Stromness Golf Club , Orkney Islands – 125 Years Young.

It was a very special anniversary when I had the pleasure for a first time in visiting Stromness Golf Club on the Scotland island of Orkney.

It was 6th June, 2014 and the 70th anniversary of the D. Day landings and while Stromness is a long way from the sandy beaches of Normandy there was no mistaking as I made my about the course the part played by the Orkney Islands in both world war conflicts.

Of course, lying at the heart of the Orkney Islands is Scapa Flow, and no one should need any reminding also of the significance of this body of water in both wars.

5.  Stromness GC - View Back To Clubhouse.

Stromness Golf Club commanding glorious views from all parts of the Orkney golf course.  (Photo – www.golfbytourmiss.com)

And speaking of anniversary’s as this year marks the 125th anniversary of Stromness Golf Club.

However if I can rewind not 125 years but 90 years and 1925 when an article appeared in the local Orcadian newspaper with the simple headline – ‘New Golf Course – Opening Ceremony at Stromness’.

The article commenced … “There are outstanding days in the history of most communities. Thursday last week will be memorable in the annuals of Stromness for the official opening of the new 18-hole golf course at Ness took place on that day.  Less than a year has passed since the club came into possession of the farm, but much has already been done to ‘hack it’ into shape.”

However the history of Stromness Golf Club on the Scottish island of Okney dates back to 1890 so much so that 2015 marks the 125-year anniversary of the club.

THE COURSE 

Stromness Golf Club is not the longest you will play but at 4,804 yards and playing to a par 65 what the club may lack in length it more than makes up in enjoyment.

There is no par 5s and with the longest hole, and only by a yard, the par four, 4th hole named ‘Bleachgreen’ that plays to 403 yards while the 7th, and named ‘Dog’s Leg’, is 402 yards off the white tees.

2. Stromness GC - Map of Course.The shortest of the 11 par 4s is the 219-yard third hole and named ‘Nessbreck’.

Of the seven pars 3s, four on the outward half and three inward, the 15th at 221-yards, and named ‘Maeshowe’ is the longest while the shortest is the 105-yard downhill and very deceptive 8th hole, and aptly named ‘Bowl’.

A feature of Stromness Golf Club is the marvelous views it commands looking out over the islands of Graemsay and Hoy to the south and to the east the Orkney Island mainland.

It’s probably standing on the tee at the downhill par three, 6th hole where your really find yourself being distracted by the views, and then it’s very much a case, very much for this first-timer, of striving to stay focused on the golf in between taking countless photographs.

And on the day good friend, George Morris and myself played the course, it was the Stromness to Scrabster Northlink ferry that very much commanded our attention as it made its way out of Stromness before swinging right to pass along the length of the golf course ahead of rounding the north-west corner of Hoy to then head south and pass the Old Man of Hoy, a famed seastack, and onward to the Scotland mainland.

SHORT HISTORY OF STROMNESS GOLF CLUB.

Golf is on record as having been played at Stromness around 1881 when Rev. Woodside and Mr. J S Copeland played on a small stretch of land at Warbeth on the west shore of the town.

Then in 1890 eight local gentleman formed themselves into a club and with the first annual subscription fees was set at 10 Shillings.  Women members were admitted in 1894 and asked to pay an annual fee of 8 Shillings and 6 pence.

A committee was formed to lay out a course and in November 1923 £16,000 was paid for a new golf course.

However the original layout did not include the park where the first and second holes are located while the fifth was over a deep quarry to a green on the site of the former WW1 and WW2 battery. The sixth hole ran beyond the road behind the present sixth and seventh in the meadow where a direction post is situated.

The ‘new’ 18-hole layout was designed by Mr. George Smith from Lossiemouth and with the Orcadian reporting at the official opening:  “When the various bunkers and hazards are added the course will be rendered much more sporty and difficult than it is at present while, with the advent of next spring, a new bed of white clover will help to impact that springy nature to the turf, beloved of golfers.  From the human aspect, the course is – to use an Orkney word – a ‘lightsome’ one, being fringed by the sea on two sides, having some fine walks in it’s vicinity, and possessing a magnificent view at all points.  It’s total length is 4264 yards.”

Dr. McNeish hits the ceremonial opening drive in 1925 to open the club's 18 holes.

Dr. McNeish hits the ceremonial opening drive in 1925 to open the club’s 18 holes.

With the Stromness Golf Club flag proudly flying from a mast for a first time there was a big applause at the opening of the new 18 holes when visiting Dr. McNeish offered the gift of a shelter to the club, and known as the ‘Doctor’s Shelter’ and located at the 10th tee.

Despite poor weather it was Dr. McNeish who also had the honour of hitting the first ball while around 50 boys waited to be the first to collect the Doctor’s ceremonial tee shot.  It was Dug ‘Duggie’ McInness who managed to get to the ball first and with Dr. McNeish handing over as his prize a crisp new 10 Shilling bank note.

A Captain versus Vice-Captain match was arranged but featuring just 22 two-person teams due to the poor weather, and with a male member partnering a female member.  It was the Vice-Captain’s team winning five matches to four while two were halved.

Of note, 13 of the 22 women in the match were listed as ‘Miss’.

However it was on the practice putting green where most attention focused and with the club organizing a men’s and women’s putting competition over 18 holes.

There was a tie among the men with John Slater and Gordon Mowat recording 22 and 24 putts apiece for a total of 46.  It was agree there be a ‘replay’ over nine holes and it was Mowat who won a box of cigarettes in taking just 23 putts and one less than his opponent.

Dr. Bertha Young made it a double ceremony firstly being on the winning Vice-Captains team and then capturing the ladies putting competition with 25 and 22 putts for a total of 47 and was presented with an ‘inlaid oak cake’ (cake stand) and a wine tray.

The three clubhouses at Stromness

As for a clubhouse, Joe Ramsalty of www.scotlandsgolfislands.com reports Stromness members first gathered inside a barn, with a dome superimposed on the roof. This original clubhouse was extended in 1963 to the stable and a bar was introduced in the larger lounge – this was all done by voluntary labour.

However a series of grants led to the building of the present clubhouse that overlooks the course.

WORLD WAR 1 & STRONMESS GOLF CLUB

In WWI Ness Battery, located immediately to the south of Stromness and on the site of the present Stromness Golf Club, was one of three batteries covering Hoy Sound from the north side. The batteries were named Hoy Nos. 1, 2 and 3, numbered from west to east.

Ness Battery erected in response to World War 1  and located on land that would in 1925 become the home to the Stromness Golf Club.

Ness Battery erected in response to World War 1 and located on land that would in 1925 become the home to the Stromness Golf Club.

Bernie standing atop of one of the many remnants of Ness Battery.

Bernie standing atop of one of the many remnants of Ness Battery.

In 1915 the three batteries were equipped with guns manufactured in the United States and manned by a mixture of Royal Marines and local men of the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery.

After WWI the three batteries were dismantled and the guns scrapped, but traces of Hoy No. 2 Battery can still to be seen at Ness Battery, and in fact, the par three, 10th hole is named ‘Battery’.

BALLANTINE’S MIDNIGHT CUP – 2007

In 2007, Stromness Golf Club hosted a very remarkable match featuring double Major winning Sandy Lyle and then reigning Scottish PGA champion and former Italian Open winner, Dean Robertson.  The Tartan duo took on two South Korean born Tour pros in an event sponsored by Ballantine’s whiskey, and commencing at 7pm.

Lyle and Robertson was successful winning 2up on the 17th but look at the video and see the interest the competition, that ended close to midnight, attracted.

However the main competition in the Stromness golfing year is undoubtedly the Stromness Open which for well over 25 years has attracted an entry up to 132 players from not only all parts of the UK but from overseas countries such as Kenya, Canada, South Africa and Australia.  And to enable these competitors to get round the Stromness course twice in one day play now usually starts at 5.30am on the day of the competition.

As well, there is the Wilson Cup, and first staged in 1906, that is contested between golf clubs in the counties of Orkney, Shetland and Caithness.

Unfortunately, after Stromness Golf Club won the opening six encounters, victory has been illusive and with the club last winning the Cup in 1986 at Wick, and the first time the club had won away from home.

And here’s hoping this year’s 125th anniversary of the club will end the drought.

Please now enjoy a comprehensive hole-by-hole photograph look at Stromness Golf Club.



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