Highlands & Islands

Forgotten fairways: Golf courses lost in the rough of war

Scotland has 250 former golf courses, according to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

Many of the fairways were lost during the world wars, when bunkers and tees were disappeared under military defences such as pillboxes and trenches.

Some sites were maintained by armed forces personnel in war-time, but fell out of use after the end of the conflicts.

Hundreds of other courses vanished in peace time when they were converted into farmland, or were abandoned because of their remote locations.

RCAHMS has documented some of the forgotten fairways. It has also been taking high quality digital photography of more than 500 of today's courses.

Image copyright Rcahms

An aerial photograph taken by the RAF in January 1945 shows the scars of military activity, including trenches dug during World War One, at Dunbar.

Following the outbreak of World War Two, anti-invasion defences were constructed on the course such as anti-tank blocks, pillboxes and minefields surrounded by barbed wire.

The Roan Head Course on Flotta, an island in the Orkneys' Scapa Flow, also disappeared at the end of the war years.

The Royal Navy laid down the 18-hole course around the time of WW1.

The crew of one battleship stationed in the islands spent £70 on turf for the course, and the commander of another warship described one of the greens as being as smooth as a billiard table.

Image copyright RCAHMS

Edinburgh's Craigentinny Golf Course still survives, but during WW2 it had to be abandoned by its members to make way for military defences.

Ditches, pits and mounds were dug in a grid-like fashion to thwart a potential invasion by German troops in gliders. There was also a significant anti-aircraft battery on the course.

Image copyright Rcahms

A course at Nigg on the Cromarty Firth never recovered after a camp for a coastal gun battery was built on part of it.

Image copyright Rcahms

Armed forces personnel also laid out golf courses in peace time, as well as during times of conflict.

Fearn Airfield in Easter Ross had a nine-hole course in 1946.

The air station was built for the RAF before being taken over by the Royal Navy in 1942 for use as a torpedo training school. It was also a base for squadrons of Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Fairey Barracuda torpedo bombers.

Image copyright Rcahms

Gailes Camp, and its clusters of Nissan huts, was built during WW1 using parts of Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Course.

In Aberdeen in WW2, the city's Old Course, also known as the King's Links Golf Course, was the site for a major anti-aircraft installation.

Rockets for launching at enemy aircraft, anti-glider ditches and a radar station were features of the defences.

Image copyright RCAHMS

Aberdeen's King's Golf Course is among the hundreds of current sites being recorded in aerial digital photographs by RCAHMS today.

Image copyright RCAHMS

Turnberry was converted to an airfield in both world wars.

WW1 saw the south side of the course and a large area adjacent to the east made into a training airfield.

WW2 required a larger airfield, the runways of which bisect the golf course. The requirement of the RAF to have an airfield in this location and the lack of suitable land meant that the course was sacrificed during both wars

Image copyright Rcahms

Glenluce in Dumfries and Galloway and Nairn Golf Course on the Moray Firth coast are also among the new aerial images.

Image copyright RCAHMS

RCAHMS holds hundreds of other golf-related photographs in its collections, including an image of golfers at Stonehaven in 1898.

Image copyright RCAHMS

And a group on the Carnoustie Championship Course in 1895.

Image copyright Rcahms

Also in the collections is a photograph of women golfers playing at Golspie in Sutherland in the 1900s.

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