Takes on Industry Happenings
For the first three months of my time here in Campbeltown, Scotland, I thought the only longstanding golf courses in this immediate area were at Machrihanish Golf Club, the Championship and Pans courses, the latter a nine-hole “ladies’ course.”
A trip to the Campbeltown Heritage Center, however, resulted in the discovery of the Campbeltown Municipal Golf Course, which seems to be all but forgotten.
I headed to the Aqualibrarium (swimming pool and library) for some research. While going through microfilm of the Campbeltown Courier, I uncovered the early history of the layout that began as an idea in September 1911 and became a reality in June of 1913.
Reading the accounts of town council meetings, it seems as if the arguments for and against municipal golf have been the same for more than 100 years.
On the con side, there are those who asserted that taxing the general public for a facility that only a few would use made no sense, conveniently ignoring the fact that municipal funds are routinely directed toward projects, whether it be a baseball field or a library, that are not used by everyone.
One such person was town council member Mr. McPherson, who admitted, according to the Courier story, that he “had no notion of golf.”
His objection reeked of elitism.
“But this was only going to be a common field for the amusement of shop boys and clerks and so forth who required something to straighten their backs and supple their legs, for they had nothing else to do.”
However, McPherson and his allies were defeated, and the town came to terms with Mrs. Watson, tenant of Hillside Farm, “and with the concurrence of proprietor, his Grace the Duke of Argyll,” for a lease of ground suitable for golf.
The course was leased at £30 ($45 in today’s dollars) for the first seven years, and £35 for the following seven years, not annually.
Estimates were that £42 would be needed for implements such as rollers, mowers, etc., “and there would be an expenditure of £5 for forming greens.”
A proposed greenkeeper wage was for 24 shillings a week. He would require the assistance of a boy in the summer months, and he would be paid about 10 shillings a week for six months.
“Duncan McPhee, who had experience at Machrihanish,” was hired as head greenkeeper.
His job was not an easy one. According to the account of the grand opening, the initial golf ball was struck “exactly six weeks that day since the first turf was cut.”
McPhee’s duties extended beyond turf care.
“Facilities have also been provided to enable the greenkeeper in his spare time to effect repairs to golf clubs, and it is hoped that this arrangement may prove a convenience to players.”
Duncan Colville Jr., the man who initiated the golf course project, talked about the course conditions in his speech on opening day, according to the Courier. Then, as now, it seems saving money was done by constructing cheaply.
“The course has been laid out with a view to economy in capital expenditure, in other words, the putting greens are all natural turf. A liberal amount of rolling and cutting, aided by intermittent rain, has rendered the putting greens playable in a much shorter time than might have been anticipated,” the account read. “It is not intended to construct bunkers until next winter, by which time a better idea will have been formed as to the best play of rearranging the holes in order to lengthen the course.”
It was Provost McMurchy who had the final words before driving the first golf ball.
“The game of golf has special merits of its own. It is perennial. The popular game of football is a winter game. Cricket, tennis and bowls are summer games with us; but golf is played all the year round. Then, again, golf may be said to be an age-long game. We never see boys and girls play bowls, and we never see elderly people play cricket or football or tennis. These exercises are much too vigorous for the middle-aged and the old. But golf – glorious golf! – is played by schoolchildren, young men and maidens, old men and elderly women.”
He concluded: “May the weary and heavy laden find recreation here, and may it be a financial success.”
His well wishes did not come to pass. Because of World War I, the course closed for a time and never recovered financially. By 1925 the site was once again pastureland.