July’s document of the month highlights the creation and opening of a new golf club in Drymen, in 1901. This is an interesting collection of records, as it provides a full account from the initial idea of constructing a new course and clubhouse and correspondence with contractors for different stages of the work, to appointing the first captain of the club and its ceremonial opening. Originally intended to be named the “Drymen, Buchanan and Kilmaronock Golf Club”, the less wordy “Strathendrick Golf Club” was chosen instead.
Initiated by William Watson Murray of Catter House, Drymen, the first meeting was held in March 1901 with prominent locals invited to give their opinion on the formation of a golf course in the area. With an overwhelmingly positive response to this suggestion, even from those who could not attend as evidenced by the apologetic replies we hold in respect of this primary gathering, plans were underway immediately.
Mr William Fernie (1855 – 1924) was asked to survey the suggested area of land to determine if it was suitable for this use. Fernie was a prominent Scottish professional golfer who won the Open Championship in 1883, and was runner-up a further four times. He took over the role of club professional at Royal Troon in 1887 where he worked until just before his death, and also began to design golf courses. He made alterations to many courses in Ayrshire, as well as the Old Course at St Andrews.
As we can see from his findings, his observations were that “it is fine hilly ground with plenty of natural hazards and for an Inland 9 hole golf course it will rank among the first class”. He goes on to suggest the modifications needed to the area, such as building bridges over certain swampier areas of the course, and using river bed sand for the putting green surface before planting clover and rye grass seed to ensure the best possible playing conditions.
Although there are usually teething problems with such projects, one issue which especially seemed to trouble Mr Murray was the “trespassing” of nosy locals on the new golf course grounds as well as in the neighbouring fields belonging to the landowner, Mr Buchanan. He took to writing to local police constable Cruikshank, who in turn investigated the matter very seriously and apprehended the guilty parties.
As the opening of the club grew nearer, a lot of work was done to attract members, or “subscribers” as they are referred to in the correspondence. Likewise a captain had to be chosen and seemingly put forward by William Murray, this was originally Mr J.W Stewart of Gaidrew House. A letter between the two however, thanks Murray for nominating him as club captain, but indicates a declination from Mr Stewart for the position due to “(first) that I have a great horror of any kind of public or prominent position and would make a poor Captain, and (second) that I may have to leave the district next May”.
Work progress was very efficient as the course was ready for a first day of play on Saturday 13th July of the same year, followed by the official opening of course and clubhouse on Saturday 5th October by Lady Helen Graham, whose brother The Marquis of Graham was also the first president of the club. There is an extensive article in the Stirling Observer covering the event, part of which can be seen above. The Grahams comment on what a great addition to the community the club will be, having already created excitement and “infused into Drymen a little life!”
This infusing of life seems to have been well received by all as the club has become a permanent attraction in the area, and celebrated its centenary in 2001. Since being extended in 1905, there have been little other changes made to the original course design by Fernie, and today the club is accessible to members and the public alike to enjoy a round.