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Askernish Golf Club, South Uist. 

The original course was laid out by Old Tom Morris. In 1891 Old Tom and Horace Hutchinson were invited by the landowners, Sir Reginald and Lady Cathcart, to inspect the area and find the most suitable spot for a golf course. Old Tom decided on land at Askernish Farm near to the Lochboisdale Hotel, and the original eighteen-hole course was laid out. It’s possible that the landowner originally planned to use the course for guests and friends. Lady Cathcart eventually allowed the public to form a club and play on the course. Legend has it that there was a picture in the clubhouse of Old Tom playing on the Askernish course (where is it now?). To date no plans of the original course layout have been found.

Following is an extract from a report from the Inverness Courier dated Friday 7th August 1891; “Within the last few days a new course has been laid out, which, but for its remoteness, would undoubtedly take rank as one of the most popular. The veteran Tom Morris of St Andrews last week visited South Uist at the request of Sir Reginald and Lady Cathcart and laid out a course which he pronounces second to none in the various elements which go to make a really good course. On a stretch of beautiful links ten miles in length it was difficult to select the best site for a course, as half dozen courses, each having special points of interest, could have been marked off on the available ground, After a survey, a part of the farm at Askernish was selected, principally on account of its proximity to the excellent hotel Lochboisdale, which at this season is usually crowded with anglers. Here a full circular course of 18 holes was laid out and is now open to golfers who find the mainland too crowded. Here the mind of the golfer (if any golfer ever allows his mind to be diverted from the game) is touched with the romantic association of the place. For almost within a long drive from the tee is the spot were Flora Macdonald was born”.

The course was opened on Saturday 29th August 1891 with a foursome match between Mr Paterson of Askernish (managing agent for Lady Cathcart) who was partnered by William McLean of Milton against Kenneth Macleod and David McJerrow of the Lochboisdale Hotel. The game was halved with both pairs winning eight holes with two holes halved. It was stated that the course was situated “between the farms of Askernish and Milton”

A club was formed in April 1895. The captain was Donald Paterson and the secretary was Mr W A Morison.

Below is the result of the first match played on the Long Island between South Uist and North Uist Golf Clubs. It was played in splendid weather at Askernish in June 1895. 

South Uist   North Uist  
R MacLean 2 Sheriff Webster 0
Mr Chisholm 4 A MacElfrish 0
D Paterson 0 Digby Jones 9
D Guthrie 0 Mr Jones jun 4
J Macdonald 0 P Finn 8
Rev J Mackintosh 0 Mr Webster jun 6
A Robb 6 Mr Cruckshanks 0
W A Morison 0 J M Fraser 1
  12   28

A large crowd gathered for the opening of the new clubhouse in August 1896. The club captain, Mr Donald Paterson, officiated at the opening. After the captain’s speech, the Rev Mr Macintosh, vice-captain, presented a silver-plated cleek to Mrs Paterson bearing the inscription “Presented to Mrs Paterson on the opening day of South Uist Golf Clubhouse by the members. August 1896”           

The club fell into decline following WW1 and the land once occupied by the course was used for crofting. There was a revival of interest in the late 1930s when the Scottish and Northern Airways started a regular air service from Renfrew to Askernish. An easily maintained 12-hole course was laid out on a flat area near the airstrip. This course was short lived when the regular air service ceased in 1938. The main airport for the island was to be sited at Benbecula with the airstrip at Askernish being kept open for the emergency services.

In the early 1950s it was listed as a nine-hole par 82 course at Lochboisdale. The secretary was Rev. Father A Mackellaig, Chapel House, Bornish. The green-keeper was A Macdonald. There were fifty members. The amateur course record was held by I Macdonald with a score of 78. Visitors’ fees were; 2/6 a day, 7/6 a week, 10/- a fortnight and £1 a month. The steamer service ran from Oban to Lochboisdale, five miles from the course.

The nine-hole course went through various changes in the next thirty years. There was a renewed interest in golf when the army constructed a rocket range in the north of the island in the late 1950s. Many site workers and army personnel were keen golfers and the golf course became popular once again. A revised nine-hole course, with eighteen tees, was laid out and a potacabin was used as a clubhouse. In the early 1980s the army left the island and the course fell into decline.

During the 1990s the club had its highs and lows. It was maintained by enthusiastic locals who kept the course in order, there were also plans for a new clubhouse unfortunately finances could not be raised. At its lowest point the club almost folded.

 

Askernish Golf Club course layout in the 1990s.

The course layout in the 1990s with nine greens and eighteen tees.

 

In 2005 work began on the new re-constructed course with Gordon Irvine at the head of an enthusiastic team. The course was based on Old Tom’s “design principals”.

The Google Map below pinpoints the location of the tractor shed on the former nine hole course. (Thanks to David Currie for the info.)