Crail Golfing Society, Fife.
Thanks to Harry Smith for the following contribution. “I'm a past captain of the above Fife golf club. Founded in 1786 we are the 7th oldest in the world. Initially we played on Sauchope Links on the edge of the village. In the mid 19th century we started to also play at Balcomie 2 miles away which by 1898 had been extended to 18 holes. The society played on both courses up to WW2 but the 9 hole Sauchope course didn't reopen after the war as it was deemed too short for the modern game. Sauchope Links is now a caravan site and older members who played there say that there is no indication it was a ever golf course for over 150 years. In 1998 we opened another 18 hole course, Craighead Links, immediately adjacent to Balcomie”
A meeting of the Crail Golf Club was held on Wednesday 1st March 1899 to consider a proposal of extending the Balcomie course at Craighead Farm from 9 to 18 holes. A plan was shown of the proposed extension “the ground to be used lying between the present teeing ground and Fife Ness”. The additional rent was to be approximately £335, this was to be offset against an increase in membership fees. It was stated that the new part of the course would take little or no expense beyond the laying of the greens, the only work would be the burning of whins and the clearing of quarry rubble. Before coming to any definite decision the club was to seek professional help from Mr Scott of Elie who would provide an estimate of the cost. A committee of five were to meet with Mr Scott and to report at a future meeting. Provost Sim presided at the meeting. It was reported at the time that there was “a poor attendance and very little interest manifested in the proceedings”.
A report from the Evening Post Tuesday 11th August 1903 records the demise of the old links and gives an interesting report on the early development of the Balcomie course “Sauchie links have served their day and generation, and now they are played over only by those whose interest in golf is nominal, or those who lack the physical endurance required in going over the Balcomie links. Golf was played 200 years ago on the Sauchie Links but it was not until 1786 that the Crail Golfing Society was instituted. The records of the club are still extant, and they form an admirable history. The Society had for its first secretary a Mr Stuart Grace, who was at the same time secretary to the Royal and Ancient Club. The modern boom in golf was responsible for the development of golfing facilities at Crail. Sauchie became too small for the increasing number of visiting devotees, and in 1896 nine holes were opened on the Balcomie Links, a mile and a half north of the town. The narrowness of the links for golfing under the modern conditions attachable to the game is regrettable, but those who have the best interests of the Royal and Ancient burgh at heart are strenuously working for improvement. Narrow to an inconvenient degree, there is need for care playing over the northern links, and it is gratifying that efforts are being made to secure a widening of that portion of the course. In less pushful seasons Balcomie provides a grand test of stamina, skill and temper – a combination of qualities essential to the record breaker. The course is plentifully supplied with natural hazards, great lofting strokes having to be frequently played, while the configuration of the ground is a constant point of interest or anxiety for the stranger. Good lies are almost certain to be had on the whole round, the putting greens are excellent, and everything is as it should be for the near proximity of the sea. With a strong wind off the land it is a hard task to avoid getting on the beach.
The opening of Balcomie only served to show that the golfing requirements of the town had not yet been satisfied, and, after a few years, it was found needful to add another nine holes. Through the kindness of Mr C J B Monypenny, of Balcomie and Pitmilly, ground to the south was added, and the relief became immediately apparent. Golfers have flocked into the town in increasing numbers.
The extension had a double advantage, inasmuch as the starting point is in the centre of the course, and a congested teeing-ground can be relieved by playing the last nine holes first. The first hole is played out by the left northwards to a good green, and a 4 is the value if one or two traps are safely crossed with the second stroke. A burn crosses the second hole, but steady play outwards to the fourth hole, where a turn is made, should see nothing worse than 4s on the card. At the Broad Sands, where the course is narrowest, care must be taken to hug the landward side to avoid getting on the beach. The return holes are sporting in the extreme. A pulled ball is liable to land on the beach, while two burns meandering through the course are sufficient to call for great care in approaching certain of the greens. The ninth hole is a fine test of long driving and or skilful pitching, the green being set above a frowning, rocky acclivity (upward slope), a long patch of sand at the foot of it holding a topped shot. The nine holes figure out at a par 36, the best done over them before the course was altered was 34 by A H Scott, Earlsferry. The tenth hole is an iron stroke directly eastwards towards the seato a green lying above the Cave of Constantine. A 3 is probably the value, but the hole is cheap at that. The eleventh and twelfth are played along the widest portion of the course, the beach may be touched in approaching the twelfth hole, but the penalty exacted is deserved here. The next three holes are placed on a high level. The thirteenth is a capital driving mashie stroke, with a steep hill face to stop a weak shot. The fourteenth and fifteenth are on parallel lines on the same hill and each may be captured at 3, but that would mean very superior play. The sixteenth hole is a long return to a green near the eleventh tee, with the quarry for an obstruction to the approach shot. Climbing the Craighead, and teeing up behind the clubhouse, a long shot over the hill brings the seventeenth green within a pitch over a large bunker, and the home hole is played in the same manner as the ninth. The par value is about 70. Crail course is a difficult one and although it is short it requires far more nerve and headwork than does a long course. On a fine day two score of bicycles may be seen waiting their golfing owners. The fees for play are 9d a day for unattached golfers, but reasonable terms are offered by the club to season visitors. A neat club-house is close to the starting point, and A H Scott of Earlsferry has a club making shop adjoining”
Grid reference for the Sauchope links, NO62405,07955, co-ordinates, 362405,707955.
More information on the history of the Crail Golfing Society can be found on the clubs website.