Whisky Galore spirit rises
Exiled golf club holds first competition after officially registering with the SGU
JOINING a golf club is a big commitment, mainly because of the cost and year long membership, but when asked what you'd expect to be able to do with that membership, the answer more than nine times out of ten will be play golf on the course. For members of one such club, the Eriskay Whisky Galore Golf Club, that is not always as easy as it sounds.
An exiled golf club that has been without its own course for 16 years, it has recently been granted membership of the Scottish Golf Union and has started to administer its members’ handicaps. The inaugural competition of the newly 'reborn' club was held on Sunday 28 April as participants played for the Bonnie Prince Charlie Shield, which was played at Tain Golf Club, some 300 miles from Eriskay, where their remarkable story began.
In 1994, golfers on the island created a six-hole course by hacking out fairways and greens from croftland, rock, rushes and sand dunes. The course, and the island's historic associations, became an attraction for golfers across the world.
The six-hole course was forced to close by an 'immovable hazard' in 1997 when a four-bedroom house was built on the green of the 150-yard par-3 fifth, which also made the second and fourth holes unplayable. Since they were evicted from their own course, the club were still able to play the Eriskay Open and club championship in 1997 and 1999 at a nine-hole course in Taynuilt in Argyll, 100 miles and a five-hour ferry trip away.
In 2000, the competitions moved to Torvean Golf Club in Inverness, where Willie Rusk, the co-founder of the golf club has worked for 13 years. This year, 16 years after the golf club were exiled, Eriskay Golf Club has 50 members, is affiliated to Tain Golf Club and became members of the North District Golf Association.
They also currently run several events, including the Whisky Galore Gentleman's Open, as well as an annual inter-island match against Orkney when the teams play for a Jack Nicklaus signed flag from St. Andrews.
“We have been running the increasingly popular Whisky Galore Opens for many years, along with a growing number of other events – interclub matches and suchlike,” said Rusk. “Our members were keen to develop the club as a fully-operational golf club, so that's exactly what we have done. We have now affiliated with the Scottish Golf Union, have prepared a full range of competitions for our members during 2013 and are now authorised to administer our members' handicaps.”