Dornoch Ladies' Golf Course, Highland. (1877 - WW2)

Interesting to note that in both The Golfing Annual of 1888/89 and the Nisbet's Golf Yearbook 1905 it is listed as Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club.

The Dornoch Golf Club's own history refers only to a 12-hole course for the ladies', this course opened in 1899, it was extended to 18-holes in 1904 and returned to nature during WW1. An entirely new 18-hole course opened in 1923, this course was lost under a Ministry of War airstrip which was constructed in WW2.

The following is taken from the Golfing Annual 1888/89; Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club - A ladies' course of nine-holes has been laid out, and competitions have been held during the past year, the most notable one being on, Saturday 10th November last, when a gold bracelet and a gold horse-shoe brooch, both the gifts of Mr Alexander Mackay, of Singapore, who is a native of Dornoch, were played for. The competition was a scratch one, and two rounds of the links were played. Miss Gillespie easily gained the first prize with a score of 88 (44 and 44), while Miss Maggie Bridgeford secured the brooch with a score of 98. Particulars of Office Bearers are not yet forthcoming.

Result of the annual ladies’ golf tournament held on Tuesday 30 August 1898, there were 32 entrants. The prize winners as follows; Scratch silver medal and a box of balls, Miss Lily Morrison, Dornoch, 69; set of clubs for runner-up, Misses Gillespie, Edinburgh and Syme, St Andrews tied with 77; Handicap prize winners Miss Maud Rintoul, Bothwell (silver brooch). Mrs Hedderwick presented the prizes.    

Following are a couple of reports from the Dundee Courier covering the opening of the Dornoch ladies’ course in 1899.

From the Dundee Courier dated Friday 4 August 1899. “Yesterday a new course for the lady members of the Dornoch Golf Club was opened by Mr W R Hacon of Oversteps, captain of the club, in presence of a large number of members, visitors and others. The new course lies immediately on the inside of the wall bounding the gentlemen’s course, and consists at present of nine holes. The old course, though a very good one, had to be given up on account of it being to close to the long course and consequently dangerous”. It is interesting to note that the report states that the course was originally of nine holes, there is no mention of a 9-hole course in the club’s history book.


Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club, Highland. Opening of the New Golf Course.

Opening of Dornoch Ladies' "New" Course by Mrs Carnegie.


Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club. A colour tainted picture of Mrs Carnegie.

Interesting comparison. Thanks to Frank Accleton for this colour tainted version.


Another "new ladies' course" opens in August 1901.


Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club. Another new ladies' golf course opens in August 1901.

Aberdeen Press and Journal Wednesday 28 August 1901. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


On Friday 1 September 1899, following is a report on the Ladies’ Tournament at Dornoch. “The annual ladies’ tournament was commenced at Dornoch yesterday under favourable conditions. As usual, a large number of visitors entered the list. Play took place on the ladies’ new golf course, which though still somewhat rough, was in fairly good order. Two rounds of the green decided the scratch silver medal and other scratch and handicap prizes, and the leading 16 scorers qualified for a hole competition for prizes presented by Mrs Barrow of Northfield to be played today”. The entry was the largest yet seen the 42 players being sent off in the following order; Miss F A Peters, Dornoch, and Miss Aggie Gillespie, Dornoch; Miss E Murray, London, and Miss Edith Barrow, Tunbridge Wells; Mrs W G Croal, Haddington, and Miss Cecil Turnbull, Edinburgh; Mrs Don, Dundee, and Mrs Stuart, London; Miss Stains, and Miss Kate Gillespie, Dornoch; Miss Dorothy Hart, Glasgow, and Miss M Rose, London; Miss E Lindsay, Glasgow, and Miss C Hill Thomson, St Andrews; Miss Collard, Dornoch, and Mrs J Mackintosh, Edinburgh; Miss Nora Barrow, Tunbridge Wells, and Miss A Macdonald, Dornoch; Mrs Rose, London, and Mrs Hill Thomson, St Andrews; Mrs House, Malvern, and Miss Nita Barrow, Tunbridge Wells; Miss K A Aitken, St Andrews, and Mrs Weir, Dornoch; Miss Mary Hart, Glasgow, and Mrs H Peters, Dornoch; Mrs Honor Pitts, London, and Mrs Hart, Glasgow; Miss Lily Morrison, Dornoch, and Miss J M Syme, St Andrews; Miss G G Aitken, St Andrews, and Miss Probyn Williams, London; Miss K E Spiers, Dundee, and Miss G M Syme, St Andrews; Miss Anna Turnbull, Edinburgh, and Miss Dora Wemyss, Dundee; Miss Annie Stockman, Edinburgh, and Miss Stella Barrow, Dornoch; Miss Ella Turnbull, Edinburgh, and Mrs Hacon, Dornoch; Miss Jeanie Munro, Dornoch, and Mrs Dunlop, Rangoon.

When the first nine holes had been played the runner-up from last year, Miss Kate Gillespie, was leading by two strokes with 34, Miss Lily Morrison, the holder, was second, Miss Stains third with 37. Miss Morrison improved, however, in the second round, while Miss Gillespie lost four shots. Miss Stains improved by one shot only, so that Miss Morrison succeded in retaining the medal with 70, as against Miss Gillespie 72 and Miss Stains 73. There were three 74s made respectively Miss C Hill Thomson, Miss Mary Hart and Miss Ella Turnbull. The best scores under handicap were Miss Ella Turnbull, 74-12-62; Mrs Hill Thomson, 77-12-65; other scores that qualified for the match play round; Mrs Hart, 81-16-65; Miss Annie Macdonald, 76-9-67; Mrs W L Hacon, 81-14-67; Miss Mary Hart, 74-6-68; Miss K S Aitken, 82-14-68; Miss Hill Thomson, 74-5-69; Mrs House, 75-5-70; Mrs Stuart, 82-12-70; Miss Anna Turnbull, 82-12-70; Miss Lily Morrison, 70+3-73; Miss Kate Gillespie, 72+1-73; Miss Elsie Murray, 85-12-73; Mrs J G Croal, 79-5-74; Miss Aggie Gillespie, 82-8-74.

The meeting concluded on Saturday 2 September with the match play competition, results as follows; Class 1 First Round – Mrs J G Croal beat Mrs H H House, by 1 hole after a tie; Miss Kate Gillespie, beat Miss Annie Macdonald, 3&2; Miss Aggie Gillespie, beat Miss Mary Hart, 3&1; Miss C Hill Thomson, beat Miss Lily Morrison, 3&1; Second Round – Miss Kate Gillespie, beat Mrs J G Croal, 5&3; Miss C Hill Thomson, beat Miss A Gillespie, 4&3; Third Round – Miss C Hill Thomson beat Miss Kate Gillespie, 5&4;

Class 2 First Round – Miss Ella Turnbull, beat Miss Elsie Murray, 3&2; Mrs Stewart, beat Miss K S Aitken, 3&2; Mrs Hart, beat Miss Anna Turnbull, 3&2; Mrs Hill Thomson, beat Mrs Hacon, 2&1; Second Round – Miss Ella Turnbull, beat Mrs Stewart, 4&3; Mrs Hill Thomson, beat Mrs Hart, 2up; Third Round – Miss Ella Turnbull, beat Mrs Hill Thomson, 5&4.

In the afternoon following the close of play the competitors and others were invited to tea at Northfield, where Mrs Barrow presented the prizes as follows; Scratch – first (silver medal and a box of balls) Miss Lily Morrison, 70; second (set of clubs) Miss Kate Gillespie, 72; Handicap – first (a box of balls), Miss Ella Turnbull, 74-12-62; second (mashie) Mrs Hill Thomson, 77-12-65; Match Play Competition, Class 1 – first (Kodak) Miss C Hill Thomson; second (box of balls) Miss K Gillespie; Class 2 – first (writing case) Miss Ella Turnbull; second (box of balls) Mrs Hill Thomson.; There were two consolation prizes of a ladies’ fan, these went to Miss Dorothy Hart and Miss Fanny Peters.

In August 1901 a bazaar was held in the Volunteer Hall to raise funds for the ladies’ clubhouse. Mrs Barrow of Northfield opened the bazaar and remarked on the necessity of a “Golfhouse” for the lady golfers. For some years the gentlemen’s course had been crowded, particularly during the summer months and last year the new ladies course, measuring over a mile, was laid out. The bazaar proved a success raising £156, this sum included a number donations. 

Also during August a competition was held at Dornoch for lady visitors. The prize of golf clubs was presented by Robert Mackay. Miss C Hill Thomson, St Andrews was first with a score of 89, Miss Mary Hart was second with 91.

The annual competition for prizes presented by Mrs Barrow of Northfield was played on Friday 18 September 1903, result and prizes as follows; Division 1 -  Miss Ruth Thomson, 108-16-92, gold amethyst brooch; Miss Anna Turnbull and Mrs Moore tied for second; Division 2 – Miss C McDonald, 127-30-97, manicure set; Miss Annie McDonald, 132-30-102. Dr Grant, club captain, presented the prizes.

The following is taken from the 1905 Nisbet's Golf Yearbook; Dornoch Ladies' Golf Club; Instituted 1877; 50 members; Hon. Sec., J Sutherland; Captain, A J Ryle; Entrance fee, 5shillings and Subs, 5shillings; Number of Holes 18; Amateur record, Mrs Mundell, 78; Fixtures - Annual Meeting and Tournament in August; Tournament for Mrs Barrow's Silver Bowl and Prizes; Terms for Visitors - Ladies and beginners who use the Ladies' Links only, 2s/6d per week; Ladies who use this and the Gentlemen's Course, 5s per week for the first month, 2s/6d per week thereafter. The course which is rather over two miles in length, lies on what is known as the lower links, close by the sea and the Long Course. The shortest hole is 90 yards, and the longest 400. The hazards consist of land bunkers, gorse, and burn which has to be crossed from the first and eighteenth tees. (A branch of, and under the management of, the Dornoch Golf Club.)  

The snippets of information that follow are taken from the official history of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club. The early information from the official history differs somewhat to the newspaper reports, there’s no mention of the nine hole course in the club history:

”A Ladies' Course was constructed on the lower links. This was short, and consisted of only twelve holes. It was opened in 1899 with Mrs Carnegie, wife of Andrew Carnegie of Skibo, performing the opening ceremony."

“At the same time [as the reconstruction of the main course in 1904] the Ladies' Course was extended from 12 to 18 holes, but was a mere 3,520 yards."

"Ladies were not permitted to play on the main course in these days, and would not do so until their course fell into disrepair during World War 1."

"In 1923 the new Ladies' Course opened, its predecessor having, as mentioned previously, returned to nature during the war. This was much better than the former course, 5,505 yards in length, the longest hole being 505 yards and the shortest 103 yards. The course was officially opened by Mrs Sykes of Dornoch Castle on 9 June, 1923."

An airfield was constructed on the south links during WW2, and the ladies lost their course although part of it forms part of the current Struie course.   

Dornoch Ladies Golf Club, Highland. Location of the Ladies' course.

Location of the Dornoch Ladies course in the 1900/30s.

Grid reference NH80265,88690, co-ordinates 280265,888690.



Horse-drawn mower.

A horse-drawn mower being used to cut the grass on the Dornoch course in 1910. It was quite common for the horses to wear specially made shoes to protect the turf. Thanks to the Dornoch Historylinks museum for allowing me to use the image