South Ronaldsay Golf Club – A Orkney Youngster Demanding Respect.

South Ronaldsay Golf Club is very much a youngster when it comes to golf in the Orkney Islands.

The course was open to play in June 2005 making it 90 years younger than Stromness and 110 years the junior to Orkney Golf Club in Kirkwall that recently celebrated its 125th anniversary.

But while South Ronaldsay may lack a strong historical background it certainly makes up in terms of youthful exuberance.

In fact, of the three golf courses now readily accessible by car the nine-hole layout that looks out over St. Margaret’s Hope is by far the toughest and thereby demands the utmost respect.

South Ronaldsay Club Captain aboard the Northlink Ferry between the Scotland mainland and Orkney

South Ronaldsay Club Captain Keith Nichol aboard the Northlink Ferry between the Scotland mainland and the port of Stromness in the Orkney Islands.

It was local Kirkwall butcher Erik Donaldson and a former South Ronaldsay Club Captain, who is credited with laying out the nine holes on former grazing land.

My introduction to South Donaldson was also rather strange in meeting Club Captain Keith Nichol not at a golf tournament or at the South Ronaldsay clubhouse but on the 90-minute superb Northlink ferry service from the Scottish mainland at Scrabster to Stromness.

Keith had texted me about my visit to Orkney and it just worked out we were both on the ferry that afternoon where he was working.

I texted him back to say I would be easily recognizable:  “I will be wearing a black Callaway cap”.

Keith and I struck up a conversation that was interrupted for a few minutes as I grabbed a couple of the obligatory shots of the Old Man of Hoy.

Keith kindly arranged for myself and good friend, George Morris to join club members at 6.30pm the next day as guests in the club’s weekly Stableford competition.

And while Keith couldn’t make the golf due to his duties on the ferry, it was unique George and myself ended-up playing with Keith’s father, Dave along with Billy Scott, currently the club’s Greens Convener.

George and I found our way to the course which is an easy 20-minute odd drive from Kirkwall, and over a number of the famed Churchill Barriers built by Italian POWs during World War 11 that link the islands in a somewhat of a circle on the eastern side of the famed Scarpa Flow, and the main anchorage during both World Wars for the British fleet.

As we stood on the first tee Billy and Andy pointed out the line at this uphill dog-leg right hole of just 293-yards but with out-of-bounds all the way up the right side of the hole.  There is also a burn about 150-yards that runs through the course and plays a big part in scoring as it comes into play in fact on six of the nine holes.

Greens convenor, Billy Scott, Dave Nichol, Johnnie the club's green-keeper and your author.

Greens Convener Billy Scott (left), Dave Nichol, Johnnie Johnson the club’s green-keeper and your author.

However when both Billy and Dave drove out-of-bounds I could not believe my misfortune when I duly followed them over the barbed wire fence.

The second hole, a downhill par three also with a ditch and out-of-bounds to the right, was a second straight reminder of that South Ronaldsay would be no ‘leisurely walk in the Scottish countryside’.

The positioning of tees allows the course to play to a par 70, and that is an outward nine playing to a par 33 featuring three par three’s and six par fours while the inward nine can be played to a par 37 with the  3rd, 7th and 8th holes doubling as par fives.

Local Orkney legend Steven Rendell holds the South Ronaldsay course record posting a four under par 66 in August 2013, and in a round that included five birdies but also a third-hole bogey.

However for this double-digit handicapper South Ronaldsay is no pushover despite measuring just 2,754 yards for the nine holes off the medal tees.

The course is young with soft fairways and unlike Stromness and Orkney there is yet little run on the fairways so it means working that extra hard to get to the green in regulation.

However is was very apparent in walking with Dave, Billy and Johnnie the club’s green-keeper that South Ronaldsay is very much hands. on.  The club members, and so unlike many other clubs, clearly take enormous pride in their youngster and are very active in helping maintain the upkeep along with initiatives such as tree planting and also looking at ways to further improve the course.

As well, there was some friendly words of advice from Billy as I was about to play my second shot at the uphill par four 7th hole and that was to avoid sending my Callaway No. 1 into his premises on the right side of the hole.

South Ronaldsay G C - Welcome to St. Margaret's Hope (2)

South Ronaldsay Golf Club – not hard to miss as you drive into St. Margaret’s Hope. The Pentland inter-island ferry can been seen in the background.

But then avoid at all costs, if you can, sending your golf ball right off the eighth as this home owner may not be so understanding.

Many times throughout my golf reporting career I have enjoyed the opportunity to be present at many new tournament venues.   I was present in the early years of the Qatar Masters and it’s been great to return each year and admire how the Doha course has matured.

It was the same recently when we travelled to Cork for the Irish Open at Fota Island and witness how the golf course we first visited in 2001 has gone on to mature in the decade or so since we were there last.

I’m confident South Ronadlsay will be no exception.

And to have had the privilege to play one of Scotland’s golfing youngsters was indeed a pleasure and what will be an even bigger pleasure will be the reward to return again play South Ronaldsay during its adolescent and on through its older years.


I have to give mention to the Scootie Pudding Trophy.   The what trophy? I hear you say.

I have laid eyes on some remarkable and unusual trophies including the gleaming ‘Mother of Pearl’ trophy presented each year to the Qatar Masters winner and the bizarre ‘human chest with an golf ball embedded’ that was handed to the winner of the former Lancome Trophy in France.

The Scootie Pudding Trophy.

The Scootie Pudding Trophy.

As well, I recall on visits to the R & A’s clubhouse at St. Andrews there is kangaroo paw trophy and silver boomerang trophy sitting in the trophy cabinet along with the most sought after trophy in all of golf.

The Scootie Pudding Trophy is fiercely contested each year between South Ronadlsay and Stromness Golf Clubs.

This heavyweight prize features a bird and a sliced roll of Scotland’s famed black pudding.

Stromness is the current holders of the trophy and also the pink jersey that South Ronaldsay captain Keith Nichol presented to his Stromness counter-part Morgan Harcus.

However in speaking to Billy he assured me the Scootie Pudding Trophy will be back in South Ronaldsay hands next year.

Hole by Hole Guide (Thanks to South Ronaldsay Golf Club) * Click on photographs to enlarge.

1st. Stonepark – 293 yards.  A tricky par 4 to start off with. A small ditch 150 yards across the fairway catches the less powerful drives. For those who hit it long there is a dog leg right, however cut it too fine and you end up out-of-bounds. An easy wedge shot from the fairway to find the green and you could be rewarded with a birdie.

2nd. Windbreck – 163 yards.  A short par 3 with another ditch 80 yards straight ahead, don’t be shy and give it a whack! Decent sized green to hit and birdie is a bonus but be happy to walk away with a par.

3rd. Blanster Brae – 432 yards.  A monster hole and all uphill! Once again another ditch at 170 yards awaits to catch you. Find the fairway over the ditch and a good hit with a 3 wood should take you close to the green. A par is a good score.

4th. The Myres – 438 yards.  Back down the hill, a dog leg right with a ditch at  about 265 yards. Better to lay up short and avoid the ditch, a good iron shot on your second should find the green for a birdie chance.

5th. Haybrake – 209 yards. A nice uphill par 3. A fine chance for a birdie here.

6th. Owld Freds – 146 yards.  A downhill par three but be careful here as a burn runs along the back of the green waiting to catch any ball that goes too long!

7th. Bankburn – 350 yards.  A nice straight uphill par four.  But a word of warning avoid Billy’s hens on the right and just walk away with a par.

8th. Taymoss Burn – 434 yards. A nice hole for the long hitters, as a  good drive here should set you up for getting on the green in two.  However be warned there is a burn that guards the front edge of the green and at the back another burn is waiting to get you!  So the decision is do I lay up short or go for it? (Author’s note – avoid at all costs the new house to the right off the tee as the owner is far from golf-friendly!)

9th. Daisy Villa – 289 yards.  With the breeze on your back the green is very tempting. But be warned with a ditch at 170 yards ahead and a burn running the length of the green it may be wise to lay up short. A good chance to end the nine holes with a birdie.

South Ronaldsay - Card of the course.

South Ronaldsay Golf Club, Orkney Islands – Card of the course.

22. South Ronaldsay G C - Course record scorecard.

South Ronaldsay G C – Course record scorecard.





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