Club History 1924 – 1929
Membership in the early years at Muir of Ord varied widely and locals played a big role, but by 1924 the resulting increase in numbers inspired the creation of an 18-hole course.
The extra nine holes were created to the west of the railway on land owned by the Department of Agriculture and Lord Lovat. At the time it was noted that “the Club owed a great debt of gratitude to the late Lord Lovat who, by his encouragement and financial assistance, transformed a desire into a reality”. This new area was a challenge, being a mixture of flat and hilly land and was skilfully laid out by Mr James Braid, the renowned golf course designer and former Open Championship winner. He also added to the sporting nature of the original nine holes by installing bunkers.
On a sunny day in September 1927 Lord Lovat opened the extension to 18 holes, ending a lengthy period of development. Golfers from far and wide attended the ceremony. It was the largest gathering ever seen at the course. The face of the brae (i.e. 7th, 8th and 9th) had been a fir wood and hundreds of tree stumps had to be pulled out. This work was carried out using a steam engine owned by Mr. John MacLennan, mill owner Balvaird.
One hole in particular is both unique and historical in that it occupies the site of an ancient henge, the surrounding “moat” helping to form an original and effective bunker. This “Castle Hill” hole, as it is called was then “played with a mashie from a tee considerably below the elevation of the green.”
Tee-pegs were few and far between and usually the ball was placed on a wee pile of sand. Boxes of sand were sited on each tee. Sand for the bunkers was bought from Mr. James Morrison, Windhill, and was loaded by hand on to a lorry owned by Mr. Hugh MacDonald, coal merchant, Muir of Ord. The lorry had a hand tipper.
Rippling of the ground on the first fairway, particularly apparent on the left hand side of the fairway, is believed to be a relic of the ancient system of ploughing called “rig and furrow” in Scotland, or ridge and furrow down south.
The original clubhouse had two rooms and two toilets (gents one end, ladies the other). The smaller room was the ladies’ locker room. The larger room was multi-farious and housed lockers, greenkeeper’s cupboards, notices and a large table with forms.
The Ross-shire Journal 30th April 1926 reported, viz:- “The new clubhouse has been erected on the site of the old one. It is a commodious building, with separate rooms for ladies and gentlemen. Water has been introduced and sanitation attended to. Each member is also provided with a private box in which to hold clubs. In front of the building is a neat looking verandah, with an outlook towards the course.”
In 1934 a railway signal box became available and was built on to the west end of the clubhouse. It had sliding windows all round, giving panoramic views. A kitchen was built in and teas could be served for club and inter-club matches.
In 1929 the first greens motor mower arrived – an Atco 30” which pulled a roller and seat. A few years later a roller for aerating the greens was bought for £8.5/- (£8.25p) and it was pulled by the mower when required. Previous to this the greens were cut with a Shanks hand mower. The fairways were cut by a horse-drawn mower and the horse was hired from Major Fraser the tenant of Lower Ardnagrask.
In the days of the Muir of Ord markets, a coffee house stood in what is now the middle of the 18th fairway opposite the cottages. These cottages were then two banks, a canteen/pub and offices. After the markets had ended, the coffee house became a dwelling but in 1929 it was burnt down. A nearby well, on right edge middle of 18th fairway alongside the trees, which supplied all nearby dwellings still exists, although filled in.
The 16th and 17th holes were reached by playing across the Great North Road, but with many more golfers and the cottages obscuring increased traffic (not to mention the broken windows), it was decided to make a new 17th green in front of the cottages. While this was being done, for whatever reason, lots of coins were found. The 16th hole continued to be played across the road until the mid-1960’s. After the new 17th green came into play, the 18th tee was moved back and the hole is now played over the ruins of the coffee house, the outline of which can still be seen. (Raised square in the middle of the fairway.)
Original 18 Holes from Muir of Ord Golf Club 1933 Official Handbook
Photo of 1920’s Club house and members courtesy of Neil MacKay from his collection of club memorabilia