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Forres Golf Club, Moray. (1889 - 1904)

Following is a report from the Aberdeen Journal Thursday 13 June 1889 regarding the opening of the new golf course near Forres:-

“Yesterday afternoon a fine new golf course was opened on the Kinloss Links through the efforts of a number of prominent gentlemen in Forres and district, who formed themselves into a golf club, with Mr Finlay MP as their president. The course is admitted to be an excellent one, and when it is finished it will be one of the best in the north. It lies between the Kinloss Church and Findhorn, and has been granted by Mr John Mackessackof Kinloss at a nominal rent. It is only about a fortnight since the course was started. It extends to nine-holes and measures in length about two and a half miles. The ground has been laid out under the direction of Mr A C Brown of Musselburgh, the Nairn golf professional. The club have in view the possibility of extending the course to eighteen-holes later on in the season, when the total length will be over six miles. The following are the names of the holes in rotation; Seapark, Kinloss, Trafalgar, Sea, Langoot, Whin, Burs, School and Church. Mr Leask, solicitor, Forres, the honorary secretary of the club assisted by Mr Grant of Kincorth carried out the arrangements to the entire satisfaction of the club. The course was formally opened yesterday afternoon by Mr Finlay MP in the precense of a large gathering which included; Provost Burn, Forres; Colonel Mackenzie, Forres; Mr & Mrs Mackessack, Kinloss; R W Grant, Forres House; Mr Sutherland, Anderson’s Institution, Forres and many others. Mr Finlay asked Mr Burn, captain of the club, to strike off the first ball, which he did amidst cheers. Mr Finlay then declared the course open. Mr Brown, Nairn, the golf professional, presented Provost Burn with a club and ball in honour of the act.”

The following is attributed to Mr John Leask, Hon. Secretary of the club in 1889. It’s an extract taken from the Golfing Annual from the mid 1890s. It gives an in depth history of the early Forres course.  “To all appearance, golf had fallen into disuse in Forres for a long period prior to 1887, in which year a party of four, including myself, began to play the game on a temporary course laid out by ourselves at Kinloss. The game beacme daily became more and more popular all over the country, and it was then thought advisable to have a club in Forres. A public meeting was called for the purpose in 1889, and the result was beyond all expectation. A large number of members enrolled, and a decided impetus was given to the movement by an eloquent speech by Mr R B Finlay, Q.C., who has done so much to popularise golf in the north. In a short time the membership reached 40, and a nine-hole course was laid out on part of the ground formerly used by the four players referred to. The course – then as now – commenced close to the church of Kinloss, three miles from Forres, and extended in a north-westerly direction along the Findhorn Bay, and back.

When the club had been started for a year, and the membership had continued to increase, it was felt that the course should be extended in the direction of the village of Findhorn, so as to complete the eighteen holes. Andrew Kirkaldy, having been bought down from St Andrews at the time to coach young players, gave invaluable assistance in this matter, and very soon the eighteen-hole course was completed. Improvements in the way of draining, turfing, and doing away with bad lies where golfers might reasonably expect good ones, were put in hand, and have since been continued with much spirit. The requirements of the club have been steadily increasing, containing, as it now does, upwards of 100 members. A commodious clubhouse was erected about two years ago.”

John Leask then goes on to gives a really interesting hole by hole description of the course. It’s not very often you come across such articles and it’s a must to record.

“From the first tee near the clubhouse, players drive off in a westerly direction in a straight line for the sea. There are no hazards beyond whins and long grass to the right, and a good player may lie dead on the green in two. The green called “Seapark,” from its proximity to that property, is, like most of the greens, of fine sea turf, and is sometimes as keen as a billiard table.

 The next drive is in a north-westerly direction. The hole is a short one, and the green as a slight slop, adding variety to the play. It is called “Grange,” from the name of the farm on the opposite side of the bay.

The next hole is a long one, nearly 400 yards. The green itself, a perfect beauty, it’s on a headland, and the hole has to be carefully approached, otherwise the unwary player may find his ball lying on the sand of the bay. A short distance off there is a small island, which has given rise to the name “Island Hole.” A magnificent view is got from this green of the little fishing of Finhorn to the north, the Culbin sands and the Ross-shire and Sutherlandshire mountains to the west, and the Cawdor and the Grampian-Hills to the south.

At the next tee, a ditch has to be driven over, and if the tide is far back, and the sands dry, players sometimes shorten the distance by playing over the bay to the next hole, instead of going round it. Owing to the green being at high tide partly surrounded by the sea, it is called the “Sea Hole.”

In driving to the next hole (“Point”), another ditch has to be crossed close beside the sea. The hole is protected by a bad bunker of bent to the right and by a large artificial bunker and a ridge of sand to the left. It lies in a slight hollow, and has a large, keen green.

In advancing to the next hole, called the (“Bay Hole,”) one notices that the sea has encroached on the land, and the ball must therefore must be driven close alongside of it. A straight long drive will land on the ball on the green, but, if pulled, it will lie on the sand of the bay, not a difficult hazard. The hole is one of the shortest on the course, and has a large natural green.

By this time we are coming to a point opposite Binsness, on the opposite side of the bay, the finely wooded property of Major Chadwick, hence the hole is called (“Binsness,”) also a short one, is protected by an artificial bunker.

The next hole is called “Culbin,” on account of the magnificent view obtained from it of the Culbin Sands on the opposite side of the bay. The player, in driving to this hole, plays on to the green itself, a good large one, with a sand bunker to the left and short of the hole.

The next (ninth) hole is called “Findhorn,” from its proximity from the village bearing that name. By recent extension, this hole has been made one of the longest course, being nearly 400 yards. Driving over a small ditch – taking care to keep to the right to avoid a sand bunker – a strong player may get within a brassy shot of the hole. It has, however, to be negotiated across a marsh ditch and hillocks of bent. The green itself is a new one, and promises to be a valuable improvement.

The next hole called (“Bridge,”) is at once the shortest and most sporting one on the course, also a recent extension. The public road from Forres to Findhorn here passés over the disused Findhorn Railway by a bridge curving to the north. The new green is to the left of the road, high up on the hill. A good cleek or iron should land the ball on the green over the old railway and intervening gorse and grass. The green is large, composed of natural turf, and well rolled, and if the player is fortunate he may hole out in two or three. Even when he gets to the top of the hill, however, there is a risk of him overshooting the green, and finding himself on the road, or, worse still, on the low-lying field to the east of it.

The next tee is at the side of the hill, close to the last green. This hole is now the longest on the course, being 400 yards, and players may either elect to drive straight across the bridge and down the road (see plan), or may play round the bridge, therby considerably lengthening the distance. Good players will probably adopt the former alternative with all its risks, but the “duffers” may deem it safer to adopt the other. Half-way to the hole the ditch has to be crossed, and the hole, called (“Return,”) is also protected by an artificial bunker. If the ball is pulled, or caught by the prevailing westerly wind and driven east of the hole, the player may find himself in a serious hazard of whins and rushes.

The next is the (“Road Hole,”) from its proximity to the Findhorn Road. To tee the ball the player has to ascend the whinny bank, and again has to be aware of pulling into the whins lining the course on the east side. The green itself is protected by another artificial bunker, but when once approached, players are rewarded by the extent and keenness of the turf.

The next hole is almost opposite Doune Park Farm, hence the name (“Doune Hole.”) Driving off the bank again, the previous mark applies as to avoiding the left, and another artificial bunker protects the green.

The next, a long hole, is called (“Langcot,”) from the property on which half the course lies. Driving off the bank once more, and clearing an artificial bunker, the way is clear for the hole, and a good player may find himself on the green in three, but if he over-drives his approach shot he will find himself in bent.

The next is the (“Bent Hole,”) from its being half surrounded by bent, the approach being to the right. It is an excellent large green of beautiful sea turf.

From the proximity of whins all along the left the next is called the )”Whin Hole.” It lies in a natural cup, and is usually very keen and playable. If over-approached, the ball is almost certain to land in a ditch on the other side. There is a small tool shed nearby, affording a landmark to players.

The next hole (“The School”) is almost opposite Kinloss School-house. It is easy of approach, but there is a benty hillock to the left and rushes to the right protecting it. The green is fairly good.

We come now to the eighteenth and last hole, called (“Kinloss.”) A long drive should carry the ball between two small benty hillocks, full of rabbit holes and bad lies, and should secure a good lie beyond. With brassy and iron shots the player should land on the green, but if the approach is too strong, he will find himself in broken ground.”

The annual meeting was held on Wednesday 25 February 1891, Mr Sutherland was in the chair. The following office bearers were elected; President, R B Finlay, Q.C., M.P; vice-president, Captain Macleod, Delvey; captain, ex-provost Brown; vice-captain, John Sutherland; secretary and treasurer, John Leask, solicitor; committee – Alexander Fraser, Hugh Mackintosh, Dr Leslie Milne, Dr Milligan, Wm Macdonald and Colin Steele. It was announced that Captain Macleod had presented a claret cup for competition. 

Result of the first club match played by the Forres Golf Club in June 1891.


Forres Golf Club, Morayshire. Result of the first club match played in June 1891.

Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser Friday 26 June 1891. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


New course record in July 1891.


Forres Golf Club, Morayshire. New course record in July 1891.



Competition results from November 1891.


Forres Golf Club, Morayshire. Competition results from November 1891.

"Field" Friday 13 November 1891. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The annual meeting was held on Thursday 27 February 1896, D K Stewart presided. The report, given by the secretary, stated that there was a membership of 118. Subscriptions amounted to £73/11s/6d, the largest in the history of the club. The “house” had been enlarged and repainted. Improvements had also been carried out on the greens and were at present in first class condition. The following were elected; President, Sir Robert Finlay; vice-presidents, Major Macleod of Delvey and John Burn, Victoria Park; captain, William Archibald; vice-captain, Alexander Fraser; secretary and treasurer, Hugh Macintosh; committee – Dr Milligan, Dr Adam, Rev J McEwan, John Sutherland, John Stewart and R S Stephen.  

To open the season in April 1900 a match was played with teams selected by vice-captain (Mr Thomas Stuart) and the secretary (Mr G S Taylor). 

Vice-Captain   Secretary  
Dr Adams 0 W C Niven 9
John Forrest 0 A Fraser 3
D K Stewart 4 W Stewart 0
John Stewart 1 J Sutherland 0
R B Stephen 1 E W Douglas 0
W M Hamilton 0 W G Ross 10
D C Brown 0 A McDonald 4
David Strachan 0 J F Cramond 1
L J Hamilton 0 R Mackenzie 0
T Stuart 0 G Taylor 6
  6   33

It was announced in August 1904 that the club were abandoning their course at Kinloss to move to the Muiryshade course.  


Forres Golf Club, Moray. Course plan 1894.

Plan of the course in 1894


Forres Golf Club, Moray. Names and yardages of holes.

Names and yardages of holes 1894.


Forres Golf Club, Moray. Course location on 1906 O.S map.

The course is marked on the links in the centre of the above map. Reproduced from the {1906} Ordnance Survey Map.


I would like to thank Mrs I Kenward for the following information in 2004: “I decided to drop you a line to mention two courses in the north of Scotland that I know a little about...Findhorn is a small village on the coast, used to be a fishing village and there was a golf course to the east of the village, between the two wars. My grandfather was a fisherman but also did odd jobs and I think one of them was some work on the golf course. The second was at Kinloss, just two miles away, and I think lasted even less time as it was on the edge of the bay and had problems with water logging. In the last 10 or 15 years a new one has been started on the east side of Kinloss”

Forres Golf Club moved to their course at the Cluny Hill Hydro in 1904.

Below is a picture of the opening of the Muiryshade course with an exhibition match featuring; J Braid, J Dalgleish, H Vardon and J White.  


Forres Golf Club, Moray. Opening of the new course at Muiryshade in September 1904

From the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News on Saturday 17 September 1904. Image © Illustrated London News Group.


The Google Map below pinpoints the location of the former Kinloss course.


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