Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nairn Dunbar Golf Club recovers the earliest piece of its history

24th May 2014 was a celebratory date for Nairn Dunbar Golf Club. Although not many clubs recognise their 115th birthday as something particularly special, it is for the championship links nestling on the shores of the Moray Firth in the Highlands of Scotland. This is because the club has recently recovered a piece of its earliest history – its Opening Day Medal from May 1899 which was presented by Town Provost William Dallas to the winner of the first ever competition on the course: Peter Robertson.

Although originally just a name on the silver medal, the story revealed by research into Peter Robertson charts a signal contribution to Scottish golf – and one that has largely been forgotten. Robertson was born and raised on the Lethen Estate on the outskirts of Nairn. The son of a farmer, he spent his boyhood and youth as an apprentice gardener and spent his spare time caddying (and probably playing) at Nairn Golf Club. Aged seventeen in May 1899, he already was an accomplished golfer, but after winning the Dallas Medal, he would continue to “learn his game” over the new Dunbar course (as well as serve on its first committee).

Early in the twentieth century, Robertson moved away from Nairn to take up a new job in Lanark, where he also married. In 1908, he left to take up a role as head greenkeeper and professional golfer at the Edinburgh City Council run facility at Braid Hills. He remained in that post for 35 years, dying in 1943 in the clubhouse that was his place of work and his home, in the company of his wife and three daughters.

Robertson served in the Royal Scots during World War I (being wounded twice and being mentioned in dispatches for his bravery and courage) and in the Home Guard during World War II. The golfer frequently returned to Nairn, and maintained strong friendships with a number of Dunbar members, most notably Club Captain (1922-49) A A MacGillivray. It was MacGillivray who invited Robertson to review George Smith of Lossiemouth’s layout for the back nine holes at Nairn Dunbar, and implement revisions which extended the course (and can still be seen and played today). In return for this freely-provided service, Robertson was made an Honorary Life Member of the club.

The improvements Robertson made to the course were highly valued – he was a course designer of considerable repute (in Scotland, England, Singapore and Malaysia) as well as a highly respected professional. His career included regular appearances in the Open Championship, the Northern Open and a wide range of other events of the time; notable victories in the Scottish Professional Golf Championship (1921 and 1924); the role of captaining Scotland in competitive matches throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s; and, in 1932, the honour of being the first ever Scottish Captain of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA).

Club Captain, Brian Ford, said “It is fantastic to rediscover such a rich and full life-story of one of Nairn Dunbar’s foremost players. Winning the Dallas Medal was an early step onto a spectacular golfing career that took in greenkeeping, course design, professional play and representative honours at the highest level. We are proud that the winner of Nairn Dunbar’s first ever competition maintained links with the town and helped shape our course, as we play it today; but also we are humble to have played a small part in the career of someone whose legacy is still felt in different corners of Scotland and the world”.

For further details, contact: Rob Macpherson, Manager, Nairn Dunbar Golf Club
Tel: 01667 452741 e:

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