A product of the golfing boom

Crieff Golf Club is a product of the golfing boom, which opened half of the country’s present courses between 1880 and 1909. Since the mid 19th Century, visitors seeking refuge from the encroaching cityscapes of Edinburgh and Glasgow have assembled on Crieff’s rugged Highland line.

 

Once an ancient frontier settlement and market town, Crieff maintains its reputation as a place of gathering. The club’s existing courses, The Ferntower and The Dornock, stretch over the restorative grounds of the Hydro, a grand Victorian Spa which opened in 1856.

 

The first reference to golf in Crieff appears in the “Strathearn Herald” of 26th April 1890. There is a short editorial – Proposed Golf Course for Crieff: “For several seasons past the want of a golf course in the neighbourhood of the town has been the subject of discussion. It is a fact perhaps not so well known as it ought to be that a good many family, as well as young gentlemen in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other large centres of population would make Crieff their summer quarters, were a golf course formed in the neighbourhood. Of late several gentlemen in the town have been interesting themselves in the matter, and it is hoped that ere long a meeting will be held to consider what steps shall be taken to further the movement, and if possible, bring it to a successful issue. It may be added that there are several places in the vicinity of the town, if they could be had, which are well adapted as courses.”

The first reference
The Strathearn Herald

The first reference to golf in Crieff appears in ``The Strathearn Herald`` of 26th April 1890, in a short editorial, Proposed Golf Course for Crieff: “For several seasons past the want of a golf course in the neighbourhood of the town has been the subject of discussion. It is a fact perhaps not so well known as it ought to be that a good many families, as well as young gentlemen in Edinburgh, Glasgow and other large centres of population would make Crieff their summer quarters, were a golf course formed in the neighbourhood. Of late several gentlemen in the town have been interesting themselves in the matter, and it is hoped that ere long a meeting will be held to consider what steps shall be taken to further the movement, and if possible, bring it to a successful issue. It may be added that there are several places in the vicinity of the town, if they could be had, which are well adapted as courses.”

1890
An idea blossoms

On the 27th of May 1890 a meeting of local gentlemen was called by Lewis Miller of Benachie. This meeting, held in the town hall, attracted a numerous and influential attendance. A committee was set up, and it was decided to engage a professional golf player to advise on a suitable site for a course and make up an estimate of expenses connected with its formation.

1891
Old Tom Morris

``Old Tom`` Morris the professional from St Andrews was asked to come and inspect various fields around the town. He considered that East Ledbowie Park adjoining the classic grounds of Ochtertyre was the best site and Sir Patrick Keith Murray, Bart., agreed to make the ground available to the club. Tom Morris laid out a 9-hole course making the best possible use of the existing trees and other features. It was opened by the Earl of Winchelsea, a house guest of Colonel Rice, on 11th July 1891. He drove off the first ball before an exhibition match took place between Tom Morris and D. Leitch of St Andrews. Morris completed the course in 43 shots to Leitch's 49.

1891
The first competition

The first competition for members took place on 22nd August, 1891. The putting greens were in ``splendid order`` and the driving ``excellent.`` A brassie and a driver were the main prizes competed for by 12 members of the club. D.T. Clement won the brassie with a score of 116-30=86, and George Veitch won the driver with 113-24=89. The lowest scratch score was 96. 2,385 yards on lush turf was a long way with a gutty ball and it was very much a driver's course.

1892
The first AGM

The report of the first Annual General Meeting in 1892 shows that all was not well at Ledbowie. The secretary recommended that the annual subscription be reduced from £1-1/- to 15/-. A club had been formed at Dornock where subscriptions were 7/6 for men and 2/6 for women. The chairman said that if the committee had done their duty regarding ladies playing on their course there would have been no bother at all. There are no records of ladies playing at Ledbowie and this suggests they were not made welcome there.

1893
'A capital test'

The luxuriant growth of grass on the course at Ledbowie made play very difficult and unsatisfactory and the distance from the town was proving a problem. It was therefore resolved to abandon the course and steps were taken to secure ground for a new one. Fields were obtained from Mr Rait the tenant of Culcrieff Farm and a course of 9-holes was laid out. The total length was 1,938 yards, and it was opened on the 1st of April 1893. It was described as 'a capital test of golf'. The course included a large amount of slopey lies and put a significant emphasis on a player’s short game. The elevated nature of the course also offered stunning views over Strathearn and the Grampians.

1913
Ferntower House

After work on the town’s waterworks started to impact the Culcrieff course, the decision was made by the club to find a new location. Work began on a new 18-hole course to the east of the town on the Ferntower grounds, our current location. Remains of the old Ferntower House can still be seen by the eagle-eyed through the trees to the right of our 14th tee.

1914
New layout opened

The new course was laid out by Robert Simpson of Carnoustie and opened in 1914.

1924
James Braid

The highly renowned James Braid was invited to make subsequent updates to the layout of the Ferntower course in the mid-twenties.

1980
John Stark

Significant changes, including the creation of new holes were made to the Ferntower by John Stark. These changes created space to accommodate the brand new 9 hole Dornock course.