Early Club History

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1838 - 1873

Described as one of the toughest links courses in the world. Golf is known to have been played at Carnoustie from as early as the 1500s. The club is known to have been in existence for some time before its formal foundation, records show that our club may have existed for a number of years before 1842.

The club is among the ten oldest surviving golf clubs in the world. It has produced several first class players and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century many Carnoustie golfers went to the United States where they became professionals of Baltusrol, East Lake, Oakmont and many others.

A golf course was first laid out at Carnoustie in the 1830s by the publisher Robert Chalmers. Progress marked by the arrival of a rail line between Dundee and Arbroath in 1838 that encouraged major industrial growth in the town. A new era began for the formally remote land and links between the small Parishes of Barry and Panbride-known by some as Carnoustie. With this progress came growing enthusiasm for golf and competition.

In 1842, under the patronage of Misses Kinloch of Kinloch, Proprietors of Carnoustie, The Carnoustie Golf Club was formed. The first of its kind, an artisan golf club, where many of our members worked the land, some worked the sea, some at the local chemical works and still others as blacksmiths. The Kinloch Medal was given to the club in 1842 under the patronage of Misses Kinloch of Kinloch, benevolent owner of lands golf was played, she gifted the Kinloch Medal to Carnoustie Golf Club. The medal has been played for at scratch for over 180 years and some 18 years before the first Open Championship was played at Prestwick.

The original course was of ten holes, crossing and recrossing the Barry Burn. The current course was designed by Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris in the 1850s. 1860 - The first Open Championship was played at Prestwick and a few years later Carnoustie would be extended by Old Tom Morris in 1867 which led to a complete restructuring of the course to the new standard of 18 holes.

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1873 - 1891

1873 - The Carnoustie Golf Club, Leven Thistle Golf Club and The St Andrews Golf Club three artisan golf clubs, played their first club matches against each other. The roots of this new desire to play competitive golf can be traced back over 150 years.

The St Andrews Golf Club played its first match in 1873 against Carnoustie Golf Club. It is believed to be the oldest inter club match in the world.

Members of the early Carnoustie Golf Club met in various “Howffs” (inns or taverns) in the town with “Ferriers Inn” (now the 19th Hole Hotel) being the most popular gathering place for interested golfers. These early gatherings probably led naturally to the formation of a golfing society or Club with the aim of supporting and encouraging the game and in running competitions.

May 1st, 1877 the Ferrier Medal was generously presented to the club by Mrs. Ferrier, who also supported Carnoustie Golf Club for decades using the Ferrier Inn as the meeting place for members before building our own clubhouse.

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Robert Simpson was one of the really great clubmakers, he was born in Elie in 1862. At the age of 17, Bob Simpson took an apprenticeship with George Forrester, whose workshop was close to his home and just across the road from the Elie Links.

Robert was exceptionally clever and formally trained as a lawyer and had a vast knowledge of politics, poetry and local history. He went onto became the apprentice to Robert Forgan at St Andrews and it was there his club making talents grew. In 1883, at the young age of 20 years, he was hired as a professional by the Dalhousie Club of Carnoustie.

Robert became a member of The Carnoustie Golf Club and Caledonia Golf Club. Whilst he never won a major championship, he was a very successful golfer. One of the Simpson brothers, Jack would win The Open in 1884 with Robert finishing runner-up and fourth on two further occasions. Robert possessed a keen business acumen, and along with his brothers founded Simpsons Golf Shop in 1883.

The golf business prospered and at various times his brothers Charles, Jack and Archie worked with him however Robert perhaps made the most impact on golfers throughout the world. At one time he employed around thirty local people and club members, making and repairing clubs, and it is estimated he taught a great proportion of the 200 or so professional club makers who emigrated from Carnoustie to become professional club-makers and coaches in the fast growing golf industry of North America.

Over the next four decades, Robert's business thrived, and when his top apprentice club makers earned his prized letter of recommendation, this essentially guaranteed them a top position with the best clubs in North America, Australia, and South Africa. The best of our members worked as clubmakers for a demanding and successful Robert Simpson.

His original shop was further eastwards along Links Parade within the grounds of the Dalhousie Club. He was was an all-round club maker, ball maker, course designer, tutor and professional golfer and it was said apart from his club making and golfing prowess, of particular note was his striking character and he was well known as a gentleman and being most polite in all his dealings.

He was well respected within his community in 1909 he was elected a member of Carnoustie Town Council, and in the years following was promoted to the Magistrates' Bench and became Recreation Convener of the burgh. His prowess as club manufacturer elevated him to friendships with famous people of his time. Sir Winston Churchill, a well known golfing enthusiast, and at that time Minister of Munitions stayed at Rockcliff (the Simpson’s family residence) as guest of Robert and his family in 1918.

Robert was also respected by his profession. Old Tom Morris became a good friend and they worked together to redesign the Carnoustie Links course around 1890 when Robert was superintendent of the courses. He is also credited with designing course layouts at Royal Aberdeen, Crieff (Ferntower), Edzell, Oban, Moffat, Linlithgow, Alyth and Blair Atholl.

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1891 - 1914

In 1891, Arthur George Maule Ramsey, 14th Earl of Dalhousie (pictured), was approached to sell the land. In 1892 the Army were thinking of expanding their operations at nearby Camp Barry. The townsfolk were opposed to the idea of losing their courses and the adjoining land and rallied to raise the funds to purchase the land.

The Earl sold the links to the town on condition that they would be maintained for all time as a golf course. A three-day bazaar was held at the Kinnaird Hall in Dundee, which raised the funds for the purchase and secured the future of the links for golfing and leisure.

The club hold a copy of the earliest book related to Carnoustie titled Carnoustie Golf Links Bazaar. The book tells the story of those events and how the local people raised the funds needed to buy the links land. The book was compiled by William Caesar and published in 1892.

The three day fundraising bazaar held in March in Dundee succeeded in raising £2,758. The local clubs successfully purchased the land, a truly significant event that saved the golf links from extinction.

October 29, 1892 for our Jubilee 50th Anniversary, Caledonia Golf Club gifted the Caledonia Kettle. The kettle is still played for till this day and presented to our Club Champion every year who also receives a commemorative gold medal. The Dalhousie Golf Club gifted the Dalhousie Silver Cup to be played for annually under handicap conditions. This first championship ended in a tie between 18 year old club maker named Alex Smith, who would go onto win the US Open.

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1898 - February - a decision was taken by Club members to build our current Clubhouse on Links Parade adjacent to the Championship Course. The clubhouse was planned and constructed in less than six months. August 13,1898 Captain Ramsay personally welcomes Harry Vardon, Alex Herd, J. H. Taylor, and James Braid to the new clubhouse in advance of the Grand Opening. These champions won The Open 17 times between 1894 and 1914.

The official grand opening was held on November 25th with Captain Ramsey presiding and Alex Smith donating the prizes for a competition that included all levels of golfers against bogey. William Harris provided entertainment as master of ceremonies for an evening that all agreed contributed to "fogged brains and clogged livers'.

After almost six decades, the members finally had a clubhouse to call their own. The 1899 club competition season was fierce, and the winners were eyed by some of the top clubs across the globe in search of the best players and clubmakers.

In a new tradition, each spring the club held a bittersweet ceremony to offer a proper send off to the latest group of members in search of fortune, sailing to far away places including South Africa, Australia and North America. Not forgetting where they came from, many purchased round trip tickets, returning in late fall to spend the winter and early spring with family, friends and clubmates.

From 1899 our members would go onto to win The US Open three times, Canadian Open, Australian Open, South African Open, British and Scottish Amateur Championships. We tell some of their achievements under the section 'Sons of Carnoustie'. Names like Alex, Willie and Macdonald Smith, David Bell, George Low, Jimmy and Stewart Maiden, Robert S. Simpson, George Fotheringham, Dan Soutar and Carnegie Clark.

As it turned out, if you could win the Carnoustie Golf Club Championship, soon you would be earning championships across the globe.

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In grateful remembrance of those who gave their lives In honour of those who served in sympathy with those who suffered

187 members of the Club served in the war. The First 1914 - 1918 and Second World War 1939 - 1945 not only affected Scots on a personal level, but also had an impact on the civilian population as a whole. It subjected their families at home to enormous anxiety, suffering and grief.

An accepted total of the Scottish war dead has yet to be calculated for WW1. Estimates vary between 100,000 and 135,000. The second World War ended with more than 57,000 Scots having died protecting their country. The casualty toll was less than half that of the Great War, but the fight had been every bit as traumatic.

The Carnoustie War Memorial can be found in the heart of the town. The semi circular wall with plinth in the middle surmounted by a bareheaded highland solider with his head bowed standing over a cross and wreath. The names of the fallen on the memorial are in order of surname, forenames, rank, service.

First World War (1914-1918)
Total names on memorial: 142

Second World War (1939-1945)
Total names on memorial: 49
VC or GC Recipients - names on memorial: 2

The war memorial plaque in the Carnoustie Golf Club lounge lists the members of the club who gave their lives in the two world wars. The unveiling ceremony was performed by Col. A. J. Campbell, Barry, in presence of a large gathering of members of the Club and representatives of sister clubs.

The Club Secretary, Mr George Davidson, read the inscription on the memorial and the names of the fallen. Piper James Myles, of the Black Watch, who played “The Flowers o’ the Forest”. Colonel Campbell, in unveiling the memorial, said the eighteen whose memory they were met to honour were amongst the flower of Carnoustie youth.

Their eighteen comrades gave their lives for them, and they could not think too highly of their memories that day. After prayer Piper Myles played “Lochaber no More” and Bugler George Whyte sounded “The Last Post”.

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Post War Years

Both World Wars decimated Scottish golf. Every village war memorial attests to the numbers who fell in France and few clubs are without a memorial to their members who never returned to play again.

July 29, 1919 For the first post-war Club Championship, J. B. Cunningham won 4 & 3 over William McKay. In the clubhouse later that evening, the Caledonia Kettle was presented for the first time since 1914.

July 16, 1927 Bobby Jones after a highly popular win in the 1927 Open at St Andrews. In honour of the impact our member Stewart Maiden played in his career, he came to Carnoustie to play a round, accompanied by Maiden, George Low and George Low Jr.,.

On route a visit was paid to Maiden's mother in her garden with various old friends. At Carnoustie Jones was met by the provost who presented him with a key to the town. The party continued on to the war memorial to pay respects prior to being entertained to lunch at the town's Bruce Hotel.

Access to the Links could not be given till 3.30pm and watched by a crowd of about 6,000, Jones played a foursome with local amateurs – Messrs Hosie, Cant and Little. Thereafter the celebrations continued in the clubhouse to round off a memorable day.

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May 22, 1931, 8:00 PM - Special Meeting of the Club Council for Macdonald Smith to privately present his late brother's medals as a gift to the club of Alex Smith's childhood, Carnoustie Golf Club

1931 - 3rd to 5th of June, The first Open Championship at Carnoustie - Member Bobby Scobie caddied for Open Champion Tommy Armour throughout the Championship. This golf ball, with an "A" scratched on it for identification, was used by Armour in victory by shooting a final round score of 71. Coming back from five shots down, Tommy promptly gifted this ball to Bobby, who's son Roy later gifted to our club.

1937 - 7th to 9th of July Henry Cotton won The Open for a second time at Carnoustie with the most impressive performance of his career. Cotton won by two strokes from Reg Whitcombe and would return in 1950 to present Macdonald Smiths' medals and trophies to the club.

The Second World War ended some great players survived but the consequence of terror gutted their game. Those that came through unscathed were few in number, determined never to see the like again and often took the decision to play in America - golf's promised land. Many of our members left a lasting impressions in the States and left Scotland bereft of its best and dearest.

1950 - September 16th 6:30 PM - Henry Cotton presents Carnoustie Golf Club Macdonald Smiths' bequeathed championship medals and trophies, in hope that "displaying them in full view of junior members might stir their young ambitions in golf to similar lofty levels of achievement"

1954 - November 27th - Macdonald Smith is elected to the USPGA of America Hall of Fame. Macdonald Smith joined his brother Alex as the 16th member of the PGA of America Hall of Fame. By permission of the PGA, his certificate joins with Alex's, as the only brothers ever elected to the Hall of Fame.

1961 - September 16th 1961. Alex Smith elected to the USPGA of America Hall of Fame. Alex's youngest daughter Margaret donated the cherished Hall of Fame certificate to Carnoustie Golf Club to join her father's championship medal collection. To this day, all are prominently displayed at the club for all to see.

1963 - The Armour Trophy - The clubs connection with Tommy Armour. Carnousties' first open champion Tommy Armour and our member Macdonald Smith were true friends. In 1963 Armour gifted to Carnoustie Golf Club the Tommy Armour Trophy. Since 1964 this trophy is a two-man partner championship, a trophy of friendship.

"Mac has the dignity of a true champion, the mien of a monarch and the deepest respect of all who know him" Tommy Armour, speaking of his dear friend, 1936.