The present Orkney golf club, based at Grainbank in Kirkwall have a somewhat unique history in as much as they have been playing their game of golf all over the Orkney's archipelago of islands for many years before the present club's formation in 1889, and all, because they couldn't find a decent piece of ground anywhere in the immediate Kirkwall area which would allow the members to continue with their pastime.
Orkney with its archipelago of islands, has quite a unique history in the annals of golf. The game has been reported as being played as far back as the 1600s by the landed gentry of the island, but not, it seems, at the locations of which we might have expected. It is too easy for us to assume that the game would have started on the mainland at Kirkwall or Stromness and spread outwards to the islands, but not so in this case. The early Orcadian golfers themselves certainly were from the mainland, but they went to all sorts of inconveniences and measures in order to hit the wee white featherie on ground which suited their taste, ground which required no preparation or maintenance, other than the one supplied by nature and the natural elements, Machair ground, waiting in abundance on the shores of Orkney’s outlying islands. Ground such as this was unavailable at Kirkwall and so the island of Sanday with all the above qualities fitted the bill perfectly and became the headquarters of golf in Orkney. The Kirkwall golfers would have to wait a few years for the invention of grass cutting machinery which would allow them the pleasure of playing golf on their own patch on the Mainland at the ba’lea or Pickaquoy. Such was the lure of this obsessive and fascinating game that these gentlemen were willing to travel by boat for some considerable timeacross the hazardous Wide and Stronsay Firths, a journey which takes todays modern ferries approx. 1½ hours to complete. An area called the Plain Of Fidge on the East Coast of Sanday Island was their objective, an area where golf is still being played today by the Sanday Golf Club. These suggestions about early golf on Sanday from the various publications are very clear, but also very sparse, and it is extremely frustrating trying to find and piece together a comprehensive history as Orkney’s two newspapers were not established until the late 1800s. Although their early golf had been played at Plain Of Fidge this beautiful island would eventually be home to another four golf courses, with a re-surgence at Backaskaill Bay, Overbister, Rusness, and Geramont, in the 1890s, although details on the latter two are very few and far between.
The Orkney Golf Club and its Courses
As stated earlier, the game was being played in an informal basis at an early date by the Kirkwall golfers at a location known as the Ba’lea or papdale, however, this ground was found to be most unsuitable for the playing of golf.
This further quote from the book “ Kirkwall in the Orkneys”, is very significant in the history of Scottish golf, and if its true, and could be verified, would alter our interpretations of existing records of early golf in Scotland.
The book, when describing a gentlemen called Bailie Moncrieff goes on to state “ Bailie Moncrieff of the Inns was a member of the Orkney Golf Club. James Dickson, writing from Kirkwall, 1685, says :- “ Ye will remember to bring with you one dozen of common golf ballis to me and David Moncrieff.” The Ba’lea seems at that time to have been the home green of the Kirkwall players :- “ Gentlemen of Kirkwall have been in the use of diverting themselves, when they thought proper, on a piece of ground called the balley of Kirkwall, adjacent to the lands of South Papdale, at the golf or other diversions,” but for a week’s outings, the Kirkwall players resorted to Sanday, and had their foursomes over the Plain of Fidge. Their yearly festival was held in the sixteenth of April, St Magnus day. As there were then no hotels on Sanday, the annual dinner of the club would take the circuit of Stove and Elsness, Newark and Lopness, and round the hospitable board of Fea or Traill, Stewart or Elphinstone, the members would fight their battles over again as long as they could see each other.
The above suggests an actual golf club, rather than casual matches, can this be true ?.
Another quote from the footnotes goes on “ Golf on the ba’lea has been long a thing of the past, and the reference to it on the occasion of the sale of Papdale in 1783 was simply with a view to guard public rights. After having been extinct in Orkney probably since “ the forty-five,” the game was revived in Kirkwall in 1884 by Angus Buchanan, Esq., of the National Bank. His enthusiasm attracted players, and his energy rendered golf possible by creating a course out of a piece of marshy ground lying conveniently near the town, This was at Pickaquoy.
Although the Orkney golf club was not formed at this time, 1884, it was certainly the re – birth leading up to the club’s new beginning in 1889. Mr Buchanan and his group of friends would play their golf on this little piece of private ground for five years, until they found suitable ground at Birsay, some 15 miles North of Kirkwall. Yet again, the golfers find themselves having to endure a 30 to 40 miles round trip in order to satisfy their craving for the game of golf, and all because they could not find suitable ground local to Kirkwall.
The man who was given the credit for bringing golf back to Orkney
Orkney members at Pickaquoy 1890s
The Birsay links today with the Gloup on the left
Golf At Birsay
Orkney Herald, May 1st, 1889
This club held their first medal competition in the picturesque links of Birsay on Friday last. There was a good turnout of members, and considering that the course had just been laid out, some good scores were made.
Sheriff Armour’s medal was won by Mr John Traill of Woodwick, with the excellent score of 83 for the two rounds of 18 holes. Mr Angus Buchanan had the next best natural score – viz., 86. The following are some of the best scores :- John Traill ( Scratch ) 83 ; A.J. Gold 94 less 9 – 85 ; A. Buchanan ( Scratch ) 86 ; M.L. Howman, 121 less 24 – 97 ; Sheriff Armour, 109 less 9 – 100 ; D. Stewart, 134 less 30 – 104 ; A. Gold, 129 less 24 – 105.
Hitherto there has been no regular course on the Birsay links, though golfers have enjoyed a game occasionally when they has sufficient energy and enthusiasm to make the necessary holes for themselves. Now, however, that the club has been started, and that permission has been obtained from Mr Leask of Broadhouse, it is hoped that this naturally fine course will be largely taken advantage of by golfers. Sheriff Armour deserves great credit for his efforts on behalf of the game in Orkney, and we are sure that in consequence, the game will in time become here, as elsewhere, a favourite pastime.
The Orkney golf club would to and fro from Pickaquoy Links in Kirkwall and the Birsay links in the North for another 13 years. They also had a brief period of playing at another linksland course at Deerness, to the South of Kirkwall before finally deciding to lay out a course on their doorstep at Grainbank, where they play today. The Orkney club had come home.
Orcadian July 6th, 1889
Orkney golf club
The monthly competition for Sheriff Armour’s challenge medal was held over Birsay links on Saturday. Mr Buchanan was the only player who had not the benefit of a handicap. Sheriff Armour made the lowest natural score, 90, which with his allowance of 9, made him 81 ; but he was not permitted to carry off his own prize. Mr D.S. Stewart, with a natural score of 93, being allowed 15 points, was the winner of the medal with a nett 78.
Orcadian July 20th, 1889
The members of the Orkney golf club engaged in their first monthly competition on Saturday for the star presented by Sheriff Thoms. Fourteen competitors took place in the match. The course was thrice round the links at Pickiequoy. Mr Buchanan was first, with a score of 102, Sheriff Armour was second with 105, and Mr D. Stewart third with 109.
Orcadian August 3rd, 1889
Orkney golf club handicap
Sheriff Armour’s challenge medal was competed for on the Birsay links on Saturday, 2 rounds singles, 18 holes. The sheriff made the lowest natural score of 93. Dr Gilrae came next with 94, but having more allowance than Mr Armour, he secured the medal. Mr Howman, procurator fiscal, was third with 97.
Orcadian August 17th, 1889.
Orkney golf club
The monthly competition for Sheriff Thom’s silver star came off at Pickiequoy, Kirkwall, on Saturday – three rounds of the links, 21 holes. Mr D. Stewart was first with a splendid score of 89 – Messrs Buchanan and Howman tying for second place with 95. The scores of the others were sheriff Armour, 101 ; Dr Sinclair, 119 ; Dr Bell, 122 ; Dr Gilrae, 123 ; Rev. G. Campbell, 125 ; and B.H. Hossack and S. Reid 126 each. Sheriff Thoms, and Messrs Gold, Heddle, and Davidson and others, did not finish their rounds.
Orkney Herald September 9th 1889
Orkney Golf Club
The members of this club held their monthly competition for Sheriff Armour’s challenge medal at Birsay on Saturday last, with the following result :- B.H. Hossack. 88 less 11. Equals 77 ; A. Buchanan, Scratch, 80 ; M.L. Howman, Scratch 88 ; D. Stewart Scratch 88 ; Sheriff Armour, Scratch 90.
After lunch and a fresh handicap, the club prizes were played for, and were won by ( 1 ) A. Buchanan, scratch 78 ; ( 2 ) M.L. Howman, 83 less 5 equals 78 ; and ( 3 ) Heriff Armour, 85 less 5 equals 80. The clubs lowest record previously stood at 82 – Mr Howman’s score of 31st August – but in both the above matches Mr Buchanan reduced this by two strokes, doing the first in 80 and the second in 78. This winds up the club’s Birsay competitions for this season.
Aberdeen Journal April 20th 1890
The Orkney golf club held their monthly handicap competition for Sheriff Armour’s gold medal at Deerness Links on Saturday. The medal was won by Dr Bell, with a score of 113 less 9. The medal becomes the property of the winner who holds it oftenest during the season.
Aberdeen Journal May 4th 1891
A competition by members of the Orkney golf club for Sheriff Thom’s star took place at Pickequoy on Saturday. The course was three rounds of 21 holes. Scores :- Mr John McEwen 102 ; Sheriff Armour 107 ; Mr A. Buchanan 111 ; Dr Bell 115 ; Dr Rusell 120 ; Messrs A. Gold 125 ; A. Thomson 125 ; Dr Sinclair 131; Messrs M.L. Howman 133 ; Wm. J. Heddie 135.
Where Next ?
Orkney Herald January 8th 1896
The Orkney Golf Club
The Golfer, contains the following sketch of golf in Orkney, along with portraits of Sheriff Armour, Captain of the club, Mr Andrew Gold, Vice Captain ; Mr Andrew Walls, hon. Secretary ; and Mr Buchanan, hon. Treasurer :- In the “ Badminton Golf” the gifted editor quotes a letter from Kirkwall, dated 1585, in which the writer, James Dickson says, “ ye will remember to bring with you one dozen of common golf ballis to me and David Moncrieff.”
It is humbly suggested here that this date is wrong by exactly one hundred years. In 1585 the tyrannise of Earl Robert Stewart gave the people, and especially the gentlemen of Orkney, something more serious than golf to think about : and in 1685, David Moncrieff, uncle of Sir Thomas of that ilk, was a man of wealth and influence in Kirkwall, and one of the Magistrates of the burgh.
In his time, on a piece of waste ground near the town, “ The gentlemen diverted themselves with golf, and the tradesmen and apprentices played the football.”
But though conveniently near, this waste ground made but a poor course, and the ancient Orkney Golf Club held an annual meeting in Sanday, an island which, as the name would almost indicate, had splendid links and magnificent bunkers. Here, too, resided some of the best county families, all of them, “ given to hospitality.”
Play began on the 16th April, St Magnus Day, and it lasted as long as the visitors chose to remain. A rattling good time they had of it, days of golf, and nights of jollity, the revelry taking the rounds of the mansions of Feas, and Stewarts, Elphinstones, and Traills, truly this ancient tournament had about it a genuine Viking smack. But the troubles of the “ Forty-five” reached our islands and spoiled all this. Our golfers were all keen partisans and erstwhile friendly foursomes now felt that they would be glad to meet in the deepest bunkers and “ Address” each other’s heads with the niblick. Thus, in the middle of the eighteenth century, golf in Orkney died a violent death, and dead it remained for a century and a half.
About twenty years ago, young fellows returning from the school or college, and visitors from the South, began to bring clubs with them. Sporadic attempts were made to get up a game over the grass lands of a farm ; but this could not be called golf.
To Mr Angus Buchanan is due the credit of resuscitating the ancient game in Orkney. This gentleman, well known twenty years ago among the athletic youth of Edinburgh, came to Kirkwall in 1884 as agent for the National Bank Of Scotland, and he may be said to have brought golf with him. The few local men who had played before at once joined him, and his enthusiasm quickly drew in others, foremost among whom was Andrew Gold, the Chamberlain of the Earldom. Mr Buchanan’s first difficulty was to find a suitable course. Round Kirkwall there was none, so he proceeded to make one. He fixed upon the ground of an old croft then under natural grass, a handy ten minutes walk from town.
Under the rude agriculture of its crofting days Pickaquoy had remained innocent of drainage ; consequently, as the Captain of the club well described it, the place was a swamp in winter and a jungle in summer, and, if anything, the jungle was worse than the swamp. The yellow iris and the marsh marigold were very pretty, but they were deadly traps for balls.
This chaos, Mr Buchanan, with great perseverance and at much personal trouble, has at length reduced to order, and a club, if not large and wealthy, at least enthusiastic, have to thank him for having made golf possible in the neighbourhood of Kirkwall.
Though the “ Links” is destitute of sand bunkers, hazards of another sort abound, and few of the nine holes can be negotiated without the risk of an intervening quarry, burn, ditch, or dyke.
No respectable links, it has been said, is without its hazards, and the larger and more forbidding the bottomless pit the greater the respectability. If this be a test, Pickaquoy has no reason to shrink from camparison. If a large quarry filled with water be not a satisfactory golfer’s hell, we should like to know what is. Its rocky sides, high and precipitous, whisper the legend
“ Abandon hope all ( balls ) that enter here,”
And it is reckoned that already the gutta-percha resting beneath its dark waves amounts to a ton or thereby. Such is a brief description of the home links of the Orkney golf club. They may have many imperfections : one outstanding advantage they possess in being within ten minutes walk of Kirkwall. Formerly the club went very far afield for their competitions, and the early records indicate that they had sufficient enthusiasm to drive forty miles once a month to enjoy the luxury of the Birsay sward. The improvements on the home links have rendered these pilgrimages unprofitable.
It remains to say a word in regard to the annals of the club .If it had no other claim to distinction, for long it could at least make this boast, that it was the most Northern golf club in the United Kingdom. It has lost that proud distinction now, alas !,for a golf club has been started in Shetland, a hundred miles nearer the North Pole. Not only so, but the Shetlanders have twice had the plunk to send a team to dispute the supremacy of Orkney.
If the sporting intelligence of the Scotsman be correct, these hardy Vikings came all the way in open boats, scorning the luxurious ease of the mail steamers that ply between the groups. The Shetlanders deserve all praise for their pluck, which the Orcadians emulated in a return visit.
The story of the open boats is, however, apocryphal. One advantage golfers possess in both these Northern groups of islands, and that is, the almost total absence of darkness during the summer. Both in Orkney and Shetland during the month of June it is quite possible to play during the whole night ; and more than once the usual order has been inverted, and a match fixed to commence at eleven p.m. instead of a.m.
Aberdeen Journal April 24th 1896
Opening Of New Course At Kirkwall
The new course of the Orkney golf club was opened yesterday. The players were formed into fours. Mr A. Gold, Vice President, playing the first shot, and making a beautiful drive, which was loudly cheered by the members and friends present. The new course is a great improvement on the old one, another field being taken in, which does away with the cross playing experienced on the old course. The day was most beautiful, and being the Spring holiday, a great many players went over the course. A team from this club proceeds to Lerwick on Saturday.
Aberdeen Journal April 25th 1898
Opening Of Extended Course
The extended golf course of the Orkney golf club was opened on Saturday by Sheriff Armour of East Fife, late of Kirkwall, who teed a ball, making a fine drive amidst great applause.
Fourteen pairs entered for a sweepstake, but in the last round the weather was very wet, which made the play uncomfortable.The new course is a great improvement and the distance between many of the holes has been lengthened, making the time in going over the course about double what it was before.
Shetland Times April 30th 1898
Orkney Golf Club
The extended golf course of he Orkney golf club was opened on Saturday last by Sheriff Armour. Ground having been obtained from the farm of Grainbank, several new holes have been added and some of the others lengthened. The two longest holes now extend to 340 yards and 420 yards respectively. After formally declaring the course open, Sheriff Armour struck off the first ball, and a number of members took part in a sweepstake competition. The following are the best scores for the two rounds :- Dr Russell, ( 93 less 6 ) = 87 ; H. Buchanan. ( 95 less 6 ) = 89 ; J. Reekie ( 98 less 6 ) = 92 ; J. McEwen, 96.
At the close of the competition the members met in the clubhouse, and Sheriff Armour resigned his position as Captain of the club. Several of those present referred to the interest taken in the club by Sheriff Armour. Mr A. Gold was appointed Captain of the club and Mr A.M.S. Graeme of Graemeshall, Vice Captain, instead of Mr Gold.
Orkney Herald July 16th 1902
Opening Of New Golf Course At
The new course of the Orkney Golf Club was formally opened on Saturday afternoon. The course, which is a nine-hole one, is situated off the Hatston Road and a little above Grainbank House. It has been conveniently laid out, and a large and handsome pavilion, with verandah, etc, has been erected near the entrance to the ground, and close to the first teeing ground.
Notwithstanding the threatening nature of the weather, a large number of members and friends were present when Mr Sutherland, Norlands, struck off the first ball, among those present being :- Sheriff Cosens, President of the club ; Mr Sutherland Graeme of Graemeshall. Vice President ; Mr Sutherland, Norlands, Captain and Mrs Sutherland ; Mr MacLennan, Vice Captain ; Dr and Mrs Bell, Mr Reid of Braebuster and Mrs Reid ; Mr S. Reid Jr of Braebuster ; Mr, Mrs, and Miss Grant, Rosebank ; Mr and Mrs Lawrie, Hobbister ; Bailie John Slater and Mrs Slater, Mrs Sinclair, Queen Street ; Mr and Mrs Howman, Mr and Mrs Hutchison, Voresheed ; Misses Cursiter, Alton Villa ; Mrs Begg, Mr and Mrs J.C. Miller, Mr and Mrs Jas. Sinclair, Mr and Mrs McEwen, Mr and Mrs A.J. Fife, Mr, Mrs, and Miss Stratham, Mrs Cooper, Mr and Mrs A.M. Morgan, Mr W.B.H. Davidson and Misses Davidson, Mr T.S. Peace and Miss Peace, Mr and Mrs James Flett, Mr and Mrs P. Brass, Miss S. Bailey, Miss Annand, Miss Robertson, Mr and Miss Macgregor, Miss Daisy Flett, Miss Ethel Flett, Miss Work, Miss Yorston, Miss Louisa Smith, Miss M.A. Spence, Miss Tait ; Captain Ravespool, Rev. D. MacDonald, Mr T.H. Liddle, Mr T. Flett, Mr A. Walls, Mr P. Peace, Mr W.D. Peace, Mr W.B. Raikie, Mr T. Drever, Mr D. Linney, Mr G.W. Reid, Mr M. MacLeod, Mr J.F. Reekie, Mr A.W. MacLennan, Mr P. Wilson, Mr W. Cruikshank, Mr James Mackintosh, Mr W.M. Maxwell, Mr Jack, Mr T.C. Slater, Mr G.C. Webster, Mr Geo. Flett &c.
Apologies for inability to attend were received from Mr Bignold M.P., Mr Wason M.P., and Mrs Wason ; General and Mrs Burroughs ; Sheriff and Mrs Wilson, Edinburgh ; Provost and Mrs Spence ; Dr and Mrs Clonston, Edinburgh ; Mr J.S. and Mrs Clouston, Edinburgh ; Mr and Miss Gold, Edinburgh ; Mrs Hossack, Craigfield ;Sheriff and Mrs Moffat, Lerwick ; Sheriff Dudley Stuart, Wick ; Councillor and Mrs Shearer ; Mr and Mrs Mackintosh ; Mr and Miss Cromarty, Widewall, South Ronaldsay ; Rev. Thomas Robertson ; Mr W.P. Drever ; Mr W.J. Heddle ; Mr and Mrs J.M. Slater ; Mr and Mrs D. Sutherland ; Mr and Mrs Fitzsimmons ; Representatives of Stromness, Rousay, Stronsay, and Sanday golf clubs, &c.
Amid hearty cheers, Mrs Sutherland, with an excellent stroke, sent the ball spinning, and declared the course open. The party then proceeded to a large tent, where tea was served.
Sheriff Cosens said that was an auspicious day in the annals of the Orkney Golf Club. He saw from Mr Horace Hutchison’s book on golf that in 1585 one James Dickson sent for a dozen golf balls ( a voice – “ good old Dickson” ). In Mr Hossack’s book he read that golf was first played at the Ba’lea, but matches were always played on Sanday. The club fell into difficulties in 1735, but was revived in 1884, when the course selected was the marshy ground at Pickaquoy. That piece of ground was very wet, unsuitable for play during part of the year, and there was very little fixity of tenure.
Spurred on by the Captain, they agreed recently to remove to their present course, and thanks to the zeal of the Captain, Mr Sutherland, Mr MacLennan, Vice Captain, and of their secretary, Mr Miller, the choice had been a success. Everyone had done his part, and they did not regret leaving the old course.
The wished to recognise Mrs Sutherland’s driving off the ball that day, and in name of the club he would ask her to accept that golf club as a momento of the occasion ( Applause ) The Sheriff then handed Mrs Sutherland a handsome silver club.
Mr Sutherland returned thanks on behalf of his wife for the very handsome gift which the club had kindly presented to her. They would prize it very highly and be proud to keep it in their possessions in memory of that occasion. ( Applause )
It was very good of their worthy President to pass such flattering remarks about him ( Mr Sutherland ), but he might sat that the little he had done had been a pleasure to him. They all felt greatly indebted to Sheriff Cosens for the trouble he had taken in raising funds for the golf house, and the keen interest he had shown in everything connected with the new course. ( Applause )
Sheriff Cosens said that, as President of the club,he had now the pleasing duty to present the lady’s cup to the winner. He had always understood that since Mrs Buchanan got it up the cup had been the blue ribbon of the Orkney Golf Club. No one who had won it has been a bad golfer, and although he was improving – ( Laughter ) – he did not consider that he would ever win it. He had asked the winner if there was anything in his past life as a town Councillor, a Freemason, or a golfer, that he did not wish spoken of – ( Laughter ) – and he understood that there was nothing that was not most creditable. He related to Bailie James Slater. ( Applause ) Bailie Slater richly deserved the prize. He ( the Sheriff ) had much pleasure in handing the cup to Balie Slater, but he hoped it would only be for one year. ( Laughter and Applause )
Mr MacEwen proposed a cordial vote of thanks to the committee for their arrangements for that day’s proceedings. Th result was seen and the club had good reason to be satisfied. The committee had even provided against bad weather. ( Applause )
Mr Miller, Hon. Secretary, replied on behalf of the committee.
Bailie Slater proposed a vote of thanks to the President who had taken great interest in the club. They entered on this new course almost free from debt, though they had spent nearly £150 on the pavilion and £60 on the greens. Their satisfactory financial position was largely due to the President who made a capital beggar. He proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Sheriff Cosens. ( Applause )
Sheriff Cosens said the club was very much indebted to the member of Parliament for the Burghs. Mr Bignold had not only given a subscription, but he had taken an interest in the plans of the club, and when in Kirkwall he visited the ground and was well satisfied with what had been done. He ( Sheriff Cosens ) therefore hoped that for the sake of the Kirkwall Golf Club the Wick burghs would not be disfranchised for a long time ( Hear, Hear )
Selections of music, which were much appreciated, were played by the volunteer band, who were present by kind permission of Col. Bailey, and by piper Sutherland at intervals during the day.
Several photographs were taken during the afternoon by Mr T. Kent. Before the proceedings terminated, Mr Miller called for cheers for the band, which were heartily given.
During the afternoon a foursomes match was played between the President and the Vice-President, the former winning by 3 holes. The scores were :-
President Vice President
J.R. Cosens …………………… A.M.S. Graemem ………………….
W. MacLennan 0 Geo. Sutherland 6
Rev. D. Macdonald …………… Peter Brass …………………………
Dr Bell 5 Peter Wilson 0
J.C. Miller …………………….. M.L. Howman ……………………
W.H.B. Davidson 3 A. Bayspoole 0
James Flett ……………………. James Slater ………………………
George Flett 1 W. Mackintosh Jnr 0
John McEwen ………………… G.W. Reid ………………………..
W.B. Baikie 1 G.C. Webster 0
T.C. Selator …………………… J.F. Reekie ………………………
Thom. Flett 0 John Selator 1
A.J. Fife ……………………… A. Walls …………………………
D. Linney 0 M. MacLeod 6
W.W. Craigie ………………… A.M. Morgan …………………….
W.M. Maxwell 1 T.A. Lawrie 0
James Mackintosh ……………. A.W. MacLennan …………………
W. Cruikshanks 5 D. Manson 0
Majority for President - 3
The Orcadian July 19th, 1902
Orkney Golf Club
Opening Of New Course
An interesting ceremony took place at the new course of the Orkney Golf Club at Grainbank on Saturday. It was the opening of the new course, and a red letter day in the annals of the club.
At the May term the club vacated the course at Pickaquoy and removed to Grainbank, where several fields have been obtained with practically fixity of tenure, and a nine-hole course was laid out. Situated at the foot of Wideford hill, a lovely view of the surrounding islands may be obtained, and, on account of the dryness of the ground, may be played over in almost all kinds of weather. Near the entrance to the course a large pavilion with verandah has been erected at a cost of over £120, the money being raised by subscription.
Although the course has only been played over a little more than a month, the greens are already in good condition. The course is considered to be a better one than that at Pickaquoy, whilst its close proximity to the town should do much towards popularising the game in Kirkwall, as well as prove an attraction to tourists.
At 2 pm a nine-hole match between teams chosen by the President and Vice President was played.
The Scotsman December 7th 1903
Exhibition game by Auchterlonie at Kirkwall
Mr Auchterlonie, ex-golf champion of Scotland, who is at present on a visit to Orkney, was on Saturday invited by the executive of the Orkney golf club to give a golf exhibition on the club’s course at Grainbank, Kirkwall. It was arranged that Auchterlonie should play against the best ball of the three strongest players the club could produce, and Messrs George Sutherland, William MacLennan, and John MacEwen were chosen. Overnight there had been some keen frost and the greens were in anything but good condition. This, coupled with the fact that Auchterlonie had never been on the course before, was not conducive to the best of play, but the contest was very exciting. Auchterlonie was two holes down at the first hole of the second round, but thereafter gradually reduced the lead, and ended one up, the match only being decided at the last hole. A large number of golfers followed the game with great interest, and much enjoyed many of the clever strokes of the ex-champion.
Subsequently Mr Auchterlonie was with some other members of the club, entertained at lunch in the Castle Hotel by Mr George Sutherland of Rothiesholm, Captain of the Orkney Golf Club.
Mr Auchterlonie expressed himself as well pleased with the course, and said it was one of the best inland courses he had played on.
The Orcadian December 12th 1903
Another Game By Mr Auchterlonie
Mr Auchterlonie favoured the Orkney Golf Club with another exhibition over the course on Thursday forenoon, in a three-ball match. Owing to the heavy rains which have fallen of late, the course was very heavy, and the greens were rough and almost unplayable. On this occasion Mr Auchterlonie had for opponents Messrs Stewart, Walls, and Slater. We need not describe the game in detail, which ended in a draw. The feature of the game was the long straight drives of Auchterlonie, and the beautiful approach shots. Mr Stewart throughout played a good game, driving well, and was very deadly in his putting. Mr Walls also played very well, but Mr Slater was not on his usual form, though he helped the combination occasionally to keep Mr Auchterlonie from getting a hole. The finest exhibition which the ex-champion gave was going to the sixth hole in the second round. He always succeeded in out-driving his opponents, but on that occasion he gave the drive of the day, with the result that he had only a “ Mashie” shot to get on the green. This he took with a fine “ screw” which lay within two yards of the hole, and he got down in three, which is a record for that hole. Mr Auchterlonie got round the course the first time in 42, and ought to have reduced this in the second round ; but in going to the third hole he got trapped in the ditch approaching the green – a hole which cost 7 strokes. Then at the last hole of the final round, driving against a strong head wind, he was again trapped in the burn, and this penalty stroke, with the one he lost on the green, kept him from improving his final round. Looking to the condition of the course, and especially of the greens, the exhibition was a wonderful one, and was greatly enjoyed by those who had the good fortune to witness the game. We understand Mr Auchterlonie has agreed to play again on Friday, and it may be hoped that by that time the greens will be rolled, and in that case we doubt not the ex-champion will give the club a new record.
Above and Below. Opening of the extended course in 1923
Orkney Herald July 11th 1923
Popularising Golf In
Most Northerly 18 – hole course
Opened before large concourse of
Within the last few years golf has made rapid strides in Orkney, and it may now be taken as being the most popular outdoor pastime. It certainly commands a larger membership than any of the other recreative club’s such as bowls, cricket, tennis, and football. There would also appear to be a greater measure of enthusiasm among it’s members, and consequently when this is the case there is bound to come a time, especially when play is confined to nine holes, a demand for an extended course.
The demand has been fulfilled, and Wednesday evening last marked a new epoch in the history of the Orkney Golf Club, when the extended course was officially opened.
Prior to the ceremony off driving the first ball, which was undertaken by Miss Davidson, tea was served. The gathering was then photographed in front of the golf club house, after which Provost White delivered a short address.
At the outset, the Provost extended a hearty welcome to everyone. They could, at least, congratulate themselves on the day that they had chosen. Proceeding, the Provost expressed regret that they had not with them that day two members who had given long and valuable services to the club. Mr MacLennan, President, and Mr James Flett, Captain. ( Applause )
These two members had done a great deal for them in the past, and they regretted that they were unable to be with them on such an occasion as this. There was further regret, because, had their Captain been here, he, ( The Provost would not have been occupying the place he did that day ).
They were met, as they were all aware, to mark another step in the advancement of the history of the Orkney Golf Club. They were now in the happy position of having an 18-hole course, and they could at least say that it was the most Northerly 18-hole course in the British Isles. ( Loud Applause )
About a year ago the suggestion was made to take in the adjoining fields, and the position which they had now reached they owed much to the ladies. ( Applause ). It was they who provided the sinews of war, the wherewithal in the shape of funds, by their splendid work in connection with the recent sale of work. They had also been fortunate in obtaining permission from the tenant of the ground to start work much earlier than they had expected. They had been blessed with a good autumn and an open winter, so the work has proceeded much better than they could have hoped or expected. They had to thank Mr A. MacAuley, who had given ungrudgingly his expert advice and experience in laying out the greens, and they had also to thank the greenkeeper, Mr Mackenzie, who had carried out the work, not only with dispatch and credit, but with enthusiasm. To all of these gentlemen the club tendered its thanks.
Now that summer had come and winter had gone – ( Laughter ) – the possession of the extended course would be a boon to the club, and the congestion from which they had been suffering would to a great extent disappear. The course would not only be an asset to the club, but also to the town and community. ( Applause )
They could hardly expect that the new part of the course would be in the same condition as the old. It took some time and a great deal of play to accomplish that. They wanted the new part played on as much as possible, but they did not want it shifted, because it was alright where it was ( Laughter ). Continuing, the Provost said he would take this opportunity of raising one point - the neglect to replace the turf. They must understand that it was a fundamental part of the game. There was no disgrace in shifting turf, but it was too bad if they did not replace it. It damaged the course and left a bad lie for someone else. He impressed the members to observe this rule.
All competitions, would, after that day, be played on the extended course. He would also remind those who did not play on the extended course that they would have to give way to persons who were playing on the extended course. The real ceremony that afternoon would be performed by Miss Davidson, the ladies Captain. He did not know whether it was worse to drive off a ball or to make a speech in the presence of such a large gathering but his part was nearly finished. ( Laughter ).
He would ask Miss Davidson to accept a new driver as a memento of the occasion. It was trying enough to drive a ball in the presence of such a large company, and it was worse to do so with a new club, so they would permit Miss Davidson to perform the ceremony with an old, true, and tried favourite. He had great pleasure in presenting Miss Davidson with the new club, and asking her to perform the opening ceremony.
Fully 200 must have watched the ladies Captain send the ball 150 yards from the new teeing green. A hearty round of applause greeted the effort.
Thereafter, a mixed foursome was played. Mr J.A. Forsyth, hon secretary, was in charge of the arrangements, which he carried through in an admirable manner.
The members and friends are also indebted to the ladies committee for providing such an excellent tea.