Golf Course

For a number of years, the people of Durness, and in particular the Regional Councillor for over thirty years, attempted to have a golf course sited locally. The present site was determined a number of years before and outline planning permission was granted in 1971. The land was grazing ground for Keoldale Farm and owned by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, objections were raised and no development of the area was possible.

The first golf match in Durness was recorded in April 1987 when the Caravan and Camping site was redesigned for a temporary course hosting a game between Durness and Kinlochbervie over eighteen holes. By May 1987, circumstances had changed and the stony land at Culiken, the stretch of land behind Balnakeil Cemetery started to be cleared for a nine-hole golf course. Nearly all the work in the early stages was done by hand and minimal equipment, dedication and commitment have established the developing and improving popular course seen today.

 

Francis Keith, Ian Morrison from Achfary and Lachlan Ross from Kinlochbervie designed the original course. Slight alterations have been created as the course has advanced. In August 1987, the first match was played on the ground, far from being completed but as a celebration of obtaining planning consent and in anticipation as to what was to come. Durness was beaten by a team from Kinlochbervie.

Singular objections were lodged mainly to do with conservation. Detailed botanical surveys were carried out as the sites boundaries are within a site of Special Scientific Interest and the Golf Club have worked closely with Scottish Natural Heritage and other conservation bodies to have an acceptable facility. Support and sponsorship was received from a variety of sources and funds quickly accumulated.

The first president of the Golf Club was appointed in October 1987, Mrs. Dottie Mackay of the Parkhill Hotel. Billy Morrison, Jack Watson and Lachlan Ross were appointed as trustees.

 

The aim was to have the club open for 1st June 1988. Membership forms were available to start from the 1st. January 1988 and sixty one members were enlisted by March 1988 when the first competition was held. The first Trophy donated was a pewter tankard from One Four Eight Commando Brewery in Dorset. As work on the course was continuing, play was running parallel with most games on Saturdays and Sundays. In May 1988 the first Annual General Meeting was held just thirteen months after the inaugural meeting.

This course is thirty five hectares in a conservation area of two thousand hectares. At five thousand five hundred and fifty five yards (about five hundred and eleven metres) this is not a long course but the nine holes play as eighteen using two sets of tees. The sixth and fifteenth run alongside Loch Lanlish and there is a request in the rules that golfers should not disturb the anglers when playing these holes. The ninth and eighteenth hole has encouraged a reputation where the green from the tee requires a shot some eighty metres over an inlet of the sea. It is a part links course with a par of sixty nine and a course record of seventy one. In 1990, moves started to draw plans, obtain planning consent and raise funds for a clubhouse. By the end of April 1991, the club held their annual general meeting in the new clubhouse.

The new season starts in mid May after closure for about a month when the lambing is complete. Although the winter is quieter in terms of numbers frequenting the fairways and greens there are a few members playing whenever possible. The club runs a winter league for such people. Catering facilities are available and a hire service of clubs and trolleys. Each year the membership increases, presently about one hundred, and in the summer distant visitors use the most north westerly golf course on mainland Britain.

In the Northern Times on April the 11th 1997 under the local reports for Kinlochbervie there was a report from a renowned commentator and international player Peter Allis who had toured Scotland’s greatest golf courses and included Durness for a BBC television programme screened the previous Friday.

An agreement is in operation that was established in 1992 for twenty years between Durness golfers, crofters and the Nature Conservancy Council to protect the grassland from rabbits and sheep. The proposal aims to repair erosion resulting in large patches of bare sand caused by rabbits and gale force winds. The Nature Conservancy Council has concerns about the loss of wild life. The crofters concerns are about loss of grazing and the golfers concerns are about loss of greens. Sheep have to be fenced out of eroded patches and rabbits are to be culled.