Tain Golf Club
Attribution: unknown (Procession in High Street for Diamond Jubilee 1897)
Tain golf Club
Tain has a fine challenging 18 hole links golf course, based on an original course laid out by Old Tom Morris in 1890, on the sandy links east of the town and through part of which the Tain River meanders on its way to the sea. There are 8 other courses within 30 minutes drive including the famous Royal Dornoch, so Tain is an ideal centre for a golfing holiday. Golf Week is held on the first week of August attracting golfers from far and wide and the course plays host to a number of Open Tournaments each year. The course has always attracted visitors but has become increasingly popular in recent years. A new club house was opened in 1998. New members are welcome and currently there is no waiting list.
DEVELOPMENT OF TAIN GOLF COURSE
In earlier times golf was first played on the links below the town but Tain Golf Club (originally named St Duthus Golf Club) was instituted on 27th February, 1890 when a number of local businessmen and other citizens of Tain supported Alexander MacBean in his desire to establish a proper golf course (or ‘green’ as it was called then) in Tain. Alexander MacBean had retired to Tain after banking service in India. Golf was his favourite pastime and he could see the potential of the sandy links to the east of the town. Old Tom Morris of St Andrews, the most famous golfer of that time, was engaged for the task of laying out the course. Thus 15 holes were laid out beyond the Plaids Road. The original course abounded with whins, broom, bents and bunkers, and to these other natual hazards was added the meandering couse of the River Tain, providing a great variety of challenging play. It also meant a lot of work and continual improvements were required so the original 15 holes were reduced to 12. However, the work of improving greens, widening the course, rooting out and burning broom, whins and bent had proceeded sufficiently well that during the 1893/4 season the holes were increased to 18.
Certain advantages such as having direct railway communication to north and south ( the station was only about 10 minutes walk away), good hotel accommodation, one of the driest climates in Scotland and the bracing air attracted a fair number of visitors. In 1911, 21 years after its institution, it was decided to bring the start of the course nearer the town so the large field on the town side of the road was purchased and the present 1st and 18th holes were formed.
Although the boundaries of the course have not altered much, new holes have been formed, the numbers of the old holes have changed and some holes have been lengthened. Improvements and minor alterations have continued to the present day. Today’s well defined fairways, velvet greens, level tees and manicured bunkers are a far cry from the tiger country of Tom Morris’s original creation, and yet the course remains a challenge for any golfer. Club member Ian Nalder who resides in Nairn but plays Tain regularily, in his recently published book ‘Scotland’s Golf in Days of Steam’, states ‘From start to finish Tain tantalises and its greens mesmerise. Every hole is distinctive and, in one way or another, is distinguished as well.’ This is in a large measure due to its natural hazards which have not been totally illiminated by over a century of improvements, and the fact that few holes lie side by side and most of the course involves a variety of directions. Add a strong wind and the difficulty is greatly increased.
It was to be less than 22 years before another, even bigger, clubhouse development was to take place, prompted largely by dry rot in the basement of the old clubhouse and problems with leaks in the roofs in both the old clubhouse and the flat roofed extension. With the decline in oil related industries in the latter part of the 1980s, membership went down but by the Centenary in 1990, membership was fairly healthy again, around 400, and is currently around 500. The club was also encouraged by the increase in income from visitors in the 1990s. In particular Tain is becoming popular with US golfers. Again after much hard work by those involved, especially David Rutherford, Ron McGraw and Club Captain Jim Byars, a new clubhouse was opened on the 4th October, 1998 by Sir Michael Bonalleck, OBE, Secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Course of St Andrews. The work had involved demolishing what remained of the pre-1976 clubhouse including the Steward’s accommodation, replacing this with a new building on the same site and refurbishing the locker room extension including the addition of a new sloping roof to match that of the new building.