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Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene. (1883 - 1947)

The formation of the club took place in October 1883.

The original nine-hole course was laid out by Old Tom Morris.

It continued as Buckie Golf Club until the 1930s when it became Strathlene Buckie Golf Club, this later club and course is mainly situated on the north side of the Great Eastern Road. The original Buckie club and course was further south towards Portessie. Four of the holes of the current Strathlene course cover part of the original Old Tom layout. 

Result of a competition played in February 1884.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Result of a competition played in February 1884.

Banffshire Advertiser Thursday 21st February 1884. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

In April 1886 a match was played on the Loanhead Links against Inverness Golf Club. There were twelve players on each side and it resulted in a decisive victory for Buckie.

The annual competition for the scratch silver medal was played over the Loanhead Links on Wednesday 29th August 1888, result; Robert Annand, 86; J Cook, 89; J Simpson, 92; J Wood, 93; F Johnston, 95; W Fowler, 102; J McDonald, 106; D Marshall, 107; J Green, 109; W Smith, 118; J L McNaughton, 115. 

The following is from The Golfing Annual 1888/89:-

“Buckie Golf Club – Instituted 1883; Entrance Fee £1; Subscription five shillings; Membership of 65; Captain – John Webster; Vice-Captain – W F Johnston; Secretary – John L McNaughton, Solicitor, Buckie; Commmittee – J W Macgregor, John Simpson, William McHardy, Robert Annand, J R Mortimer, John Cook, John Macdonald, A J Marshall. Home Green, Strathleve Links at Portessie.

Club prizes – Club’s Silver Medal (scratch), played for in August; Gray Medal, January and July; Shearer Cup (handicap), April and October; Gordon Cup (handicap), August. Prize winners in 1888; Robert Annand, Club Medal, 86; John Cook, Shearer Cup, 88-4-84; W F Johnston, Gordon Cup, 82; John Simpson, Gray Medal, 82-2-80; F W Johnston, Gray Medal, 84. The lowest scratch score recorded in competition is 82 made by F W Johnston, October 24th 1888.

The links are situated close to Portessie station. The links consist of nine-holes making a round of something like one and a half miles. Their principal feature is the great variety of hazards – not so much from sand bunkers as from the physical peculiarities of the ground. The first tee shot, about twenty yards from the clubhouse, is played from an eminence of 60 feet above the level of the first hole, and between it and the hole there is a deep and most hazardous gully. Woe betide the luckless player who “tops” his ball here. It may cost him ten strokeswhen the hole should be taken in three or four. The second hole is commonplace, but at the third a hill must be surmounted, doing which requires a long shot well lofted, or otherwise the player is certain to come to grief. Almost every other hole has its own peculiar difficulties. In short, the links are capitally suited for good golfing, and for bringing into play every kind of shot known to the votaries of the game. The Club House is a spacious and tasteful building, lately erected from plans by Messrs. Bruce and Sutherland, Elgin. It has separate box accommodation for 60 members.” 

In July 1890 Buckie played a match at Cullen, the Buckie team winning by one hole. Dr J C G Duffus of Cullen and Mr Clark, Eden House, Banff, on behalf of Buckie, had still to play their match to decide who would take the county medal. The match took place at Cullen on the 22nd of July. The game was closely contested, and the play was said to be brilliant, the first round finished even and the second round was won by Mr P Clark by one stroke. The scores are as follows; Mr Clark, 49+49, 98; Dr Duffus, 49+50, 99.

The election of officers for the club took place in October 1890. President, Mr J P Gordon of Carnfield; vice-president, Mr James Wilson, Inchgower; captain, Mr W F Johnston; secretary and treasurer, Mr John L McNaughton; members of the council, John Simpson, John Webster, W McHardy, John Macdonald and R Y Mackay.

In December 1890 a competition was held when a new 18-HOLE course was inaugurated (this must be two 9 hole rounds) A silver medal was presented to the winner. Scores; W R Johnston (2off) 81; Robert Annand (6off) 83; Robert Duguid jnr (12off) 84; John Simpson (scratch) and John L McNaughton (12off) tied on 91. There were 10 entrants.

Result of a match against Fochabers Golf Club (now defunct) played in May 1896.

Buckie Golf Club   Fochabers Golf Club  
W F Johnston 6 A Guild 0
W J B Macdonald 1 A Cruickshank 0
T J Anderson 8 A Leighton 0
A Morrison 6 C R Webster 0
R Annand 2 P Nicol 0
J Keir 9 J H Bailey 0
Dr. Duguld, jun. 2 W Cuthbert 0
D Gow 0 J Lowe 4
J Macdonald 8 W Christie 0
C Davidson 4 A Mitchell 0
A Stephen 0 W C Ross 6
  46   10

The following hole by hole description for the Buckie course was taken from a press report in 1896 and is typical of the reporting of the time “The Strathome is the first hole – being situated top of the brae close by. The first drive frequently proves a disastrous one for strangers – such disasters are not restricted to strangers – owing to the nature of the ground, but a moderately straight shot, with a slight inclination seawards, lands one in good ground a little beyond the foot of the hill and clear of all obstructions, thence a couple fair intermediate shots will bring the player to the neighbourhood of the green. This hole is sometimes done in four, but five is good and six more frequent. Distance 378 yards.

Straight up the hill, at right angles to the teeing ground , with a good drive well in the air will bring the golfer within a half lofting shot of the green of the second – the “Cup” hole. Owing to the sloping configurations of the green it is well to use caution in approaching here – be rather short than full up. The average for this hole varies from 4 to 7 strokes, according, to a certain extent to luck. Distance 196 yards.

A fair drive from the top of the adjoining hill over the gully gives one a good lie for the short approach necessary for the “Pole” hole, which is an easy 4, and an occasional 3. Distance 166 yards.

There are several ways of playing the next- the “Roadside” hole. A long straight drive will carry one to or near the green, but most of the drives fall short of this, and “bad lies” are frequent, so much so that some players prefer a short drive and longer approach as being the most economical . The hole is a 3,4 or 5 for good play, according to circumstances. Distance 164 yards.

The fifth hole – the “Bridge” – is a fine golfing hole, and after a long drive a full brassie or cleak shot will take one within a short approach of the hole, which may be got with luck in 4, but more frequently in 5 or 6. The direct distance on the plan for this hole is 292 yards, but the judicious line of play takes a curve, to which the straight line is as the string to the bow, which adds fully 50 yards.

The sixth hole – “Vanity Fair” – is a sporting hole. From the top of the hill there is a sheer fall of 50 feet, and a fine ball can be driven from this teeing ground.  Assuming a good drive – Portessie House for line – the second shot may reach the green, but it will have to pass over a ditch of running water, upon which a penalty of one stroke is imposed. This hole is sometimes done in 4, but 5, 6 and 7 are the usual figures. Distance 320 yards.

The seventh hole – the “Brae” – as its name indicates, takes some pith to get the ball on the green. The play is straight up the hill, and the third shot ought to find the green, providing the “running dithes” at the bottom of the hill are successfully crossed, and the ball has got into no “cups” in the face of the hill. The ditches here add considerably to the stiffness of the hole, and the ball which goes intothem is difficult to find. From the face of the hill the green is easiest found by a high dropping approach – a half or three quarters shot, according to distance. The hole is got in 4 on rare occasions, 5 is good and 6 is not considered lost on it. Distance 326 yards.

The eighth hole – the “Cabin” – will permit a full drive if straight, but a heeled shot lands the gutta in the whins, whilst a drawn shot falls on the railway track. A medium shot from the tee pays best, as the course narrows somewhat at the end of a full drive. The hole is plain sailing if the course is kept, and is a common 4. Distance 198 yards.

The last hole – the “Home” – requires 4 generally to get home, provided the drive over a very dangerous piece of country is successful. Distance 172 yards.

It goes on to explain how the course is improving and the how club was hoping to attract more golfing visitors to play the Strathhlene course in the future.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. The layout of the nine-hole course in 1896..

Layout of the nine-hole course in 1896.

 

Result of competition for the Secretary's prize held in October 1899; J G Macpherson, 83-7-76; J Macdonald, 96-12-84; W Johnson, 99-12-87.

In 1900 the secretary was W MacDonald, Viewforth, Buckie. Amateur course record W F Johnstone 76.

Below is the result of a match played at Banff in June 1900.

Banff Golf Club   Buckie Golf Club  
C A Simpson 0 W F Johnston 5
Rev A Bisset 0 W Macdonald 5
R G Sheriffs 2 J Yuill 0
R W Williamson 0 J G Macpherson 5
A Walker 4 R Johnston 0
W Marshall 0 J Kerr 5
W Ledingham 0 W Johnston 2
Sargeant Major Cooper 0 G Donald 2
  6   24

The following is taken from the 1905 Nisbet's Golf Yearbook; Secretary - W Macdonald, Viewforth, Buckie; Captain - A Muir; Amateur course record W MacDonald 71; Nine-holes; Entrance fee 7/6 and subs 5/-; Membership of 60 (70 in 1906). Visitors’ fees were 1/- a day, 2/6 a week and 5/- a month; Station at Portessie one minute from the course. This is a pleasant course with natural greens. A considerable additional area of whins was cleared away last year. The course is exceedingly convenient of access. 

Below is the location of the course and pavilion in the early 1900s.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Location of the nine-course in the 1900s.

Ordnance Survey Map © Crown Copyright {1905}

 

Result of a match played at Cullen Golf Club in May 1907.

Cullen Golf Club   Buckie Golf Club  
J Yuill 0 W Macdonald 1
G Mustard 1 R Johnston 0
J Wood  0 W F Johnston 1
G Donald 1 J Johnston 0
J S Ewen 0 W Johnston 1
J Addison 0 J Keir 1
W Beaton 0 E Simpson 1
J A Mowat 1 J Taylor 0
W McLean 1 D Anderson 0
G Donaldson (halved) 0 A Smith (halved) 0
J Dunbar 1 J Christian 0
J Harthill 1 R McEwan 0
  6   5

In 1907/8 the secretary was John Grant, Caledonian Bank, Buckie. Membership was now 100, Sunday play was not allowed.

Dr. Douglas Lockhart provided the picture below and makes the following remarks – “At the top of the bank on the east (left) side of the postcard you should be able to make out the rectangular shape of Portessie station. The golf clubhouse is the middle one of the three buildings on top of the bank. The larger goods shed is slightly further away and may appear smaller because it’s also fractionally over the horizon. You can just about make out the lower land, now the caravan site, that was part of the Old Tom Morris designed 9-hole course on the extreme left of the card.”

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Portessie Christmas Wishes postcard dated 1907.

Portessie Christmas Wishes card postmarked 1907.

 

Report on the annual meeting in November 1911.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Report on the annual meeting in November 1911.

Banffshire Advertiser Thursday 16th November 1911. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

From 1911 to 1913 the secretary was Thomas M Jack, 34 East Church Street. Membership was 90 and visitors’ fees had reduced to 6d aday and 2/6 a year. No Sunday play.

The winner of the Bryson Gold Medal played in November 1914 was W Johnston, with a score of 172 for the two rounds.

Thanks to Dr. Douglas Lockhart for providing the image below.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. The clubhouse in the early 1920s.

The Buckie Golf Club clubhouse above the bank close to Portessie GNSR station in the early 1920s - Strathlene House can be seen in the distance.

 

The annual meeting was held in the Masonic Institute in February 1920 John Taylor, captain, presided. R M Simpson, gas manager, was appointed secretary and treasurer.

The annual meeting was held in the Masonic Institute in January 1921 John Taylor, captain, presided. Office bearers for the year were re-appointed.

The final round for the Bryson Medal was played in June 1922; W R McIntosh, 169-20-149; James Smith, 170-20-150.

Report on lack of funds in April 1928.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Report on lack of funds in April 1928.

Aberdeen Press and Journal Tuesday 28th April 1928. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

 

Entry from the 1933 Golfer's Handbook; Secretary - J Jappy, Cluny House, Buckie. Membership of 130. Amateur course record R Johnston, 69. Visitors' 1/- a round, 1/6d a day, 5/- a month. There is no mention of Strathlene Golf Club in 1933. 

The annual meeting of the Buckie Golf Club was held in the Fisherman's Hall, Portessie, in February 1933, Mr A Gavin presided. The annual accounts showed a satisfactory credit balance. The following office bearers were elected; Captain, A Gavin; vice-captain, A S Farquhar; secretary and treasurer, John Jappy. 

A Gavin presided at the annual meeting held in the Public Hall in March 1934; Office bearers; Captain, A Gavin; vice-captain, M Grieve; secretary and treasurer, J Jappy. 

The annual meeting of the Buckie Golf Club was held in Strathlene House in March 1936, W James Geddes presided. The following office bearers were appointed; President, Dr. Paterson; vice-presidents - John Sutherland and J F Sandison; captain, W J Geddes; vice-captain, R Johnston; hon. secretary, John Jappy. 

In the 1947 Golfer's Handbook it was still listed as Buckie Golf Club the secretary was J Jappy, Cluny House, Buckie. A nine-hole course, membership was 130. The amateur course record was held by R Johnston 69. Visitors’ fees 1/- a round. The station at Portessie was 100 yards away (same entry as 1933.) The original Buckie course had actually gone by this time. Interesting that there is still no mention of the Strathlene Buckie Golf Club in 1947.

The Strathlene Golf Club is listed in the 1951 Golfer's Handbook. 

Dr. Douglas Lockhart has written the following comprehensive history of golf in Buckie/Strathlene. We would like to thank Douglas for allowing us to use the article.

The earliest golfing in the Buckie area is believed to have occurred on the Ianstown [Eonistown] Bents close to the mouth of the Rathven Burn in 1877.  This area is shown as undeveloped on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 25 inch to the mile plan (Banffshire sheet II.6) which was surveyed in 1871.  The Seafield Estate however began to develop the area for housing, known as the village of Ianstown.  Soon afterwards the Buckie Golf Club moved to a site less than one mile to the east close to Portessie Railway Station the terminal of the Highland Railway branch from Keith which opened on 1 August 1884.  Two years later the Great North of Scotland Railway’s coast line from Aberdeen via Buckie to Elgin was fully opened, resulting in Portessie becoming a junction of the two lines. A golf pavilion was built near the Goods Depot.  The layout of the two lines can be seen in the second edition of the Ordnance Survey 25” plan (also Banffshire sheet II.6) surveyed in 1902. Golfing now took place on land between the railway and the Portessie-Findochty road. The site consisted of fairly level land with a gradual slope north-east towards the road that was above a steep bank and a smaller flat area below the brae closer to the sea.  The brae provided an interesting hazard. The course was re-designed by Old Tom Morris who visited on 9 March 1892. A plan and description of the revised 9-hole course can be seen in the Banffshire Advertiser on 23 July 1896 and in a book Illustrated Tourists and Visitors Guide to Buckie and District. Golfers from time to time had to contend with an unusual hazard, fishing nets spread out to dry on the course.

The golf course land had been part of the Seafield Estate but was gifted by the Countess of Seafield to the factor (land steward), William Gillespie Bryson in June 1887. Bryson extended Strathlene House and built a coachman’s lodge at the entrance to the driveway the following year.  He died in 1906 and the house and estate passed to his niece, Frances Wheen Kynoch who was also living there at the time of the 1901 Census.  She sold the property in 1931 to Buckie Town Council.  The fishing industry at the time was in recession and the Council had hopes that Strathlene could be developed as a holiday destination for visitors and local people. The house was converted into a boarding house, a putting green was laid out on the lawn and an open air swimming pool was opened nearby in 1932.  Extending the golf course to 18 holes was also a priority. In 1921 Miss Kynoch had refused plans for a municipal 18-hole course, saying that she would, however, consider a plan put forward by the club which unfortunately lacked the resources to do so. George Edward Smith (1880-1958), professional at the Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth was employed to plan a new layout which involved using the gorse-strewn links along the north side of the Portessie-Findochty road. The chosen site was from a point close to Strathlene House almost as far as the Findochty War Memorial that overlooked the harbour of the neighbouring village. During construction of the course, a human skeleton was discovered when workmen were removing part of the Law Hillock or Gallows Hill which was a short distance from Findochty Castle built at the time of Mary Queen of Scots.

Golf at Strathlene today comprises 14 holes north of the Portessie-Findochty road and a closing loop of 4 holes on the south side of the road on ground above the brae as far as the site of the former signal box on the now closed Coast Railway. The final four holes are on ground that formed part of the Old Tom Morris designed course though the layout of the holes now only contain elements of that course such as the sites of the 15th tee and the 18th green. The 16th is still called Cabin, like the 8th of the old 9-hole course, probably a reference to the signal box or cabin that was once a landmark.

The clubhouses have an interesting history. The first mention occurs in the Valuation Roll in 1888-89 and was initially called a golf house. It was owned by W.G. Bryson until 1897-98 after which it is listed as ‘clubhouse near Portessie Station’ and owned by Buckie Golf Club. This building was in use by the golf club until about 1934 when it was let to the Banffshire West Coast District Boys Scout Association. Their last year of occupation was 1941-42 after which it was recorded as ruinous. The choice of its replacement was the source of much debate and even ridicule, namely the former Buckie Highland Railway station building.  The Highland Railway’s Portessie-Keith branch was very unsuccessful and the rails were lifted in 1915. Although replaced after the end of the First World War the line never carried passengers again. In Buckie, the Highland Railway had a separate single platform station (see Ordnance Survey 25” plan Banffshire sheet II.9 second edition). A rare photograph of the station building can be seen in D. Ross, The Highland Railway (Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 2010) p.69. By 1939 the station building consisting of a booking office and waiting room was surplus to railway requirements and the Council decided to advertise for tenders to dismantle it and re-erect it at Strathlene on top of the brae above Strathlene House. The site today is the golf club car park. The ‘new’ clubhouse opened in December 1939. It would serve the club for more than 30 years until the present clubhouse was built in two stages: first a single-storey building opened in December 1972, and following a boom in club membership it was extended to two stories, featuring a large upstairs lounge with fine views of Portessie and the Moray Firth. It was officially opened in September 1976. The lounge contains a plaque commemorating this event and visitors can also view framed photographs of the earlier clubhouses.

Douglas G. Lockhart, 6 November 2019

Thanks to Dr. Douglas Lockhart for the pictures below of holes 15 to 18 of the current Strathlene course. These holes roughly cover the area of holes 2 to 5 of the old nine-hole Tom Morris designed course.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie/Strathlene Course, Moray. Pictures showing the current Strathlene course.

The current Strathlene course the 15th tee/18th green.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie/Strathlene Course, Moray. Pictures showing the current Strathlene course.

The 16th hole “Cabin” from Ladies tee – old railway track can be seen in the distance.The eighth hole of the Old Tom Morris course was also called “Cabin.”

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie/Strathlene Course, Moray. Pictures showing the current Strathlene course.

15th green looking back towards clubhouse (white building); driving range/golf training facility to right; Strathlene House now flats to left of the clubhouse on the lower ground below the brae. Gorse on extreme left is the top of the slope that goes down to the caravan site on the lower ground. Both the 17th green and the 18th green are visible.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie/Strathlene Course, Moray. Pictures showing the current Strathlene course.

18th hole – white van is on the Portessie-Findochty road – small amount of grass showing to right of van is the rest of Strathlene GC played north of the road (holes 1-14). The land behind the white car in the car park is the location of the second clubhouse. The present third clubhouse opened in 1972 and was extended in 1976.

 

Thanks again to Dr. Douglas Lockhart for providing the pictures below. The caravan/camping site is on land that formed part of the original Old Tom Morris designed course.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Picture showing the camping site part of the Old Tom Morris course.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Portessie Course, Strathlene, Moray. Picture showing the camping site part of the Old Tom Morris course.

Above images courtesy of Dr. Douglas Lockhart.

 

Buckie Golf Club, Moray. Location of the original course.

Location of the original Buckie course (the current club is to the north)

Grid reference NJ44920 66870, co-ordinates 344920 866870.