1810 Royal Montrose Golf Club
Golf was played on Montrose’s extensive links for centuries before any formal society existed.
The principal club there today is the Royal Montrose Mercantile Golf Club. Arguably, the inauguration date of the Royal Montrose 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 part of the links. Other golf clubs have used similar criteria as evidence of their foundation.
However, the official foundation date of the Montrose Golf Club is 1st January 1810, which comes from the embossed cover of the Club’s first Minute book, although the first extant minutes don't begin until 1813.
The first noted 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 Minutes contain details of the Montrose course card in 1849, a round of 17 holes on the east and north links measuring about 6,120 yards. At the time, there were 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 at least 25 holes, 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. The competition 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 among the competitors were Willie Park of Musselburgh, winner of the first Open Championship at Prestwick, who finished second with a score of 115, and Andrew Strath, 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. The overall winner was William Doleman, with a score of 112. At the time, he was delivering bakeries 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, mainly because of course changes. From 1866 to 1890 they rented 'Southfield', a house which 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.
There were over a dozen golf clubs formed in Montrose. Details of some of the other Montrose clubs and their amalgamations are outlined in the list shown here.
Many of the these clubs are now defunct or merged with others. One of these was the Montrose Victoria founded in 1864 as The Victoria Club. It shared the links with Montrose 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. Recently, the Mercantile Golf Club has also merged with them to form the Royal Montrose Mercantile. The Mercantile sold their clubhouse, which was next door.
In the late nineteenth century, various 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 Kirkaldy, 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 advised by Old Tom Morris.
Currently the Caledonia Golf Club, whose club-house is over the road from the Royal Montrose, is the other main club playing at Montrose.