Centenary Book - Course of a Century
In 1996 the club celebrated its centenary year and as part of the celebrations a book was written to give members and visitors an insight to golf at Dufftown over the previous 100 years. The book was researched and written by one of our longstanding and very active members of the club, Ivan Montgomery. Credit for the information in the pages that follow go to Ivan along with our thanks.
The book is dedicated to all those who have shared our fairways over the century.
Its record is an acknowledgement to every member past and present, and to our many friends, without whose selfless dedication the enjoyment of the game of golf would not have been possible at Dufftown.
Dufftown was my home in my early years, where I received my education and first discovered golf, leading me to later become President of The Scottish Golf Union. One of my earliest memories as a pupil at Mortlach School was the emphasis by the late headmaster, George J Jamieson on the school motto, NIHIL VIRTUTE ARDUUM— nothing is beyond hard work, or more loosely translated, nothing but honour to the industrious.
This adage could well be applied to both the founding fathers and the post-war resurrectionists of Dufftown Golf Club. Both groups showed a foresight which has been justified by the Club attaining a century as well as the extending of the course to a full eighteen holes.
The enthusiasm, energy and guidance of your Club Captain and Officials I believe will sustain and advance your success into your next hundred years.
Remember, NIHIL VIRTUTE ARDUUM.
GEORGE D GORMLEY
President, Scottish Golf Union
Article – Banffshire Herald, 21 September 1895.
GOLF is not what it was. Today’s player arrives by car, parks outside the Clubhouse, unloads his stylish, heavy bag containing a dozen or more expensive clubs and, as likely as not, fits them on to a trolley to avoid carrying them.
The clubs are a miracle of engineering. Almost forgotten are the hand-shaped wooden heads and forged irons. Metal woods, carbon fibre shafts, and putters of every conceivable design are available to allow the player any possible advantage. Changes in the ball are equally striking, they come in a variety of solid or rubber cores, giving any degree of spin and control.
Dufftown is all hills, and a climb of a mile or so by the Tomintoul road to the golf course would have been accepted as natural to the first golfers; no heavy clubs and bags, just a brassie, niblick and putter carried under the arm.
There were no cars, buses or lorries, and the aeroplane just a dream. However the railways were in their heyday, and would continue to provide an extensive network of service until Dr Beeching’s cuts in 1966.
Dufftown Station was about a mile from the town centre, and a pony and trap operated from the Commercial Hotel to carry travellers up the hill to the town. Compared with today Dufftown would have appeared quite undeveloped, but many people would have lived in the country and some of the derelict crofts were then inhabited. The rural landscape was still enriched by the horse, and the golf course continued to be mowed by horse until the arrival of the tractor. Club records show that when the course was ploughed up during the Great War of 1914-1918, 50 horses were used.
The valley below hid the five distilleries then operating, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Convalmore, Parkmore and Mortlach. Soon to be added were Glendullan and the Dufftown Distillery. The Fittie Burn alongside the course provided water to Mortlach Distillery, and still continues to do so, and from its springs the town’s water supply was drawn.
The last days of the Victorian era saw a society sharply divided by class and having very set moral values. A woman’s place was in the home, and emancipation was several decades away. It was to be 12 years after the Club was founded before a woman’s name was first recorded in the Club minutes.
However it is clear from newspaper reports at the time that women played a full supporting role, played in competitions and were actively involved in fundraising. It was 1927 before women were first admitted to an A.G.M. or elected to the council.
The events of the century which had most impact on the Club were the two World Wars when the course was ploughed up for crops and quite a number of years were lost to the Club. The War memorial in Balvenie Street is a lasting record of those from the local community who did not return from the horror of those destructive years.
In tracing the history over the past century we can look back to the distant past, and remember with gratitude those first golfers who left their legacy, a course which is a delight to play one hundred years on.
THE first reference to finding a site for a golf course was recorded in the Banffshire Herald of 21st September 1895. It reported a meeting which took place in the Town Hall chaired by Provost Symon.
All those in the Town who were keen to have a golf course were enthusiastic that they had found a most suitable location at Parkbeg Hill.
Rev. J B Cumming gave his view that for fresh air and splendid views there would be no inland course like it. All it needed was to have the whins removed.
The meeting agreed to approach the owner, Mr Kemp, to obtain permission to have the ground examined.
Nothing more of this venture is known or reported and the reason why is hard to tell. The land would have been of little use for agriculture and it must have been some other reason why it fell through.
One possible explanation may have been because of the nearby Lime Works, and the fact that the ground was over the underlying lime seam. The owner may simply have been ensuring that nothing should hinder any future quarrying. It may just be coincidence but one of the first Council members of the new Club was Mr J F Forsyth, Lime Works.
A month later the Banffshire Herald reported an attempt to find another site. This was on land partly on the Pittyvaich Estate and partly on the Glenrinnes Estate. The Club minutes record this attempt, and its failure as terms could not be agreed with Mr Symon, Pittyvaich Estate.
In November 1895 outline agreement was however reached for 32 acres on the Farm of Methercluny, entirely on the Glenrinnes Estate owned by Mr Robert Skirving.
Terms were successfully negotiated and in January 1896 an agreement in writing meant that the search was over.
Before the formal granting of the lease the new Club was required to provide Mr Skirving with a list of responsible committee members together with a set of rules for the running of the course.
The rules agreed were:
- Admittance to the Golf Club shall only be to members and visitors who pay for their rounds.
- All caddies to be duly licensed by the Committee.
- Members and visitors are prohibited from having dogs on the course.
- A responsible man will be in charge of the course.
The tranquillity of estate life was not going to be disturbed by excursions of rowdy townsfolk.
Trustees named in the lease were:
- Rev J B Cumming (E C Manse)
- Dr Cowie (Dullanbrae)
- Mr John Thomson (Fife Arms)
- Mr William Spence (Clothier)
With formalities completed the Club now set out to build the course in a remarkably short space of time.
THE task that the new Club had set itself was to design and build the course between January and May 1896. There was no shortage of enthusiasm, skill or invention, and all that was required was to raise enough money in a very short space of time to pay for the building work.
The land for the course was well fenced, and immediately the Club advertised to sub-let the ground for grazing. Animals are no strangers to golf courses, even today Brora and Newtonmore are courses where golfers, sheep and cattle share the fairways.
Local support for the course must have been strong for by the time the course was opened in May, there were over 100 members in the Club.
Subscription fees were fixed, 10 shillings for gentlemen and 5 shillings for ladies, payable in advance, so that sufficient money was immediately available to pay the rent for the first quarter.
Generous donations were soon received, £10 from Dr Cowie and £5 from George Cowie, Dullanbrae. Dr Cowie was then the proprietor of Mortlach Distillery, and one of the first Club committee members was Mr A Stewart a clerk at Mortlach. This strong link with the local distilleries continues to the present day. The employees of Wm Grant ” Sons at Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie Distilleries have formed their own club which plays at Dufftown.
Patrons of the Club were sought, and letters were addressed to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, the Duke of Fife, Lord Mount Stephen, Field Marshal Sir Donald Stewart, Sir William Wedderburn MP and I A Grant, Househill.
Almost immediately a cheque for £2 was received from Sir William Wedderburn, £5 from Sir Peter Lumsden, Buchromb, and 10 shillings from W Mclntosh, Factor, Drummuir Estate.
Subscription lists were also circulated around the town; this suggests a considerable amount of local goodwill, and perhaps pride that they were about to have their own golf course.
There must have been quite a buzz of excitement as the pace of the project quickened and gained momentum.
The Club wrote to Archie Simpson, Aberdeen, asking him to plan the course. He quickly travelled out to Dufftown and inspected the site, expressing his opinion that the land chosen would make a splendid golf course.
His fee, which included expenses, came to £1.10 shillings and 8 pence. Archie Simpson was a famous Aberdeen golfer and later was to be involved in designing both Cruden Bay (1899) and Murcar (1909). Perhaps the rather low fee reflected his interest in developing the game and giving encouragement to small communities with only limited resources.
Mr Geo. Stewart, Maltkilns, who apparently had previous experience of building golf courses, was appointed to undertake the construction.
A small committee from the Club under John Thomson, Fife Arms, planned the work, and it is recorded that he generously provided the horsework free of charge.
Everyone, whether involved in the Club or not seemed anxious to have the course ready and playable as soon as possible.
Much of the building of the course took place over the winter months. Dufftown being a Highland town generally had its share of severe weather, that particular winter however proved to be exceptionally mild. Farming reports speak of “springlike …. open …. mild …. upland hills coated in snow” and at the end of March, “summer-like and ready for sowing”.
Progress of the work was being keenly followed and in mid March one Press report referred to “…. the work being expeditiously proceeded with and the course will be ready about the middle of May”.
Little work would have been needed to form fairways, the closely cropped pasture grazed by sheep would have satisfied the early golfers.
Tees would have been made from small areas of flat fairway where practicable, otherwise some building up would have been done where it was necessary. Small pyramid shaped sand boxes would have been placed on each tee and also would have acted as tee markers with the hole number painted on each one. These survived on the course for the next 60 years until wooden and plastic tee pegs replaced the traditional little heap of sand to tee up the ball.
Constructing the greens would have been the major part of the work. At the roadside the course was about 700 feet above sea level but then stretched uphill to a height of almost 1000 feet. G E McLennan’s Guide to Dufftown 1901 gives a good description of what was entailed in making the greens, “with most of the course being on the side of a hill, the construction of the greens is somewhat peculiar, being dug down at one side and built up at the other.” Only 3 of the 9 original greens remain, and with the extension of the course to 18 holes in 1988 this type of construction was again repeated on most of the new greens.
Sowing of grass seed on the greens would have been done in mid March and by the time the course was opened in May the growth of grass would have been decidedly thin. This would not have mattered much to the early golfer, established links courses because of their favoured locations would have had good greens, but the tradition of the game was not of perfect putting surfaces. Our present ‘winter’ greens cut from fairways give an idea of how the game was played in 1896.
McLennans book describes bunkers having been built to provide variety, but this may simply have been an attempt to imitate links courses.
The most prominent hazard on the course was the formidable dyke. This would have had to be negotiated on two of the holes, the uphill 3rd and the downhill 6th. Thankfully on the present course it now scarcely comes into play but remains a solid reminder of what had to be overcome. Finally steps were constructed and erected over the dyke and by the end of April, although fairly rough and ready, it would have been fit to play.
On 13 April the account for making the course was approved by the Committee and payment of £37.19 shillings and 2 pence-halfpenny was made to Mr Geo. Stewart.
A small tool house was built by Messrs Morrison & McCombie at a cost of £4.7 shillings and 6 pence, a metal roller was obtained from Watt Bros for £2.13 shillings and a lawn mower from Symon & Son for £3.17 shillings.
The Committee engaged a Golf Keeper, Mr James Gray, Edinburgh, at a salary of £10 per annum, and with 6 months of feverish activity behind them the opening of the course was set for Wednesday, 6 May 1896 at 2 pm.
EXCITEMENT mounted as the date of the opening drew closer. The Committee had 50 bills printed and distributed, and tickets were sent to invite Patrons.
Entry money for the opening tournament was set at 2 shillings and sixpence, and 2 silver medals were presented by Rev J B Cumming, Captain, for the winning lady and gentleman.
Mr Skirving, President, had been invited to make a short speech and Rev Cumming was to drive off.
The weather by all accounts was all that could have been wished for and a large crowd had assembled. What pleasure it must have given all those gathered as they enjoyed the ceremonial opening of golf in Dufftown.
In his remarks before driving off Rev Cumming was reported as saying that the national game had made such headway even England had taken it on so successfully. Prophetic words indeed as in that year J H Taylor, Winchester, was the Open Champion and in years to come Open Champions would come not only from England but from almost every corner of the world.
The speeches over, a foursomes match was played between the Captain and Father Gerrie against Dr Cowie and Dr Angus, the Church coming out as victors.
The opening tournament was played over 18 holes for gentlemen and 9 holes for ladies. The lady winner was Miss Thomson, teacher, with a score of 88. The gentleman winner was Mr John Shand, Schoolmaster, with a score of 120. Second was Mr Innes, Town & County Bank, on 129, and third Mr Stewart, Mortlach Distillery on 130.
The names recorded of other competitors that day were, Mr Geo Spence, clothier; Mr Forsyth, Lime Works; Mr Allan, teacher; Mr Geddes, merchant; Mr John Macpherson, draper; Mr Robertson, druggist; Mr Allan, ironmonger; Mr Smith, organist; Mr Joiner, druggist; Mr Sheed, merchant; and Mr Garden, painter.
The opening drive on the course was played from the bridge over the Tomintoul road by the Fittie Burn, the green being near to the present Clubhouse.
The second hole went uphill, and the third then struck off at an angle across part of the present course, to a green set just over the dyke.
The fourth hole went uphill alongside the Conval Wood to the highest point on the course. This green is still played on, although enlarged and reshaped, as the fourth hole also, of the present course.
The fifth hole went downhill at an angle to a green which remains, between the present 13th and 16th fairways. The sixth crossed the dyke again, down to a green in the Fittie field. The seventh was a short hole up into the corner and the last two holes were played downhill parallel to the Fittie Burn, the last green being close to the first tee.
The five holes in the Fittie field provided a shortened course, taking out of play the steepest part of the course and the dreaded dyke. It was used mainly by the ladies in their competitions and for short casual rounds.
The Course 1896-1929
The course then remained with little change until 1930, when it was lengthened by taking in part of the present course. After the 1939-45 war the Fittie field was lost to the Club and the course was re-designed, before it was eventually extended to 18 holes in 1989.
With the course formally opened all was now ready for competitions and matches, but already the Committee were planning the next essential step, the erection of a Clubhouse.
A great deal had been achieved in a very short space of time, the confidence of the new Club was high, and their achievement was something worth celebrating on that opening day.
The golf course is about half a mile distant from the Square. It is on the estate of Glenrinnes and the farm of Mether Cluny, and was laid out by the well known Aberdeen golfer, Archie Simpson. The ground being plain, artificial bunkers were formed to give variety to the game. These, along with the stone dykes at the first, third, and sixth holes are the chief obstacles, and to an experienced golfer are very negotiable. The construction of the putting greens are peculiar. The course being a hilly one, the greens would all have been on the slope but they have been built up at one side and dug down at the other, thus forming a difficulty to players accustomed to the ordinary style of greens which often mitigate against a low round. The course has been termed an easy one, and good play is obtained with lofter and mashie. Difficulties have to be overcome at the 4th, 8th and 9th, while often a novice at the game will run up his score at the dyke. At the 4th hole a pulled drive may either land you in the ditch or the wood, while at the 8th hole a drive to the left may send your ball in the burn, or if not careful you may get into a bunker close to the green. At the 9th hole an approach that is strong may go over the bank beside the club house.
The record score was made by Mr. Brady I. R. Officer, as follows:- First round, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 4 = 38; second round, 3, 3, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4 = total for the two rounds, 72. With the Convals and Ben Rinnes in the background, Auchindoun Castle in the distance, golfers will have no reason to complain of the lack of variety or magnificence of the scenery. The Course being 700 feet above sea level, playing at such an altitude should give exhilaration free from the jading influences which might be caused by over exertion under other circumstances.
G. E. McLennan’s “Guide to Dufftown” – 1901.
Article – Banffshire Journal, 12th May 1896.
Shortly after the course opening a Match Committee was formed and arrangements were made for the first match to be played. Fochabers Golf Club were invited to send a team of 10 players to play on Monday, 20 July 1896 at 2 pm.
Even before the first efforts to establish a course in Dufftown some of those who became involved must have played on other golf courses.
Two members representing Dufftown in the match, Dr Angus, Aberdeen, and A Cruickshank, Fochabers, would have played elsewhere and no doubt encouraged the Club to arrange the first match.
Fochabers golf course was set within the boundary wall of Gordon Castle Estate beside the River Spey, and an excursion up into the hills around Dufftown would have been eagerly looked forward to.
The journey by road to Dufftown is all of twenty miles and the River Spey would have been crossed by the Telford Bridge at Craigellachie. It is so difficult now to visualise the complete absence of motor traffic on the roads in 1896, horsedrawn vehicles would continue to be the only means of transport on them for quite a few years to come. However the early golfers had a much better means of transport – the railways. From Fochabers the Highland Line made the connection at Keith for the last 10 miles on the Dufftown to Craigellachie Great North of Scotland Line. A pony and trap would take them from the station at Dufftown through the town and up the Tomintoul road to the golf course.
On a warm July day a friendly golf match on this lovely scenic course would have given great pleasure to the Fochabers players. Even losing the match to Dufftown by 21 holes to 13 would not have been displeasing. After all, coming from a flat parkland course, the stiff climb and the dykes to overcome would have given the home team quite an advantage.
A clubhouse had yet to be built but nevertheless refreshments were provided on the course, no doubt something a little stronger than tea and sandwiches. In later years Dufftown gained a reputation for the finest home baking at its matches and tournaments, always accompanied by drams of malt whisky for which the local distilleries were to make the town famous.
Both teams then retired to the Fife Arms Hotel, owned by the President of the Club, John Robertson. There tea dinner was provided at a cost to the Club of one shilling and sixpence for each player.
No more matches were recorded until 1899 when Buckie and Fochabers were the visitors. In 1900 an invitation to play at Huntly was soundly turned down as Huntly had twice failed to come to Dufftown. Many more friendly matches followed over the years including Keith, Grantown and Aberlour, particularly from 1906 onwards.
Match Record 20th July 1896.
Following the successful first season the Club was soon to realise that although money was readily available to build the course, paying for the continuing upkeep was to be another matter.
In October 1896 the Club held its first Annual General Meeting, and the office bearers to carry the Club forward were:
- President – Gen Sir Peter Lumsden, Buchromb
- Vice President – Dr Cowie, Dullanbrae
- Captain – Rev. J B Cumming
- Vice Captain – Rev. A G Gerrie
The first financial report showed that the Club’s finances were sound, the years income was £113 and expenditure £110. There was the pressing need for a Clubhouse however, and a proposal was discussed to hold a bazaar to finance the project.
A series of special meetings were held over the winter months, and a strong body of opinion emerged in favour of also forming a Bowling Club and building a bowling green.
The last of these meetings in March 1897 agreed to proceed only with the Clubhouse with expenditure limited to £70. Any balance was to be used within 2 years for the Bowling Club development. It was to be 1908 before we find the next reference to the Bowling Club when both clubs agreed to share the same greenkeeper.
In 1913 a record is contained in the Minutes of a meeting with the Bowling Club and of a formal agreement setting out the arrangements between the two clubs to share the greenkeeper, John Reid.
A specification for the new Clubhouse was drawn up and an offer accepted from Mr A K Garrow to construct it for £56.5 shillings; it was to be ready for 15 May 1897.
It was duly constructed and ready by the specified date, and sited conveniently near to the entrance to the course by the road.
The Fittie Burn ran just behind the new Clubhouse and this was to present problems in later years as no septic tank would be permitted within 100 yards of the burn.
Some 30 years later the Club was to abandon this Clubhouse and build one on the present site about 200 yards away. The original Clubhouse is still standing but used now only to store farming equipment.
Mr John Reid, 31 Fife Street, was then appointed greenkeeper and to look after the Clubhouse for a salary of £15 p.a.
At the second Annual General Meeting the financial deficit was £20 and this was repeated in the following year, the main cause was the relatively high rent charged, which was the normal commercial rate for farmland.
Crisis followed crisis for quite a few years and was only to be resolved after the new proprietor of the Estate, Mr S Eadie, allowed the Club more favourable terms of rent.
It was 1905 when the Club was on the point of quitting the tenancy, before agreement was reached with the Estate Factor to have the rent reduced from about £40 to £34 p.a.
We read in Club records that Mr Eadie also agreed to provide the Club with some 7 to 9 loads of sand free, for use on the greens, and generously donated £5 to the Club for several years.
It is clear that it was in his interest to keep the course as an added attraction to his sporting activities, and later terms were introduced for monthly rates for his clients to play the course during the shooting season.
The Club continued to sub-let the ground for grazing for about half of the amount of the rent, but this was not without drawbacks as it was to lead to a claim for compensation against the Club.
The fences at some time could not have been properly maintained and sheep strayed from the course on to the adjoining Pittyvaich Estate. The claim was settled by an independent arbiter requiring the Club to pay compensation of 19 shillings to Mrs Symon for damage to turnips.
Apart from a later assessment for Income Tax on the rent received the finances of the Club were to remain on an even keel for years to come. Tribute was later to be paid to the Treasurer, Major John Innes, when he left office in 1925 after having occupied the post for 20 years.
Whatever financial difficulties the club was experiencing, success was beginning to reap its reward on the golf course.
The early Proprietor, Robert Skirving, generously presented the Skirving Shield to the club in 1898. This was a beautiful oak shield, overlaid with embossed silver golfing figures, and today it remains as the Club’s major trophy for the Club Championship.
Rules were drawn up to compete for it, the lowest scratch scores for 8 rounds (72 holes) from the monthly medals would decide the winner. In the first year in which it was played, the winning score was 341 recorded by J Brady, Inland Revenue Officer, and he was again the winner over the next two years.
A regular handicap competition was also arranged for the second Wednesday and Saturday of each month, and a silver medal was to be played for, provided by the Captain. Other generous prizes had been donated for the opening of the 1897 season for the leading scratch scores,
- 1 doz Silvertown golf balls – Mr A Cruickshank
- 3 doz Silvertown golf balls – the Captain
- 1 Blazer – Mr J Robertson, banker
The ladies also received prizes,
- 3 doz Silvertown golf balls – Geo Robertson, druggist
- A golf club – Wm Watt, Club Secretary
A foursomes competition must also have been played as prizes were presented at the Annual General Meeting to:
- J Watt and A S Begg – Barometers
- J Brady and G Robertson – Clocks
- W Petrie and J Gray – McPherson Pipers
In the following year more competitions were introduced, 2 rounds of the course were played under handicap, with entry money 1 shilling. The Captain donated £1 to the prize fund and J Brady 10 shillings. On the same day a Ladies Competition was played of 2 short rounds of 5 holes for a prize donated by Mr G Geddes.
Success was soon to come to the Club on a wider front when the County Championship was won by J Brady on 26 July 1899. The Banffshire Golfing Association’s records for that date have long since disappeared but the success is well documented in Club records.
This Championship win must have been celebrated in some style as a Special Meeting was called for 9 August when the Captain drew attention to ‘the bill for drinkables incurred at the County Championship’. Each member who played was required to subscribe 1 shilling towards the amount of the bill.
The large silver medal won by J Brady was then presented to him by the Captain, and despite the intemperance of his players it must have been a very proud moment for the Captain to see the young Club’s first victory recorded at County level.
In 1901 G E McLennan’s Guide to Dufftown gives the course record by J Brady as 72 for 18 holes. Considering the limitations of golfing equipment then and the rough nature of the course, this was exceptionally good golf and the Club members must have enjoyed the company of such a fine golfer in their midst.
He was to be appointed Vice-Captain in 1900, but by late 1901 his name does not appear again, nor is any reason given as to why he no longer was to grace the fairways of Dufftown.
Little is recorded of competitive golf for a few years, but in 1908 the names of the first Ladies to win a competition are recorded, Helen J Watt, Mrs Low and Mrs Jas Watt each won a monthly medal.
Two years later Mr G R Mair, M.A. presented a gold brooch to the Ladies for competition, and early winners were Miss Norah Begg, Mrs Watt and Helen J Watt.
In October 1910 a letter was read out at the Annual General Meeting from Mr John Mitchell, late of Bloemfontein. He had donated a trophy to the Club which was called ‘The Mitchell Cup.’ Along with the cup he also donated a dressing case for the winner; James Wilson, who recorded a score for 36 holes of 173 less handicap 32, won with a net score of 141. The following year the Club received a silver plated cigarette case from John Mitchell for the winner.
The cup continues to be competed for, but is now played for as the scratch knockout trophy.
It is interesting to look at the names of the golfers recorded at a point 10 years after the course had been opened. Of the original members only two names remain, Rev J B Cumming, President and J Watt, Captain.
Taking the place of the old guard were R Gray, vice-captain; J Junor, secretary, J Innes, treasurer, and serving on the Council were; J Craig, P Currid, G Duncan, W Troup, J B Macdonald, A Mitchell and F W Osgood.
Those 10 years had taken the Club from its beginning through difficult times, a rapidly changing world embroiled in the 1914-1918 war. This was now to have a very severe impact on the Club.
Competition Notice 1912
To begin with the War had very little impact on the Club affairs, the never ending trench warfare being the only demand when conscription was introduced in 1916. It must have been an agonising time as more and more of the young men from the town left home, many never to return again.
The Club Treasurer, Major Innes was the officer in charge of the local Volunteers Company and in 1917 he was given permission to erect a bayonet fighting stand on the course.
By 1918 the War was beginning to turn in the Allies favour, but even so the country was having great difficulty meeting the needs of the population and every piece of land was required for cultivation particularly for cereals.
The County Food Production Committee called for the proprietor of the Estate, Mr Eadie, to allow the course to be brought into cultivation. This he acceded to and in negotiation with the Golf Club he granted a new lease of the course for 6 years for cropping and the rent was fixed at 15 shillings per acre. This would have amounted to £24 per year as against the £34 previously.
On Friday, 23 February 1918 fifty ploughs descended on the course and by evening the whole of the Fittie field had been ploughed up. The higher part of the course was left as grazing and continued to be sub-let. The club contributed to the day by the Ladies providing lunch and tea to those employed. A formal record of thanks is recorded in the minute book to Mrs Watt, Mrs Dr Grant and Mrs R Gray for their help.
The annual subscription for the foreseeable future was fixed at 2 shillings and an overdraft was arranged with the North of Scotland and Town and County Banks for £100.
An agriculture committee was formed who immediately purchased 18 quarters of corn for sowing.
In September the crop was sold to Mr James Leslie for £33 and Dr Grant kindly offered his tractor and binder to harvest the crop.
Even though the War was to end in November continuing food shortage meant that a similar crop was required in 1919 and this was duly advertised for sale in the Northern Scot and Dufftown News on 16 September.
By early 1920 it was known that the food crisis was over and the land could revert to a golf course again, a meeting was advertised to be held in the Burgh Chambers on 5 March 1920 of all members of the club and those interested in the game of golf.
It was reported that the club had a balance of some £43 and the meeting unanimously expressed itself in favour of making every endeavour to get the course ready at an early date.
Office bearers were elected:
- President – Rev J B Cumming
- Captain – Mr Robert Gray
- Vice Captain – Mr J B Macdonald
- Treasurer – Major Innes
- Joint Secretaries – Mr A Mitchell and Jas A Thomson
The council elected was:
- Father Shaw
- James Watt
- A C Mitchell
- W F Troup
- A D Angus
- George Mair
Rates of subscriptions fixed were:
- Gents – 15 shillings
- Ladies – 10 shillings
- Apprentices – 7 shillings and 6 pence
- Visitors – 2 shillings per day, 5 shillings per week
- Locker rent – 2 shillings and 6 pence
It was agreed to have a Memorial Card inserted in the Clubhouse recording the names of those members who had fallen in the War. Sadly this Memorial to those never to return and see the hills of Dufftown again, is lost, and we have no other Club record of this great tragedy.
Work to reinstate the course started immediately, surface stones were raked to one side, mole hills spread and the course rolled. By 14 April 1920 the course had been almost prepared and the greenkeeper was instructed to mark out the course ready for sowing grass seed. A notice was to be put in the Clubhouse that no dogs are allowed on the golf course, this rule to be strictly enforced.
Nothing more is recorded and it can only be presumed that by mid May there would have been sufficient growth of grass for the course to be fairly playable. In March 1921 it was arranged that some local boys would be employed to gather up the loose stones for removal and to be paid 2 shillings and 6 pence per day. A month later the Boy Scouts were to be approached to see if they could also help, something that was to be repeated in the 1950s following reinstatement of the course after the Second World War.
At the end of April 1921 Mr Lyon was employed as Golf Course Keeper at 1 shilling and 3 pence per hour for the season. On 11 May the course was reopened with a match between teams selected by the Captain and Vice-Captain.
Despite the fact that little golf had been played for several years, all the Ladies and Gents were allocated handicaps, and once again the players could return to the pleasures of social and competitive golf.
As the memories of the War were beginning to fade the families and friends of those who were killed received popular support to erect a Memorial to their memory and the Golf Club held a whist drive which raised £22 for the town’s War Memorial. There are 110 names on the memorial and with the population of Dufftown being about 2000 this would mean that almost one family in four would have lost a father, a son or a brother. Of these names one was that of Lt G Cowie, Royal Flying Corps, son of Dr A M Cowie, who died aged 17. Further memorials of those who died are incorporated in Mortlach Kirk.
Having endured the weariness of the War years the relaxing enjoyment of sport was the perfect antidote to the years of strife. The Olympic Games were held in 1920 in Antwerp, no coincidence as the fields of Flanders had seen the greatest casualties in the history of warfare. With the American involvement in the War their pervading culture was to have a major impact on the western world from that time on. The Ford car, the Charleston, Hollywood, and every type of new consumer goods were to leave an indelible mark on western civilisation. The Open Championship in the “Twenties” was to be dominated by players from the USA, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones were soon to become household names. The flamboyance of Walter Hagen was legend, even to the extent of using a Rolls Royce as a changing room at the Open as professionals were not allowed in the changing rooms. Bobby Jones was later to be immortalised by having the 10th hole at St Andrews named after him. Dufftown Golf Club was to enjoy its halcyon days in the boom-bust years of the “Twenties” and “Thirties”.
The Captain, Father Shaw, welcomed a large attendance to the 1922 AGM and in his report thanked Wm Innes for his superintending and splendid work on the course. The financial report was equally complimentary with a balance in hand of £66. Considering the earlier lean years of the Club and the costs just incurred in rebuilding the course this was quite remarkable. The cropping of the course for the war years must have been quite profitable and the sub-let of the grass to Mr Gordon, Auchbreck took in £75. For the general population the War years were a time of austerity and considerable poverty but the sudden upsurge in the popularity of golf must also have been a key factor in the upswing in the Club’s fortune.
By 1942 the bank balance was £142, equivalent to well over £5000 in today’s values, the increase in the Club’s prosperity was to bring many changes in the following years complementing the rapid social change now evident in society at large. Dr Watson, Captain, is recorded as having instructed the secretary to call a meeting of Ladies with a view to forming a Ladies Committee. A new greenkeeper, Mr Duncan, York Street, was appointed and he was also shared with the Bowling and Tennis clubs. A shelter was proposed at the top of the course close to the ruined Viewfield Croft and the Heathery Hut was erected at a cost of £7 by Smith & Ritchie. This feature familiar to all later golfers remains with its splendid outlook to the Corriehabbie Hills and the ruined Auchindoun Castle beyond.
About this time a change of ownership of the Glenrinnes Estate occurred. Dr A M Cowie sold the Mortlach Distillery to John Walker & Sons and removed from Dullanbrae, Fife Street, out to the Estate. The Cowie family, later to be embraced with the Cumming family, remained owners of the Estate and the Club’s landlord until it was finally sold in 1992 when the Club was fortunate to be able to buy the course outright. Major Innes, treasurer, negotiated with the Estate, and agreement was reached for a renewed lease of 7 years at £34 p.a. Sadly Major Innes was to suffer ill health and died in 1926 having served as club treasurer for some 20 years. He is remembered in glowing terms in the club minutes of that year for his outstanding service.
Many improvements and small alterations were made to the course and in 1925, Major Gordon, later to be Club Captain and a stalwart of the Club for many years, proposed that a car park be built. This was agreed and an area near to the road and Clubhouse was made into the first car park. The Ladies Committee now addressed a letter to the Club requesting a separate room (with lavatory accommodation if possible), and they immediately set about organising a jumble sale, a gymkhana, a whist drive and a dance to raise funds. It is difficult to appreciate the sparse facilities for the early golfers and in particular for the ladies. For the first 30 years there was no running water and the earth filled latrines were tucked behind the Clubhouse. The pressure was on to upgrade the Clubhouse facilities, reflecting the changing attitudes of society at that time.
The plans for the extension were drawn up and included a veranda and a drainage system for the new water closets. At this point the plans were to be held up because of another matter. Dr Cowie had asked the Club for the exclusive right to use the course on Sundays for himself and his friends. A deputation met Dr Cowie following the Club’s refusal to accede to his request which he withdrew, but instead simply requested to be allowed to play golf on Sundays. Also discussed was the question of the extension of the lease in view of the large alterations proposed to the Clubhouse. The Club and the landlord were now to become fixed on a collision course. The Club had never allowed Sunday play, nor did any other club in Scotland as far as is known. At some point a byelaw to this effect had been included in the club rules even though it had been an unwritten rule when the Club was originally founded.
The Club now held a Special Meeting to consider the request fully and the captain, C F Macpherson, solicitor, moved that the byelaw be rescinded. Opposition was led by J B Macdonald, an auctioneer, who moved that the byelaw remain, and by 29 votes to 19 he was successful in resisting the change.
A letter from Dr Cowie was later discussed by the Committee but the Club stood firm and it was to be at the 1926 AGM that the next challenge was made. The extension to the Clubhouse was now in doubt with the inherent threat of the lease not being renewed and a period of disharmony between both sides was evident. The Club now wrote to the Ladies’ Committee asking their secretary to be good enough to hand over the money collected on behalf of the building fund to the treasurer within a week. The ladies replied in writing and specified certain conditions before they would hand over the money. The club secretary duly replied agreeing to the conditions and hoping that the ladies would now hand over the money as soon as possible. The accounts later show that the pavilion fund, as it was to be known, amounted to £82, a not inconsiderable sum. At this point the Club changed its bank from the North of Scotland Bank Ltd to the Commercial Bank of Scotland Ltd but no reason for this change is recorded.
The AGM held in April 1926 promised to be the most important that had faced the Club in its 30 year history. Should the byelaw on prohibiting Sunday play be upheld it was likely that the future outlook for development of the Club would be bleak.
The Officers elected at the meeting were:
- President – Rev J B Cumming
- Vice-Presidents – Mr A Stewart, Mr C M Gordon, Mr J Kemp, Dr Cowie
- Captain – Mr Wm Innes
- Vice-Captain – Mr J B Macdonald
- Treasurer – Mr George Duncan
- Secretary – Mr Edwin A K Innes
- Council – Messrs C J Macpherson, R Gray, Major Gordon, A Gordon, C Morrice, J Watt, P Wilson
Divisions immediately surfaced when P Wilson seconded by Mr Alex Gordon, Parkmore, proposed that the Sunday byelaw be rescinded. Opposition came from George Mair seconded by Miss Wilson, Benview, that it should remain. Another amendment proposed by Mr George Duncan, seconded by Mr James Watt, was that the bye-law remain but be delegated to the Council with full powers. After debate the motion to rescind the byelaw was carried by 24 votes to 12. A few weeks later a letter was received from Mr Jas Kemp stating that he would not accept office as Vice-President owing to Sunday golf.
And so a new chapter was about to open as Dr Cowie now re-entered into negotiation with the Club on the lease and the proposed alterations to the Clubhouse. The immediate difficulty encountered was that owing to the situation of the Clubhouse being near to the Burn no cesspool was allowed to be placed within 100 yds of it. The solution proposed by Dr Cowie was to have far reaching effects on the future of the Club and the course.
By Laws 24th July 1925
There must have been considerable gloom at not being able to extend the much loved Clubhouse now 30 years old, and it would have been a particular blow to the Ladies having had such high hopes for better facilities and having raised much of the projected cost. Dr Cowie was now to make a suggestion that was to indirectly change the whole character of the course as well as providing a site for a new Clubhouse.
Over the fence beyond the 1st green were some derelict gardens, part of some old farm cottages known as Auchgorum. This already had a good water supply and suitable drainage to take a cesspool. His suggestion was to clear the site and build the Clubhouse there. A building committee thoroughly inspected the site and decided it was indeed a good site for a clubhouse.
Mr Leslie Dawson kindly arranged to prepare plans and also suggested that the building should not be in the gardens but in the field itself.
A meeting with Dr Cowie discussed this point and the Building Committee took the initiative of suggesting that the Club could possibly rent the entire Auchgorum field provided a reasonable rent would be charged. Dr Cowie was agreeable to this and instructed his agent, Alex Morrison & Co, Edinburgh, to offer the Club the whole of the Auchgorum field, as well as the Fittie field and the top field Viewfield for £50 pa. This however was considered too high by the Club who had asked for £40 and for the lease to be for 15 years. Major Gordon proposed a compromise of £45 and this was eventually accepted by Dr Cowie. In March 1927 a draft of the new lease was received from the agents, now acting on behalf of the Trustees for the Misses Cowie. The Club turned its attention to raising sufficient money to allow both the Clubhouse to be built and the course extension work to be carried out.
The recent disagreement with the Ladies Committee was to herald a shift in influence within the Club, away from male dominance of club affairs. In a few sentences in a council meeting on 27 March 1927 the decision is recorded that all Ladies paying the full subscription of 10 shillings could attend the Annual Meeting, the same to apply to the gentlemen paying the full subscription of 15 shillings.
Within a year a bazaar had been organised which was to raise £276, about half of the eventual cost of the new Clubhouse. The main credit for this achievement must be given to the Ladies of the Club. A public meeting was chaired by Dr Cowie in August 1927 and amongst the Committee appointed were Mrs Cowie, Mrs Macpherson, Priestwell, and Mrs John Grant, with Major Gordon as secretary. A later report and balance sheet of the bazaar held in August 1928 was as follows:
|Side Shows and Door
The secretary was instructed to write to the Ladies thanking them on behalf of the Club and a notice was also inserted in the Dufftown News thanking all who had contributed to the success of the bazaar. From that point on the Ladies were to be included as equals on most aspects of the Club’s affairs, although it was to be 1931 before the Ladies Section of the Club was formally adopted and Miss J S Cumming and Miss Grant, St Margarets, were elected to the Council.
The only discordant note at the Club was the theft of wallets in the locker room. A meeting of the Golf Club Council was held in the Burgh Chambers on 18 August 1927 when complaints were heard from Mr Hector Symon that his pocket book containing £2 and a motor licence, also another pocket book and motor licence belonging to Eddie Yeats had been stolen from jackets in the Clubhouse. It was remitted to the captain to report the matter to the police to have it investigated, but nothing more is recorded of the outcome.
Eddie Yeats is now the oldest member of the Golf Club and was in business most of his life with Watt Bros, whose family association with the Club goes back to the first days, when Wm Watt was secretary, and James Watt a councillor.
With the coming of the motor car life had taken on a new dimension, and likewise the Club in 1927 became the owner of its first motor mower. The old horse mower was showing its age and the estimate obtained of the cost of having it overhauled by the makers Shanks & Sons Ltd was £25. Dr Cowie offered the Club the loan of a motor mower with the option of buying it for £15. However Mr James Watt was able to obtain a new mower at less than the listed price, the Club duly accepted his offer and so the latest state of technology was to grace the fairways for the first time. Stones on the course were a continuing problem and a certain greenkeeper was taken to task when the bottom plate of the mower was found to be damaged. A decision was then taken to have the fairways rolled to eliminate the problem, a solution which at the time seemed sensible, but would not find favour with the divot shots of today’s golfer.
Clubhouse 1929 – Major Gordon, G Pratt-Boyd, J Geddie, Mrs Angus, Bob Gray, Bob Milne, Peter Gordon, ?, May Simpson, Peter Wilson, Wm. McPherson, Eric McCombie, ?, James Beaton, Eddie Yeats
The prizes presented in 1927 and values of vouchers presented were:
|E A K G Innes
|H G Symon
|E A K G Innes and J B Macdonald
|5 shillings each
|Major Gordon and Geo Duncan Jnr
|2 shillings and 6 pence each
|2 shillings and 6 pence
|E Innes and Miss M Macdonald
|5 shillings each
|H G Symon and Mrs Spreckley
|2 shillings and 6 pence each
|Miss A M Cumming
|Dr L Watt
|2 shillings and 6 pence
The General Meeting of 1929 recorded many changes, the death of Rev J B Cumming who was the first Club Captain and actively involved himself in Club affairs for almost 30 years. Also the death of Mrs Cowie, Glenrinnes, wife of Dr Cowie, who had been the driving force in raising the funds from the bazaar. The new officers and councillors were:
- President – Mr C M Gordon
- Vice-Presidents – Provost Macpherson, ex Provost Stewart, Dr A M Cowie
- Captain – Mr J B Macdonald
- Vice-Captain – Major Gordon
- Treasurer – Mr George Duncan
- Secretary – Mr A Paul
- Councillors – L Dawson, A Gordon, B Gray, C J Macpherson, B Symon, J Watt, P Wilson and Rev G P Shaw
The Trustees for the new lease were:
- Charles Joseph Macpherson, solicitor, Dufftown; James Watt, merchant, Helenslea; William Innes, retired distillery manager, Tomintoul.
The Club now arranged with Mr George Smith, professional, Moray Golf Club, to lay out the course extension for which Dr Cowie paid the fees. The course was duly laid out in 1929 ready for the opening of the new pavilion on 14 May 1930.
The decision to go ahead with the new Pavilion and to extend the course was taken at a committee meeting in September 1928. Estimates for its construction were obtained form local tradesmen and after some discussion those accepted were:
The estimate for the slates was the only one which divided the Committee, some were for the traditional slates but the new type of asbestos slates won the day, no doubt also because they would have been cheaper than traditional slates.
The building fund now stood at £386 leaving a substantial shortfall and to reduce the cost somewhat a decision was taken to delete the fireplace from the plans. A limit was set on the amount the Club should borrow, £200, and immediately it was proposed to hold a whist drive on Friday, 27 December 1929 to raise more money to cut the deficit. A sub-committee was appointed to make all the arrangements including providing prizes and engaging a dance band. Some new names appear in this committee who were later to feature prominently in the Club. Robert (Bert) Symon became Club Captain five years later and Eric McCombie was to become Club Secretary. Other new names were L McMurtrie, E Mclntosh, G W Spence, W Mackie, and the new Club Secretary, A Paul. Nothing is recorded of the outcome of the event but it must have been very successful as the Club’s deficit was considerably reduced the following year and another whist dance was held on 26 December 1930. More is recorded of this event, the entry money was 2 shillings and 6 pence and the band engaged was the Pensyltucky Band from Elgin at a fee of £4.10 shillings. The “Twenties” and “Thirties” saw an explosion of new music and dance, jazz and swing was all the rage and the Club were to continue their social pleasures on the dance floor for the decades that followed to the present day.
Detailed arrangements were made for the opening ceremony to be on Wednesday, 14 May 1930. The secretary was instructed to ascertain if Miss Cowie would consent to perform the opening ceremony and failing whom, Miss A Cowie would be asked to do so. A suitable memento was to be obtained and presented to Miss Cowie. This was a small silver statuette in the form of a lady golfer and also the architect and contractor would present the traditional silver key. The Club’s President, Mr Cosmo M Gordon, Buchromb, was to introduce Miss Cowie and to make the presentation of the key to the Pavilion. Major Gordon, captain, was to move the vote of thanks to Miss Cowie and hand over the statuette as a memento. Chairman of the building committee J B Macdonald was also to move a vote of thanks, Mr Teunion to reply and Provost Stewart was to move a vote of thanks to the President. This formal etiquette was very much observed at that time but the aftermath of the Second World War was to sweep away much of this old world charm.
The Opening Ceremony was a great success and an extract from the Dufftown News is pasted into the club minute book. The next committee meeting in June was profuse in its praise for the splendid work done on the course, in the building of the new Clubhouse, and to the lady members who undertook the service of entertaining guests and members at the opening function. The captain was also very pleased to announce a donation of £20 from Miss Cowie, Glenrinnes. The interest shown by Miss Isabella Cowie to the Club during her long lifetime is something that cannot be measured in mere monetary terms. There was genuine affection shown by her to the small Club and in her younger days she greatly enjoyed her golf. For almost sixty years she was always on hand and the Club enjoyed a relationship with her which it was never to lose. The extract of her speech on that opening day truly reflects the character of a wonderful person and this Press report will always form a treasured part of the Club’s records.
The splendid new Clubhouse has remained to the present day, somewhat altered and added to over the years, but sadly now requires replacement. The plans drawn up will ensure that the new building will be as much in harmony with the old one as possible, and in keeping with the quiet character of the course and its beautiful scenic surroundings.
The new layout of the course must have seemed much more spacious and with its longer holes would have presented a difficult challenge. The first hole followed the line of the present first hole but continued on uphill to a green in the corner of the dykes. It measured 352 yds and was rated a par 5. The second hole was played from an elevated tee above the dyke downhill to a green in front of the Clubhouse and at 338 yds was a par 4. Uphill again and over the dyke to the third green, a hole of 317 yds par 4. The fourth hole had changed little, played uphill alongside the Conval Wood for 194 yds par 4. Then a new hole the fifth, the Heathery Hut. This hole remains the fifth today and has not changed, at 132 yds par 3 it had an out of bounds fence tight to the line to the green. Many years later this hole was to be admired by Dai Rees when he visited the course and while to a professional golfer it is not over difficult, to the average player it has always to be played with the utmost caution. The sixth hole a par 5 of 402 yds was all downhill but once again the dyke had to be negotiated. The seventh hole was played back up to the top corner of the Fittie field and at 186 yds was a par 4. The eighth swept downhill with the Burn on the left, a hazard all the way to the green. Although 395 yds par 5 it would have been quite a friendly hole. The ninth tee was the original first tee beside the old Clubhouse and the hole was 252 yds par 4 and played to a new green in front of the splendid new Clubhouse.
This layout was to last only ten years as the Fittie and Auchgorum fields were ploughed up for crops in 1940 and when the course was eventually reinstated in 1956 the Fittie field was lost to the Club. The topmost part of the course, Viewfield, was not ploughed and has remained with the original greens intact. The “Thirties” saw the most settled period of golf for the Club with many new names appearing. Jimmy Gray, honorary member, came to Dufftown to manage a drapers shop, he became Club Treasurer and although he was away on active War service he returned to take up the reins until he retired from the post in 1967, Bert Symon was to dominate the Club championship winning it for six successive years and became captain in 1934, George Nicoll won the Mitchell Cup in 1933, a feat which his son Sandy was to emulate exactly forty years later and also to win the Club Championship on four occasions in the “Seventies.” Major Gordon became captain in 1937 once again, and remained until 1953 ensuring that even though the course was not available for play the Club was to continue in being through those difficult years. The Club records for this period have not survived and the Club is indebted particularly to Jimmy Gray for helping to trace events as they unfold following that disastrous Second World War.
The Course 1930-1939
Report of Opening of New Pavilion, 14th May, 1930
On Wednesday afternoon the new pavilion at Dufftown Golf Course was opened by Miss Cowie of Glenrinnes in presence of a large company. The building, which cost £500, is one of the best equipped in the north. It is a wooden erection with concrete foundation. Inside the building there is a spacious lounge, at each side of which there are locker rooms, ladies’ and gentlemen’s rooms, kitchenette, wash-hand basins etc. The contractors for the building were: – carpenter, Mr H. McCombie; mason, Mr A. Naughtie; slater, Mr A. Leslie; painter, Mr J. Teunon; and plumber, Mr Hugh Macpherson. The architect was Mr Leslie Dawson.
The extension of the course of nine holes is also a great improvement, and was re-laid out by the well-known golfing professional, Mr Geo. E. Smith, Moray Golf Club.
Mr Cosmo M. Gordon, president of the club, presided. He said that the Golf Club was formed in November, 1896, and the past patrons were the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Duke of Fife, Lord Mount Stephen, Field-Marshal Sir Donald Stewart, Sir Wm. Wedderburn, M.P., and Mr J. A. Grant. The first president was Mr Skirving of Mether-cluny, Dr Cowie vice-president, and Rev. J. B. Cumming captain of the club. The course at the time was laid out by an Aberdeen professional, and was opened on 6th May, 1896, by the Rev. J. B. Cumming. A contribution of two medals by Mr Cumming was played for, and the winners were Mr John Shand, Old Schoolhouse, and Mr John Innes, North of Scotland Bank. Their respective scores were 120 and 129 – (laughter). The bogey for the course today is 64.
Since these early days there had been many changes. The course had vastly improved and new land had been taken on lease. On the most recent improvements he warmly congratulated Major Gordon and the council of the club.
I am very glad, said Mr Gordon, that Miss Cowie has been asked to honour us today in performing the opening ceremony, not only for the sake of her own company, but also because we have in mind all the energetic work put in by the late Mrs Cowie when the bazaar specially organised to raise funds for this project was held two years ago.
Mr Gordon then presented Miss Cowie with a silver key – the gift of the architect and contractors – and asked her to formally unlock the door of the pavilion.
Miss Cowie said – It is most kind of the Golf Club council to have invited me to open this fine new pavilion, and thus to have given me an opportunity to congratulate my fellow members upon the successful achievement of a long worked-for aim. A flourishing golf club is not only an asset to the community of a summer resort, but it is of inestimable value to the community itself in giving out-of-door exercise and recreation to its members at any season of the year; the greatest asset of all is the extreme sociability of the game and the opportunity it gives for young and old to meet and enjoy a game together. The Sunday newspapers make our hair curl with their astonishing attacks on the long-suffering modern young people, and almost make us believe that they are some new and dreadful calamity which has overtaken us. On the golf course at any rate ancient and modern appear to get a good deal of pleasure out of each other’s company in spite of the would-be unbridgeable-gulfs between them.
It is an astonishing thought that one may start playing at the age of six or less, and still play at the age of eighty-six or more! At the age of six one may be taken to a golfing place for holidays because of keen golfing parents, so one can’t help starting. At sixteen one’s ambition is to beat father or mother at their own game. At thirty-six one still hopes to be at least a scratch player. At fifty-six there is nothing like golf for the figure. At seventy-six one is determined to beat young Jones aged seventy, who was once local champion for years! At eighty-six or more there is the pleasure of an occasional hole or two on a day like this with the knowledge that one is setting up records as the oldest player!
Though the motives may change, there is always the same pleasure of being out of doors in pleasant company and surroundings and free of all care for the time being. It is on a day like this that a round of golf can be enjoyed to the utmost, and I would congratulate the club upon the good fortune of having such a perfect day for the opening of the season and the commencement of a new era in its history, and have much pleasure in opening this fine new pavilion, and though I try to hit the first ball of the season with very mixed feelings and my effort may not meet with much success, I wish the club all the prosperity and success in the future, which through the enterprise of its members it so richly deserves. (Applause.)
Major Gordon, in thanking Miss Cowie for the graceful and charming manner in which she had discharged the duty, said – As the official head of the Dufftown Golf Club for the time being, I desire on behalf of all its members to express our indebtedness to Miss Cowie for the services she has rendered to the club this afternoon. I have to commend her very highly for the splendid and charming way she has performed her duty. The opening of a building such as this is usually reserved to Members of Parliament or men of great eminence, but the Dufftown Golf Club was confident that in selecting Miss Cowie, one of their own members – an active and extremely helpful member – the function would gain very much by her presence and personality. The members are very proud of this fine new building, and I can assure you they are very proud to have a member like Miss Cowie. I thank you very much for what you have done for us today and for the work you and other members of your family undertook in helping to raise funds for the erection of this building. There are many ties which link you up with this course and its members. Your father was one of the original members, we are your tenants, your home is next door, and this is your native parish
In remembrance of this happy occasion the club ask you to accept this little souvenir, which I think you will admit is quite appropriate of the occasion. We hope your well-known figure will be frequently seen on the course in the attitude depicted by this little lady. In golfing phrase; Miss Cowie, on the course of life may you encounter few of the hazards and bunkers, may your swing be always free and your putting straight and true. (Applause.)
In moving a vote of thanks to Mr Cosmo M. Gordon, ex-Provost Stewart said – It was a fortunate day for Mortlach and Banffshire when Mr and Mrs Gordon decided to settle down at Buchromb. Since they came amongst us they have both been full of good works, not only in Mortlach but wherever a helping hand was required. Mr Gordon is a busy man. He takes his full share in county work, but always finds time to share in the enjoyments of his fellow mortals. Some day we hope to see him in the seats of the mighty at Westminster. Both Mr and Mrs Gordon have a warm corner in the hearts of everyone who knows them, for not only do they radiate sympathy, but may I say give help of a more substantial kind. It is a great delight to have them here today to assist in the opening of this handsome clubhouse. The Golf Club has been a source of great pleasure since it was opened 34 years ago. How well I remember its opening, and with fear and trembling wondered if we would get over the stone wall under twenty strokes. Time has brought many changes, and it is pleasant changes we are enjoying today, and not the least is the enjoyment at the presence of our President and his good lady. I ask you to give him a right hearty vote of thanks. (Applause.)
Mr Gordon returned thanks and apologised at the absence of Mrs Gordon, who was that day opening a W.R.I, sale of work at Grange.
Mr Boyd, Convalmore, paid a high tribute to the work or the contractors, and Mr Leslie Dawson returned thanks on their behalf.
During the afternoon a splendid service of tea was given, and later a mixed foursome was engaged in.
Dufftown Golf Clubhouse 1930
The golf course lease had lapsed during the 1939-1945 War, but the post war years were very difficult times and there was little enthusiasm to restore the course again. Jimmy Gray, club treasurer, on returning from active war service immediately looked over where the course had been and found the only part left untouched was the topmost part, Viewfield. Both of the greens were deep in moss and would have to be re-cultivated and re-sown; for a number of years a few casual holes of golf could be played there, but it was 1954 before the initiative was taken to put the course in order again.
Col J E Cumming, the Estate owner, had then been appointed captain and he offered to lease the two fields Auchgorum and Viewfield only as he wished to retain the Fittie field in crops. The cultivation of the ground had brought a large quantity of stones to the surface and the first priority was to have these cleared away. Work parties of members and their families helped by the Boy Scouts, gradually managed to clear some of the old fairways. Among the Scouts who helped, and later became active golfers were Chris and Robin Maclennan, Iain Smith, Edwin Dodson, Ian Yeats and Peter Duncan.
Eventually 6 holes were restored and in 1960 competitive golf was resumed while work went on to construct the remainder of the course. Loads of topsoil, sand and rubble were carried on to the course and a band of willing members shaped the greens, dug bunkers and raised tees. Dr Maclennan was captain during the construction period and over several years the volunteers who included Hector Symon, Donald Munro and Jimmy Brand once again brought the course to its full 9 holes. Because of the reduced acreage available, the course was designed with more holes played straight up and down the hill, a tiring way to play but excellent for keeping fit.
The Club records for the period 1932-1966 sadly have been lost and an accurate record of these years cannot be made. Several of the older generation including Jimmy Gray, Mrs Jean Stewart and Mrs Meg Anderson have been very helpful in providing a lot of details and a few old photographs to revive forgotten memories and help to link the earlier days to our own. In one of the photographs Eddie Yeats, who continues to live in Dufftown, is captured as a youthful figure outside the original Clubhouse in 1929. In addition to enjoying golf, Eddie was renowned for his prize winning sweet peas and his wonderful displays graced the local Flower Shows until not so long ago.
With the 9 hole course now in play golf was once again being enjoyed to the full, but with only a modest subscription rate and no more income from sheep grazing little was available to pay for greenkeeping staff. The course was maintained on a volunteer basis for a number of years. The most diligent volunteer was Dr Maclennan, it became a familiar sight after surgery was over for his Land Rover to make its way up to the course. His enthusiasm and great love for the course was later acknowledged when he was made an honorary member in 1971. After his death he continued to be remembered in the Club by the Maclennan Trophy, kindly presented by his family, and his contribution as the driving force behind the recovery of golf after the War closure will never be forgotten.
Jimmy Gray retired as treasurer in 1966 having held the post for 33 years and he was also appointed an honorary member in recognition of his service to the Club. It may only be coincidence but his retirement occurred when a licence was first granted to the Club and a bar opened, but it is not believed that any temperance views may have prompted his retirement. Shortly afterwards money from the Ferrier Bequest was made available to the Club and the opportunity was taken to alter and improve the Clubhouse facilities and in 1969 Miss Cowie was again called upon to open the enlarged Clubhouse. A feature of the improvements was the addition of the Captain’s Board presented by Winston and Margaret McKenzie. Winston was the Men’s Captain and Margaret the Lady Captain and both were soon to pass the reins over to the new generation of golfers now attracted to the thriving Club.
The competitiveness of the emerging young golfers was to make its mark on a wider field for in successive years, 1969-1970, they won the Banffshire Journal Cup played at Duff House Royal. All of the players competing, Edwin Dodson, Iain Smith, Bill Duncan, Tom Glen and Sandy Nicoll were to become Club Champions. Their success in 1970 was complemented by a junior, Ian Strachan, winning the Banffshire Boys’ Championship. Another fine golfer about to arrive on the scene had the benefit of dedicated tuition and encouragement from his father Jimmy Brand. Gary Brand, a tall willowy teenager broke the course record with an astonishing score of 61 in 1981 and his record remained unchallenged until the course was redesigned and extended to 18 holes in 1988. Another very successful junior was Fiona McKay who was selected for the Scottish Schoolgirls’ Team in 1984, and later after moving to Elgin won the Northern Counties Ladies’ Championship in 1986. Fiona also had the benefit of the quiet encouragement of her father Sam McKay. Practising on the small greens and sloping lies of Dufftown ensured that young players were equipped to play the game well on other courses.
The revived interest in golf at Dufftown was greatly stimulated by a competition begun in 1964, the Dufftown Challenge Cup, which occupies a unique chapter in the Club’s history.
The competition for the Dufftown Challenge Cup began in 1964 and continued for 27 years. It started in an unusual way, Jock Brown, the Peterhead professional, had married into the Garrick family of Dufftown.
He was a good friend of the Elgin professional, Roy Phimister, and no doubt over a dram or two issued a challenge for a match to be played at Dufftown between Peterhead and Elgin. Moreover he suggested that each team could include their professional adopting what has now become the very popular format of Pro-Ams. Elgin had a very strong team with three top amateurs, Norman Grant, Ian Sinclair and Ian Rodger (presently Elgin professional). Peterhead in turn had a formidable side with Alan Middleton, and the Livingston brothers, Hugh and John.
A confident Peterhead team duly won the first match but Elgin were to turn the tables the following year. Other clubs took an interest in this unique competition and with more clubs joining in it was won by the Aberdeen Club, Hazelhead in 1966. They went on to be successful in 1969 and 1970. Winning teams in later years were Strathlene, Forres, Keith, Murcar, Grantown-on-Spey, Huntly, Duff House Royal, Nigg Bay and Dufftown. The most successful team by far was Elgin who were to win the trophy on ten occasions.
The roll call of players who competed over the years included some illustrious names. Among the professionals were Harry Bannerman, Cruden Bay, who played in the 1971 Ryder Cup; Peter Smith, Murcar, who later joined the European Tour; Bob Strachan, Duff House Royal, who was Scottish Champion of Champions in 1972 and from Forres, John Taylor and later Sandy Aird.
Among the top amateurs were Hugh Stewart, Forres, a Walker Cup player in 1971, 1973 and 1975; Sandy Pirie, Hazelhead, a Scottish Internationalist in the 1960s and 1970s; R M (Chanter) Grant, Caledonian, and Bryce Milne, Elgin.
The course record was always under threat during the competition and the professional record of 63 was set by Peter Smith, Murcar, and the amateur record of 62 by Ian Mclntosh, Moray. After the new 18 hole course was opened the professional record of 68 was set by Sandy Aird, Forres in 1990. Many a player had the record in their sights only to be caught out on one of the tight holes, particularly when trying to hit the 7th green at 313 yds with out of bounds close to the green. Members who followed the matches have many memories of brilliant shots and advice on how to play certain holes. Harry Bannerman played the Heathery Hut 145 yds, with an 8 iron aimed at the right edge of the green and drawing neatly into the heart of the green. Peter Smith also played an 8 iron at the last hole, downhill 197 yds dropping the ball just short of the green to the right, and the natural contours to bring it down perfectly to the holeside. On the new course Bob Strachan drove the dog-leg 17th 411 yds to hit the green, but then had to settle for 3 putts.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of the competition was the wonderful social atmosphere. The lady members earned a reputation for magnificent home baking and after a few drams a noisy evening was sure to follow. The Clubhouse would be filled with humour and song; who could forget the rapturous singing of Chanter who entertained the company in the small hours for many a year. Times were changing though and interest in the competition gradually waned, but for over 20 years it remained a unique competition with the course as always remaining the challenge.
Dufftown Challenge Cup
|Duff House Royal
|Duff House Royal
Presentaion of Dufftown Challenge Cup to Nigg Bay, Aberdeen, 1991.
Included also Jim Goodall, Peter Duncan, Mrs Norma Duncan and the
Dufftown Team: Jonathan Hanson, Gary England, David Smith, Colin Duncan.
The lease of the course was due for renewal in 1988 and it was felt that the Club should make an early approach to Miss Cowie to enquire if it was possible to purchase land from the Estate. Before any approach was made however, Miss Cowie died in early 1985 and it was later that year before a letter was sent.
Almost immediately Mitchie Cumming, who had now taken over the Estate, requested a meeting with the Captain, Jim Goodall and vice-captain, Mike Reid. His reply was that in no circumstances would the Estate sell any land but would offer an additional 50 acres or so in order to extend the course to 18 holes.
The immediate reaction within the committee was very favourable and after a report to the Annual General Meeting in November a sub-committee was formed to consider all aspects of what this would entail. A further meeting was held at Glenrinnes Lodge with the captain and vice-captain, Marion Swann, secretary, and Ivan Montgomery, match secretary. A new lease of 21 years would be granted with an understanding that if the Club found difficulty in the financial running of the larger course then the rent would be negotiable. This was a generous gesture to the small Club as there were real fears that the expense involved in running an 18 hole course might be too great.
A small group of the committee walked over the seemingly vast area to be made available surrounding the Conval Croft, and the wonderfully scenic gorges of the Fittie Burn. All agreed that the area would lend itself to accommodating a further 9 holes and some of these would be quite spectacular. More important, the land was already in grass and apart from infilling some ditches it would easily form good fairways. At a committee meeting in January 1986 it was proposed to call a Special Meeting to allow full debate on all aspects of the project. The meeting was held in the Commercial Hotel on 3 February and after lively discussion, with only a few dissenters the proposal was approved and the way was open for the greatest change to the course in its 90 year history.
Financially the Club had little in the way of reserves, but enquiries soon revealed the possibility of obtaining grants from both Moray District Council and the Highlands and Islands Development Board. The sub-committee drew up an outline plan of the layout and an approximate specification of the work required. By linking part of the existing 9 holes into the new area, play could continue right through the construction work with only minimal disruption to golfers. Enquiries were made of local construction companies and it was quickly established that Remac Ltd, Elgin would be the front runners both in terms of price and that they had recently been involved in extending both Hopeman and Moray Golf Courses. An approximate figure of £30,000 was the probable cost but this was provided the Club could obtain and transport topsoil to each of the proposed 11 greens and 22 tees. A source of topsoil was located in Aberlour, a soil screener and mechanical digger obtained, and on very much a self-help basis the costs would be kept to a manageable level.
There was now to be a great deal of activity to raise enough money to allow an early start to be made. The Club’s long history and its popularity in the wider community saw a great deal of support for the project. Moray District Council and the Highlands and Islands Development Board both recognised the attractions of the course to tourists and its amenity value to the local community, and both generously provided grants, £8500 from Moray District Council and £5000 from the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Local industry too was very supportive and donations of £2000 from Glenfiddich Distillery and £1000 from Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd were received. A clay pigeon shoot with Club members operating the traps at Glenrinnes Estate realised almost £1000 for which the Club was extremely grateful to Mitchie and Jean Cumming. Over the next 2 years local members were to add a further £1800 to the funds with a variety of events. A bowling tournament arranged by Dennis McBain realised £360, a concert organised by Jim Fraser £230, a quiz by Caroline Fraser £50, a donation from the Dufftown ’77’ Club £50 and £38 from a bridge tournament. By far the largest contribution came from sales held by the Ladies Section which brought in over £1300.
The Annual General Meeting in November 1986 received a report of the work in progress and after the excitement and activity of the past months there was much satisfaction at the progress so far. The only change in the Club’s officers was Mrs Joy Gray who took over as Secretary from Mrs Marion Swann who had been the Club’s able secretary for the past 13 years. Subscriptions were raised in view of the need to raise funds and were now £35 for Gentlemen, £30 for Ladies, the Green Fee remained £3 in view of the construction work on the course, although visitors expressed keen interest in the new extension. Work was to continue throughout 1987 and 1988 and Sandy Gray, greenkeeper, continued to maintain the existing 9 holes while keeping a watching brief over the work on the extension. By early 1989 the opening was eagerly anticipated but Sandy Gray’s advice was to leave the course until later in the summer to allow more growth on the greens. Further finishing touches still remained to be added to the course, the construction of two bridges was undertaken by Jake England and Leslie Mclntosh and a new set of tee markers had been generously provided by Glenfiddich Distillery. An attractive feature of the course was the natural stone wall tees built complementing the dykes around the course and the Club were grateful to the local Manpower Resource Commission for the building work on these. One person above all was singled out for his assistance throughout the work. Iain Smith, treasurer, worked ceaselessly over the construction period, riddling topsoil, driving it to the site as needed, helping to build tees, and still managing to win the Mitchell Cup in 1988. Iain continued to work tirelessly for the Club adding to and improving aspects of the course following its opening, and the Club was to be stunned by his sudden death later in 1990. The history of the Club contains many individuals who have selflessly contributed to its continuing success, and it will always continue to flourish as long as their memory remains and is recorded to be seen by all who succeed them.
18 Hole Course 1989
|Trees obscure the direct line to the green but a drive to their left will find the wide fairway. This provides a direct approach shot to the green avoiding the deep bunker at the front right of the green.
|Steeply uphill to a green set into the slope of the hill. A careful straight drive is required to avoid the out of bounds dyke on the left and a cross dyke on the right.
|A blind drive but no hazards awaiting, it is best to approach the green from the right to lessen the danger of overshooting into the deep gully behind the green.
|An uphill drive over the marker post sets up the best line to approach the green. This is the only green remaining in use from when the course was built in 1896. An accurate and precise length of shot is required to hold the green.
|A very difficult par 3 with the out of bounds fence on the left so close to the line to the green. A steep slope on the right can take a ball quite a way downhill from the green. A seat in the Heathery Hut to take in the views will compensate for any difficulty found in playing the hole.
|The first of the new holes in the extended course. The fairway tilts across the line of the drive, but an approach from the right side is better in to the green built into the hillside.
|A beautiful scenic short hole but with a carry of some 80yds across a deep ravine. The steep banks behind the green allow a fuller shot to the played with safety.
|A good drive will find a generously wide fairway, but too short and the slope may deflect the ball down into the lateral water hazard. This is the highest green on the course, about 1200 ft above sea level, and overlooks the derelict Conval Croft in the hollow below.
|A downhill hole and the green can be driven in favourable conditions providing the line on the marker post is held with the drive.
|Played from an elevated tee with breathtaking views. The vertical drop from tee to fairway is about 200ft and to the green a further drop of 130ft. The wide fairway invites a good drive and the second shot can be safely aimed left of the green to make use of the natural contours.
|The elevated tee overlooks the 10th green with a deep ravine beyond and a carry of some 80yds before the wide fairway is reached. An uphill second shot usually played into the prevailing wind and the hole plays longer than the length suggests.
|A high elevated tee invites a long straight shot it is safer to land short and allow the ball to run down to the green.
|A blind uphill hole to the marker post with no fairway hazards. A difficult green to hit set into the hillside, any shot off line will kick downhill leaving a difficult recovery shot.
|Splendid view from the tee looking across to the ruined Auchindoun Castle in the distance. The hidden slope short of the green makes it difficult to judge the second shot particularly in dry conditions.
|A full drive is generally required to climb uphill to the elevated green. The plantation of trees always seem to attract the slightest slice.
|A good drive over the marker post leaves only a short shot to the green. The deep gulley behind awaits an over bold shot and awkward slopes around the green are added problems.
|A right angled dog-leg with an out of bounds dyke on the left. The tee shot can be played with a draw to leave a shorter shot to a large green.
|AFORE YE GO
|A downhill hole played from an elevated tee but beware the out of bounds fence on the left. A drive played short will be gathered by the slope down on to the small green.
On more than one occasion during the Century the history of the course had been dictated by events on the world’s stage, but at last a time did come when better fortune smiled on the Club. It was to begin with the invitation of Mitchie Cumming to extend the course to 18 holes. The economic recession was then to cause difficulties for the Estate and in 1992 the news broke that the Glenrinnes Estate was to be sold.
As the lease of the course had many years to run, the purchase by any buyer other than the Club would have had little attraction. Accordingly the Club was to find itself in a favourable position and the committee’s immediate reaction was that a determined effort should be made to buy the course, provided it would be within an affordable range. From the experience of raising money for the course extension it was felt that an amount possibly as high as £50,000 might be affordable as this was likely to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure the ownership of the course for ever.
Advice was taken from the Club’s solicitor, Bill Johnston, of Stephen & Robb, Keith, and together with David Duncombe, treasurer, an offer was prepared the amount of which was not revealed to any other member of the Club. They had been guided by an earlier independent valuation undertaken by Kean Kennedy, Elgin, and their judgement as to the offer submitted was recognised when in November 1992 it was learned that the Club’s offer of £33,333 had been accepted. Very soon the Club received generous support in raising the payment due at the end of November. An interest free loan of £8000 repayable over 10 years was received from the Royal & Ancient together with an outright grant of £2000. Donations from the local distilling industry were received, £2000 from Wm Grant, Glenfiddich Distillery; £1000 each from Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd, Chivas Bros Ltd and Macallan-Glenlivet plc. Club members and friends were asked to help and responded by providing £12,000 in interest free loans. Extended 5 and 10 year memberships were offered to members and over the next year this raised money up front amounting to £10,000. It is to the members’ credit that even 3 years later very little of the amount of the members’ loans has been asked to be repaid and this later enabled the Club to embark on substantial upgrading of the course.
The extended 18 hole course meantime had begun to lack the attention and new equipment that it might otherwise have had, and for several years Maurice Myron ably assisted by Ian Poole and Jim Scott struggled to maintain the course on the proverbial shoestring. With finances improving shortly after the purchase of the course, the decision was taken to upgrade the course by employing a professional greenkeeper. Bob Donaldson joined the Club and set out a programme of work for the course. A year later he was followed by Gilbert Stephen and their work on the greens soon saw marked improvement. Maurice continued to work along with the new greenkeepers and in 1995 his many years of selfless, cheerful work was recognised when he was appointed an honorary member of the Club.
The attractiveness of the new 18 holes and a general upsurge of interest in golf has seen a rise in membership, particularly from country and overseas members. It is not unusual for some members in Holland to fly over via Aberdeen and spend a weekend on Speyside, enjoying the quiet hills, freedom and solitude of the course. But first and foremost the course remains an amenity for the local community, and each succeeding generation of local golfers has continued to build on the legacy created a century ago.
One last project remains to be undertaken, however, the old clubhouse is now badly needing replacement and plans will shortly be put to the members for a new building. When opening the ‘new’ Clubhouse in 1930, Miss Cowie congratulated the Club and referred to the commencement of a new era in the Club’s history. No better way could be found to open the first chapter in the Club’s next century than with a new Clubhouse.
The final link in the chain of our history will be the presentation of 2 silver medals.
At the opening of the course in 1896 the founding captain, Rev J B Cumming presented 2 silver medals to the winners of the opening competition, but sadly these medals have not survived. On the commemorative day of our centenary celebrations Mrs Mary Cairncross DL, grand-daughter of the Rev J B Cumming will present 2 silver medals bearing the bust of her grandfather. These will remain in the possession of the Club to be a continuing reminder of the vision of our founding Captain a century ago.
There cannot be a more fitting conclusion to our Course of a Century, and we look forward with great optimism to beginning another successful century of golf at Dufftown.
Silver Centenary Medals