Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club
A unique course with a special character to be found nowhere else

Club History

If the game of golf was played in the Kingdom of Fife in the late 15th century, it could not have been many years later before it was introduced to the Highlands. However, the first documentary evidence of golf being played over Chanonry (now Fortrose) was not until 1702. A reference in the 1793 Statistical Account of Rosemarkie, confirmed that the game had been introduced many years earlier and had become an established sporting activity of the area. Evidence is now in place making Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Links the 15th Oldest Recorded Club in the World with golf being played along the current 6th, 7th and 8th holes up further up towards the town of Fortrose in 1793 alongside the current caravan site. An AGM was also arranged for the month of July 1793 in Williamson's Tavern!

By the latter half of the 19th Century, Fortrose and Rosemarkie had emerged as a favourite place of summer retirement for men of industry and commerce. In around 1876, the Kennedy family came to live in Fortrose. It was not long before Mr Kennedy, already a member of 5 golf clubs, had cut and clipped 2 holes in the links, one close to where the clubhouse now stands and one by the Witches Stone on the 17th fairway. Officer friends of Mr Kennedy would also be invited from Fort George (by rowing across) to play on the course with locals. Before that, others had only knocked a ball haphazardly over rough terrain, in more of a point-to-point rather than tee to green nature. If it was the Kennedys who promoted the idea of a golf club, it was another group of learned and influential men who brought it about and they met to consider the formation of a golf club on 9 September 1888 and by the end of that year the membership stood at around 50 members. At this time the motor car was yet but a dream of the inventor and the highland railway was still a decade away from penetrating the hinterland known as the Black Isle. The first clubhouse was later built and opened in 1895. Prior to 1895, arrangements were made for members to leave their clubs in the care of the governor of the nearby Black Isle poor house. There was also the problem of carts being driven by horses over the course to collect sand and shingle from the shore or to carry ice to the fishing station at the Chanonry point. The town council eventually sorted out this problem by laying out designated routes to prevent the course from being damaged further.

The First World War led to a reduction in numbers and competitions were suspended and club activity virtually ceased until 1919 by which time considerable damage had been done to the clubhouse by men of the Highland Cyclist Battalion who had used the premises as a guardhouse.

Peacetime brought a revival of interest but it was not until 1922 before the course was restored to a sufficient standard to allow the resumption of competitions. By 1924 the course had been extended to 18 holes and in 1934 a new clubhouse could be afforded. In 1932, James Braid (5-Time Open Champion) was invited to advise on a new course layout. With further land being acquired at Chanonry Point this was an opportunity to extend the course. On Saturday, 8th June 1935 a newspaper report noted that ĎThe new 18 hole golf course, laid out by Mr James Braid, is of great variety and necessitates much skill. Itís sporting character will, no doubt, attract many visitors to the districtí. Over the following two years as more land became available to lengthen some holes, Mr James Braid was invited back to make a fresh survey. His fee was £12.10/-. Under Mr Braidís recommendations, the course was re-designed and a course was laid out forming the basis of the one in use today.

In September 1940, the course and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military authorities as a training ground, where sea landing tactics were practised in preparation for the D-Day landings. Now the only remaining signs of wartime activity are the concrete bollards to the left of the 3rd and 4th fairways. Again there was considerable damage done and compensation of £4,000 was awarded by the War Department. By the summer of 1946, 9 holes had been restored and by the following year all 18 holes were returned to an acceptable standard.

By the mid 1950ís the membership had outgrown the facilities of the clubhouse and in 1958 Miss Isa Ross, one of the club's benefactors, offered to lend the money for a new clubhouse at a nominal rate of interest. Plans were drawn up after which Miss Ross astounded the members by revealing that she would meet the entire cost herself and the new clubhouse opened in 1959. By the mid 1970ís, however, the new clubhouse was already proving too small for the demands placed on it, and an overdraft was taken out to finance a new extension which was opened by Dai Rees on 14 May 1977. Sunday golf was first permitted in 1965 and in the first year 324 visitors had played a Sunday round. By 1970 membership of the club was close to 200 and by 1978 a ceiling of 500 was placed on membership, raised in 1982 to 535, with a restriction of 100 placed on the number of membersí resident out-with the Black Isle. The membership currently stands at just under 800 members.

Notable Points of History