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Archive discovery places Ross-shire golf club in fascinating new light

By Robin Wilson

Golf at Fortrose appears to date back even further than previously thought
Golf at Fortrose appears to date back even further than previously thought

THE Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, oracle on golf statistics, registers the age of golf clubs by their first constituted minutes making Wick Golf Club the oldest in the North, 1870, and pre-dating Dornoch by some seven years.

But Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club already had documented records contained in the statistical account of Rosemarkie, dated 1793, that golf was played on or around the links in that year have now been supplied with further printed evidence of an earlier existence of a club in the two villages.

It came to the club via Neil Laird, publisher Scottish Golf History, who, during a search of golf clubs and societies in the British Newspaper Archive stored in the National Library of Scotland found reference in a newspaper called The Caledonian Mercury which was published three times a week from 1720 to 1867.

The newspaper announced that The Fortrose Golf Society were holding a General Annual Meeting to be held at Williamson’s Tavern with dinner at 4pm on Wednesday, July 3, 1793.

The Tavern is long lost and forgotten in the history of Fortrose or Rosemarkie and no reference to its existence can be found but the date is some 95 years before the current Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club was instituted and some 91 years after earlier reference to golf at Chanonry Point was recalled by Alec Main in his golf club’s centenary history of 1988.

It is interesting that a same search in the newspaper archives revealed that the course where the Fortrose & Rosemarkie course designer James Braid was born in 1870, Earlsferry in Fife, was inviting all its members to a dinner on Tuesday, May 1,1787.

Michael MacDonald, secretary to the Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club is delighted with the news but unlikely to change the club’s history completely. He said: "It is a marketing tool that we can use and I intend to do so on club merchandise and publicity to attract more visitors and members."

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