1810 Royal Montrose Golf Club
Golf had been played on Montrose’s extensive links for centuries before any formal organised society existed. Club activity got off to a rolling start over 50 years.
Arguably the inauguration date of the Club should be 1785, when a group of golfers organised a Petition to the Sheriff Depute (a minor judge) to complain about a tenant farmer ploughing up of part of the common links. Given the criteria that other clubs have used to mark their foundation, banding together in defence of their golf facilities could be considered grounds for the constitution of a 'club'.
The evidence for the official foundation date of 1 January 1810 for the Montrose Golf Club comes from the embossed cover of the club’s first minute book.
The first extant first minutes begin in 1813; the first Captain was James Bertram in 1817; the first gold medal was commissioned and played for in 1818; the first rules were drawn up in 1830 and the first Treasurer was appointed in 1848.
The name of the Club was altered to the "Montrose Royal Albert Golf Club" in 1845 when His Royal Highness, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, became the Club's Patron. The club's present Patron is His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York.
The Royal Montrose club minutes contain details of the Montrose course card in 1849, which was a round of 17 holes on the common east and north links measuring about 6,120 yards. There were at the time 11 holes of which holes 5 to 10 were played twice. Later there were other holes and a course on the south links, which provided over 25 holes to play for, though there is no evidence that they were all routinely played. From 1863, the annual medal was played over 18 holes, technically making Montrose the second oldest 18-hole golf course after the Old Course.
In 1866 there was a grand match which used all 25 holes. This was advertised in the national press as an "Open Championship to be held on Montrose Links. Over 25 holes, being One Round of the Golf Course". It stands as a record for the longest round used in professional golf. The field included four present or future Open Champions. Foremost were Willie Park of Musselburgh, winner of the first Open Championship at Prestwick, who finished second with a score of 115, and Andrew Strath of Prestwick, the reigning Open Champion, who finished fourth on 119, as did Jamie Anderson of St Andrews, future three times winner of The Open. Old Tom Morris, also an Open winner, only managed to score 121 and Robert Kirk won third prize with 117. However, the winner was William Doleman, with a score of 112. At the time, he was driving a baker’s van in Glasgow, though he is better known in golf as the first named golfer to play in Canada, when he visited there as a sailor in 1854.
The Royal Montrose had several clubhouses, because of course changes. To begin with they did without a clubhouse, but from 1866 to 1890 they rented 'Southfield' which still overlooks the present 18th green. They then built the Stone Bridge clubhouse, facing the South links, and used it from 1890 to 1906, when they had to abandon it after the Town Council’s redevelopment of the Links relocated the start and finish of play further north. Finally they settled on the Traill Drive clubhouse where they are today on the corner overlooking the first tee of the medal course.
Over this period, there were over a dozen golf clubs formed in Montrose. Details of other Montrose clubs and their amalgamations are outlined in the list shown here.
One of them was the Montrose Victoria golf club founded in 1864 and called The Victoria Club. It shared the links with Royal Albert and, for a time, rented a room in their clubhouse at Southfield before buying a house in Faulds Road. Later they built their own clubhouse which is now Roo’s Leap restaurant, just two doors along from present Royal Montrose clubhouse.
After many years of separate existence, in February 1986, The Montrose Royal Albert Golf Club and The Montrose Victoria Golf Club amalgamated to form the Royal Montrose Golf Club.
In the late nineteenth century, various other open golf tournaments were played at Montrose, one of the most notable being that of 3 October 1888. The players were the leading lights of the day and included Old Tom Morris Professional St Andrews, Ben Sayers Professional North Berwick, Willie Fernie Professional Troon and Willie Park Jr Professional Musselburgh. The winners and their scores and prizes were as follows:-
1st W Fernie, Troon 74 £12
2nd A Kirkcaldy, St Andrews 75 £6
3rd A Simpson, Carnoustie 76 £4
The present Medal Course, managed by the Montrose Golf Links, owes much to a design by Willie Park Jnr. in 1903. He had made alterations to a layout by the Mercantile Club two years earlier in which Old Tom Morris had advised.
Currently the two other clubs playing the course are the Mercantile and the Caledonia, whose club-houses are either side of the Royal Montrose.