Located on the Chanonry Peninsula in the ‘Black Isle,’ this Scottish links golf course enjoys breathtaking views over the Moray Firth, very close to the City of Inverness. This links course is now confirmed as being the 15th Oldest Recorded Club in the World in 1793; the course was later re-designed by the five time Open Champion James Braid in 1932. The course itself is only 30 minutes from Inverness airport and just 20 minutes from Inverness City Centre.
There is documentary evidence of golf being played over 'Chanonry' - which is now called Fortrose - dating back to 1702. It was contained in a letter from a Mr George MacKenzie of Balconie, a cousin of the Earl of Seaforth and provost of Fortrose at that time. Writing to his Edinburgh law agent, he thanks him for sending him a club and golf balls, but admits that as a farmer he should not really be playing golf at harvest time. He then excuses himself at succumbing to such sporting pleasure by adding the words ‘Oportet Vivre’ (Life is for living) – a philosophy followed by many golfers to this day!
Playing on one of the finest links golf courses in Scotland is a must for your golfing calendar, especially as it is so close to other distinguished links in the area, such as Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn.
The course has received accolades such as ‘a gem of a course by the sea’, ‘perhaps the best jewel in the highland golfing crown’ and ‘a unique course with special character to be found nowhere else.’ The course is open every day of the year and they welcome golfers from all over the world to play on this fantastic links course that has hosted a number of national championships - and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club will be hosting the Scottish Boy’s Under 16’s Open Stroke Play Championship in July 2018, which will bring together some of Europe’s finest young players to our Scottish Links Golf Course in the Highlands of Scotland.
The greens are not just fast, but also deceptive, with tight fairways and strategically placed bunkers throughout the course – the trademark of the all-time master of bunkering, James Braid. Whilst the course is playing to its full capacity, members, their guests and any golfers visiting our links can play from any of the tees. The choice is your own, so you can play from the red, yellow, white or the new black tees which will add to the experience of playing on a true Scottish Links Golf Course.
If you do fancy a game playing from the new black tees, then you can do so and play the full 6085 yards that the Fortrose & Rosemarkie Links Golf Course has to offer, along with experiencing the signature 4th hole from the more difficult teeing ground, where par is never a bad score!
Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club
- a potted history
The first documentary evidence of golf being played over Chanonry (now Fortrose) was during the year 1702. Fortrose golf society was formed on Wednesday, 3rd July 1793. Golf was played down from the caravan site at Fortrose towards the point area and back up again close to where the current log cabin is situated at the top of the site.
By the latter half of the 19th century, Fortrose & Rosemarkie emerged as a favourite place of summer retirement for men of industry and commerce. In around 1876, the Kennedy family came to live in Fortrose and it was not long before Mr Kennedy, already a member of 5 golf clubs, had cut and clipped two holes on the links, one close to where the clubhouse now stands and one by the witches stone on the 17th fairway. Officer friends of Mr Kennedy would be invited from Fort George (by rowing across) to play on the course along with locals at this time.
When Fortrose & Rosemarkie golf club was officially formed in 1888, it was by the end of that year that the club had a membership of around 50 members. At this time the motor car was yet but a dream of the inventor, and the highland railway was still a decade away from penetrating the hinterland known as the black isle. The first clubhouse was built and opened in 1895. Annual membership cost 5/- per year, which was the equivalent to two days wages for a labourer at that time.
During the absence of a clubhouse prior to 1895, arrangements were made for members to leave their clubs in the care of the govenor of the nearby Black Isle Poor House. There were also problems with carts being driven at random over the course to collect sand and shingle from the shore or to carry ice to the fishing station at the point. The Town Council eventually sorted this problem by laying out designated routes.
During the First World War, the membership was somewhat reduced and competitions were suspended with club activity virtually ceasing until 1919, by which time considerable damage had been done to the clubhouse by men of the Highland Cyclist Battalion, who had used the premises as a guardhouse.
It was not until 1922, once interest in golf was revived, that the course was once again brought to a sufficient standard to allow for competitions to take place.
On a clear day the Chanonry lighthouse stands out against the sombre background of Fort George. The fort was initially a chain of garrison barracks constructed along a line of the Great Glen (Fort Augustus & Fort William the others) to house government troops who were given the task of bringing the highland clans into line following the battle of Culloden in 1746. The fort remains as a base for Scottish regiments to this day.
In 1932, James Braid was invited to advise on a new course layout. With new land being acquired at Chanonry Point, this was the opportunity to extend the course. On Saturday, 8th June 1935 a newspaper report noted that ‘the new 18 hole golf course, laid out by Mr James Braid, is of great variety and necessitates much skill. It’s sporting character will no doubt, attract many visitors to the district.’
Over the next two years, as more land became available to lengthen some holes, Mr James Braid was invited back to make a fresh survey. His fee was £12.10/-. Under Mr Braid’s recommendations the course was redesigned and a course was laid out forming the basis of the one in use to the present day.
In 1940 the course and clubhouse were requisitioned by the military authorities as a training ground, where sea landing tactics were practised in preparation for the D-Day landings. The only remaining signs of wartime activity now are the concrete bollards to the left of the 3rd and 4th fairways. with the damage done to the course during the training the club were awarded £4,000 in compensation by the war department in 1945 and by 1946, 9 holes had been restored. By the following year all 18 holes were returned to an acceptable standard.
By the mid 1950’s the membership had outgrown the facilities of the clubhouse and in 1958 Miss Isa Ross (one of the clubs benefactors), offered to lend money for a new clubhouse at a nominal rate of interest. Plans were then drawn up after which Miss Ross astounded members by revealing that she would meet the entire cost herself and the new clubhouse opened in 1959 but with one condition. This was that no alcohol would be sold on the premises – the club accepted this although legal obstacles were overcome and in 1977 a liquor licence was obtained and a bar was opened for members to purchase alcohol. Dai Rees opened the bar on 14th may 1977.
The clubhouse was extended once again in 1983 as again it was proving too small with the demands placed upon it and an overdraft was taken out to finance a new extension which is how it looks to this day.
The 16th hole – named after the Brahan seer who was allegedly burnt in a spiked tar barrel thereabouts because of the doom and despair he foretold about the house of Seaforth. A memorial cairn is located at Chanonry Point. He is thought to have used a stone with a hole in the middle to see his visions.
The 17th hole – named as ‘Clay Pots’ – which is probably the finest driving hole on the course where you hope to land near the stone where the last witch in Scotland is reputed to have been burned – in a clay pot maybe?
The 18th hole – Fiery Hillock – a fine finishing hole where the whins lining the fairway destroy many a fine round. The centre bunker short of the green was once a mound where fires were lit in the olden days to send news of a disaster along the moray coast.
The course has welcomed some famous visitors to the links – 1950’s – Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who often ventured onto a golf course in the South of England with bodyguards to ward off the attentions of members of the Suffragette movement during his time in office.
King Haakon of Norway visited the course during the WWII conflict and surveyed the scene as his troops trained alongside other allied forces in preparation for the D-Day landings at Normandy.
Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Club played an inspirational part in the composition of the famous ‘Colonel Bogey’ march shortly before the 1st World War. Officers stationed across the water at Fort George were honorary members of the club and frequently made the boat crossing to play on the course. Bandmaster Ricketts often partnered his colonel to the links at a time when ‘bogey’ was regarded as par for each hole. Whilst playing one day their attention was drawn by another golfer who whistled from a distance away to attract their attention. The two notes whistled became imprinted in the bandmasters mind and came to form the opening bar of the famous tune he was inspired to write and which he entitled ‘Colonel Bogey’.