Golf Returns In Scotland – A Tale Of Two Clubs: One The Newest, The Other Seventh Oldest

News that golf will return to the Home of Golf nation on Friday cannot come soon enough for the greater majority of Scotland’s some 550 club.

It will have been nine weeks since Scotland went into ‘lockdown’ mode forcing also a shutdown of golf courses not seen since WW2.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce later today (Thurs) a ‘Phase-1’ re-opening allowing a resumption of non-contact sports, such as golf and tennis, and allowing people from “one other household” to meet outside and while social distancing will be permitted.

Garden centres and waste and recycling facilities will also be allowed to open as part the Scottish Governments route map.

Dumbarnie Links to be officially open for play on Friday 29th May. (Photo – Dumbarnie Links)

For two Fife golf clubs, one the newest in the UK and the other the seventh oldest in the world, it will be much welcomed news.

Dumbarnie Links, located near Upper Largo in Fife, was all set to open for a first time on May 16th so Scotland’s newest club, and brilliantly laid out along the Firth of Forth northern shoreline, is a fortnight delayed from its baptism.

David Scott heads the team at Dumbarnie and he is no stranger to Scottish Golf as he was on-hand 20-years ago this July as Director of Golf for the opening of Kingsbarns Links before enjoying the role as GM at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews and then running the Dukes Course.

David Scott and leading the team at Dumbarnie Links

It makes Scott’s experience in helping nurture a new course from birth to adulthood second to none but he’s not dealt with a pandemic.

Scott said: “It was disappointing we couldn’t open on May 16th though like all clubs, everyone here at Dumbarnie Links fully understood and supported the Scottish Government’s decision to extend the current restrictions.

“Now with golf looking set to return on Friday there’s a real excitement in the air to play Dumbarnie Links for a first time, and that is reflected in the bookings.

“The good thing is that the club was always gearing-up for a May 16th opening, so this extra fortnight along with the superb weather we’ve had over these last few weeks, has allowed us to really be prepared to showcase the course to everyone who begin arriving  from Friday.

“So, everyone here at Dumbarnie Links is excited we are finally getting to open the front gates”.

Fifteen miles further along the Forth and Jim McArthur is captain at Crail Golfing Society while he’s also the former Chairman of the R & As prestigious Championship Committee that runs the Open Championship.

Crail Captain Jim McArthur presenting the 2019 Battle Trophy to Joe Bryce. (Photo –

McArthur’s leadership at golf’s seventh oldest club has not only been so timely but the club has very much set an example to so many other big-name  brother clubs in Scotland.

He said smiling: “I will be probably be known as the ‘Covid Captain’ when I step down from the captaincy later this year.

“In saying that, people just can’t wait to get back to playing on Friday and that’s really why they join a golf club to play golf, and while there is a socially side, it’s the golf they want to play.

“The fact they have been deprived in the best spell of weather for maybe 20-years as we’ve had nine weeks of dry, sunny weather as that just makes people even more excited to be getting back to golf.

“The great thing over these nine weeks is that the members have been fully accepting of what had to take place in shutting down the golf club.

“Also, people realised it was a health crisis and not a golf crisis.  It will become a financial crisis but for the moment, it’s a health crisis and the good thing is that people have respected that.

“Also, and what every golf club in Scotland has had to do, is apply the Scottish Government and Scottish Golf guidelines to their own facility and that has been difficult.

“We’ve been lucky as we have two big car parking areas, one for each course, so there will be no concern with issues such as not parking side-by-side in a car park and with golf now returning the big issue is we all have to play the game as safe as we can.”

Another issue at Crail, and with so many other clubs, will be the introduction of a 5-mile distance ‘members only’ rule, should that come into force in the FM’s announcement.

Crail Golfing Society – 10th Hole at Craighead Links


The golf club at Crail is out past the near deserted ruins of the WW2 HMS Jackdaw airbase and at the most north-easterly point of Fife at Fifeness, and two miles from the centre of the village.  Just 10% of the club members reside within five-miles, and that excludes McArthur who lives 10-miles away in St. Andrews

He said: “The five-mile ruling has not been made mandatory and they’ve already said nobody will police it though in saying that five miles in Edinburgh and Glasgow is different to five miles here in the north-east of Fife and also down along the Ayrshire coast.

“If you police a five-mile ruling, you are going to rule out the greater part of your membership and thing here in a return to golf in Scotland and that is the members are kings.

“Every club in Scotland is going to need their full members support so we have got to be a bit flexible in how we apply these rules and from what I gather from the members who have already booked tee times, and who may living outside the five miles, they have been understanding and not booked tee times.

“To be honest, I will not be playing on Friday as I am outside the five miles and I thought it would be a Dominic Cummings if I was to play (smiling).

“And in looking back over the darkness of these past nine weeks what has shone through has been the loyalty of the club members and that has been the messages from our members all over the world.

“Messages of support for what we have been doing and how we’ve gone about dealing with this crisis have come from not only all over Scotland but the whole of the UK, Ireland, the States, Canada, Germany and many other countries in Europe along with Dubai and the Far East.

“Then there’s the staff here at Crail, the office staff, the clubhouse staff and having had to also furlough some of the greens-keeping staff though the response from all has been gratifying even in these very worrying times.

“From the superb leadership of our Secretary down, everyone has faced-up to the crisis and risen to the challenge”.

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