From its foundation in 1868 by a group of golfing Dundee businessmen, the Dalhousie Golf Club has played a major role in the development of Carnoustie as one of the leading golf venues in the world. The club is also proud to have been a founder sponsor of The Amateur Championship in 1886.
Why Dalhousie? The courses at Carnoustie are laid out on land largely acquired from the Earls of Panmure and Dalhousie and in lesser measure from Carnoustie House Estate. As membership of the new club grew rapidly in the early months of 1868, the promoters wrote to Lord Dalhousie for permission to play golf on Carnoustie Links and to allocate a site for the clubhouse. From the date of Lord Dalhousie’s approval to the present day, successive Earls of Dalhousie have always been Patron of the club.
Key events quickly followed:
# Work soon began on building the clubhouse – at an estimated cost of £600.
# Thomas Watty was appointed by the club as “the professional keeper of the course.
# November 7, 1868, brought the first competition for the Brand Medal. The first man to win the club’s first medal competition was Mr W.C. Thomson – with a score of 92. (Red coats with brown collars were the chosen correct attire to wear on the links. For the annual dinner and other dress occasions there was another resplendent “uniform”. Examples of both are exhibited in the club’s display cases within the Carnoustie Hotel.)
# In December 1872 Tom Morris of St Andrews was invited to inspect the course with a view to extending it to 18 holes – the first step towards the formation of the present Championship Course.
# In August 1883 the Dalhousie Club appointed Robert Simpson, from Earlsferry, clubmaker and green superintendent. Robert was accompanied to Carnoustie by two of his brothers, Archie and Jack, and the three were soon making the name of the town stand out in competitive golf. They inspired scores of locals to imitate “the Carnoustie swing” which was to be exported to many parts of the world as they headed off to America, South Africa and Australia to teach golf as professionals – securing Carnoustie’s vital pioneering role in world-wide golf.
# After 21 successful years , with major responsibility for maintaining the course, the Dalhousie Club decided in 1889 to seek to purchase the course from the Dalhousie Estate Trustees and a figure of £1250 was agreed. These plans foundered when a Dundee High School pupil heard two members of the club discuss the proposal on a train between Dundee and Carnoustie. The boy reported to his father, who was a member of the equivalent of the town council – and moves were started to have the town buy the course, rather than the club. The Dalhousie Club members then gave their support – and financial contribution – for the new plan. The club continued to act as conservators of the links until 1900.
# Clubhouse improvements continued and in 1926 James Wright, the then Captain of the Dalhousie Club, persuaded the local golfing community that James Braid should be invited to examine and propose upgrading of the Championship Course – a vital point in Carnoustie’s development as one of the greatest courses in the world. In 1930 Wright himself proposed further changes which made Carnoustie’s three closing holes among the toughest and most respected anywhere – in time for the first Carnoustie Open Championship in 1931.
# Winner of that 1931 Open was Edinburgh-born US citizen Tommy Armour. The Carnoustie Open roll of honour includes some of the greatest names in golf: 1937 Henry Cotton; 1953 Ben Hogan; 1968 Gary Player; 1975 Tom Watson; 1999 Paul Lawrie; 2007 Padraig Harrington. Over the years the Dalhousie Club has welcomed many of the elite of golf – most famously Ben Hogan - and has also played its part in vital duties required by the Open. The importance of the role of another Dalhousie Club captain, Jock Calder, in driving forward course improvements to persuade the R &A to restore Carnoustie to the Open Championshp rota after 1975 cannot be overstated.
# 1937 saw the introduction of ladies as Lady Associate Members.
# 1986 brought the start of a period of trauma. The club council was approached by a group of businessmen seeking to develop a hotel on the site of the clubhouse. Agreement was reached to incorporate much of the existing clubhouse, and in 1990 members vacated the premises, which had been the club’s home for 122 years, on a temporary basis until the new hotel/club development was completed. In a saga complicated by other proposals to build a hotel on the other side of Links Parade, the original Dalhousie site plans fell through and the handsome red sandstone building, one of the cornerstones of Carnoustie golf, was eventually demolished to make way for apartment blocks.
# The club then faced a peripatetic future until the new Carnoustie Hotel was completed in time for the 1999 Open and the Dalhousie Club settled into its new home overlooking the first and eighteenth holes of the great - perhaps the greatest - seaside links.