I visited the holy grail of golf courses – Askernish Golf club on south Uist in the outer Hebrides.
In June 1891 “Old” Tom Morris accompanied by his companion Horace Hutchinson travelled to South Uist at the request of the landowners to inspect the machair lands with a view to laying out a new course. “Old” Tom eventually laid out eighteen holes on the rolling dunes of Askernish Farm, although he declared that the choice of links land available was “staggering.” Horace mentioned the trip in a magazine called “Golf”, the forerunner of “Golf Illustrated”, for which he was to contribute over the next thirty years.
The pair continued their journey, moving north to Stornoway to inspect a new course which had been completed the year before.
During its early years the course would have been used to entice visitors to the island, as a form of sport to be enjoyed along with the traditional persuits of fishing and shooting. We know from Frederick Rea’s book “A School in South Uist” that some of the residents were regular players but these would have been mostly confined to the local clergy, doctors and teachers. It was maintained by local farm workers using scythes – they were also seconded as caddies for the visiting gentry.
Askernish farm was adopted into crofting tenure in 1922 and a lack of consistent maintenance led to the course’s general decline until Scottish and Northern Airways started a regular air service from Renfrew to Askernish in 1936.
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