrs Drummond    ……………………………………       116             30                      86

Miss M. Taylor      …………………………………           119            30                      89

A younger looking Sambourne

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