The History of Keith Golf Club

by W A Ettles

The original Keith Golf Course was situated to the East of the town in the valley of the Drum Burn. It consisted of nine holes with very little opportunity to expand, but at the time, from the early years of the twentieth century, it sufficed, and had a pleasant little Clubhouse overlooking the valley and the Balloch Hill beyond.

In the 1920's, before tractors became common, the Fairways were cut by a horse drawn mower, the horse carefully shod in leather overboots to stop hoof marks. Greens were good, and cut with a hand Mower by the Greenkeeper George MacPherson, who had a little hut where he repaired hickory-shafted clubs.

The length of the course was such that a Driver was rarely required and modern clubs would have made it short indeed. One hole, the 6th, had no Fairway at all. It consisted of a shot of 110 yards, across the corner of a field (out of bounds), and the inevitable Drum Burn, on to green surrounded by rough, and on a fairly steep slope.

The usual result varied between 2 and 10, depending on the exact placing of the drive. World War Two put an end to this course, the land reverting to agriculture, but memory suggests that, while some markers like tees remained, it would not have paid recovery, especially as one side of the valley had been planted with trees. Keith Golfers solaced themselves on other courses for many years, until 1960, when a move was made to form a group to try to find ground for a course for the town. The old club had left several trophies and a very small bank account, which meant buying ground was out of the question. The solution came out of the blue, when the Feudal Superior of Fife Keith, to the West of the town, died, and the Superiority came on the market.

Keith Town Council decided that the purchase of the Superiority would give them considerable freedom in Town Planning, and a deputation consisting of mill owner Col. G. B. Kynoch and Town Clerk Mr. W. Sutherland was sent with instructions to buy, if the price was right. It was and they did, but they also purchased some hundred acres of land outside the town. This was known as "Lotted Land", and in the 19th Century, pieces had been allocated to each house owner in Fife Keith. This custom had long gone, and the land was used by individuals who had come into possession by means unknown. Col. Kynoch, sensible of the fact that the Council had not authorised the purchase, offered to pay for it himself, and to present it to the Council, "for recreation, preferably golf". This splendid offer was immediately accepted, and the group, already formed undertook the task of persuading the ground-users to vacate, and of building a golf course.

The methods of persuasion must remain in shadow, though the Secretary once calculated that the team was operating at some 9 whiskies to the acre. The one recalcitrant was eventually met by Col. Kynoch and offered a payoff, which he accepted, thus saving the necessity for a long and tortuous set of court proceedings. The remainder, with the good of the town at heart, gave up more easily. The size of the ground suggested that 18 holes was not yet possible so a plan was prepared for 13, designed by a neighbouring Professional, Mr. Roy Phimister, of Nairn, and the volunteers set about the work. Local farmers, notably the Watt Brothers, Hamish, Percy and Ian of Birkenburn ploughed, sowed and sprayed the fairways and teams of 2 or 3 set about the tees and greens.

Each green was rotovated, young boys employed to lift stones, which formed the basis of the next tee. It was then rolled, sown with the advised grass mixture, and later lovingly cut and tended till fit for play. A site was chosen for the Clubhouse and efforts went on to raise money for the building, in which the Ladies Club were especially prominent. Large donors were Sir Alexander B. King, and once again Col. Kynoch. A local architect designed the building, and much labour was carried out on a voluntary basis. The final touch came when Messrs. G. and G. Kynoch offered an adjacent piece of ground, just big enough to produce the 5 holes required to complete the course, and a local contractor provided machinery for this task at a minimum cost. Keith Golf Club thrives to this day, a monument to the spirit of the Keith community who have made it possible.