The West Kilbride Golf Club was formed in March 1893, after some 4 months of planning and negotiation. A meeting held in November 1892 in the ante-room of the Temperance Hotel, not perhaps a venue immediately connected with golf and golfers, had decided that the creation of a golf course would be a considerable addition to the amenities of the district.
The famous Professional Tom Morris of St Andrews, always dubbed ‘Old Tom’ to distinguish him from his son, was called in to survey the land and with the usual hard-headed self-interest of the Victorian professional golfer, declared it excellent for the purpose.
Things moved quickly in those days and by March 1893 the Club was formally constituted with Nicol P Brown as Captain. Two months later came the official opening by the then Laird of Auchenames, Hugh R G Craufurd, of the 9-hole Course which had a modest wooden shed for a Clubhouse out by the present 3rd green. The Course did not grow to conventional size until April 1905 by which time a new and much improved Clubhouse had been commissioned and occupied. From the beginning the Club suffered from having 2 and sometimes 3 landlords which worked against acquiring ownership of the Course, something which would give the Club considerable concern in subsequent years. By the outbreak of World War One, the Club was well established in the ranks of Ayrshire golfers, being especially attractive to military people and civil servants back on extended leave from the colonies. From the very beginning there had been a flourishing Ladies’ Section and it was one of their number who first put the Club on the national map in 1913.
Jean McCulloch won the Scottish Ladies’ Championship while still in her teens. It was the start of an astonishing career which would see her National Champion twice more, a career in which she would win the West of Scotland Championship 40 years after her first National success and live to attend the 75th Anniversary Dinner of that win at Machrihanish in 1913. In addition her encouragement to ladies’ golf, in particular girls’ golf, was to be a life-long commitment.
The War of 1914 cost the Club heavily in casualties, 30 members either lost their lives or were so severely incapacitated as to be prevented from playing any more. The Club suffered from a grievous loss with the death in action of an outstanding greenkeeper, Robert Hunter. West Kilbride managed to hang on through the War and to resist attempts to be taken over wholly or in part by the War Department.
Between the 2 Wars there was of course great social change. The Clubhouse had to be extended to accommodate a bar, this with Sunday opening came surprisingly late to West Kilbride, not until the late 1930s. A Car Park was also built as the motor car became an everyday means of transport rather than a crowd-gathering rarity. A young man named Sandy Sinclair was beginning to give evidence of his considerable talent in the years immediately preceding 1939. He would go on to become a top-flight international golfer and later one of the game’s administrators. He was destined to fill the onerous roles of Walker Cup Selector and Captain of the R&A and he shared Jean McCulloch’s concern for the rising generation of golfers. The Second World War saw a desperate struggle by those older members left at home to keep the Course in being at a time when a wrong decision could have easily led to its temporary or even permanent closure. Peter Macnab has written cogently about those dark days. Shortly after the return to peace-time conditions it became evident that in J H Morrison - Jock Morrison – the Club possessed not only a long hitter but a phenomenal hitter. He was very long indeed even by the most exacting professional standards. Professional golfers were now appearing with regularity at West Kilbride, notably Bobby Locke in 1951. Interestingly, they could have had the great Walter Hagen as far back as the 30s but agreement could not be reached on the amount of his fee.
A major event in the history of the Club took place on 26 June 1996 when, at a Special General Meeting of the Club, it was agreed that the Constitution of the Club should be amended to give equal rights to Lady and Gentlemen members within each category of membership. The transfer to equal rights within the Club was very smooth and caused no major problems.
At the Annual General Meeting held in March 2002, Mrs A J Jamieson was elected as Captain of the Club – our first Lady to hold this position. Over the years a gratifying number of talented young players of both sexes have come through the ranks. In 1983, Calum Innes was the first Junior member to win the Club Championship. In the same year he was also runner-up in the Scottish Boys’ Championship when he was beaten by Colin Gillies at the 38th hole. Calum later turned Professional and is now teaching in Germany.
Graham Fox won the Club Championship for 5 consecutive years, the first being in 1992 when he was aged 14. In the same vein, Laura Moffat won the Ladies’ Championship for 3 consecutive years, the first being in 1993 when she was aged 13. In 1993 the collective age of our Club Championship was 28 – this must be a record!
Graham went on to represent Scotland on several occasions and turned Professional in 2001, the year in which he qualified for the European Tour. Laura also represented Scotland on several occasions and was in the British Team against Europe for the Vagliano Trophy.
No one golfer has dominated the Gents Club Championship in recent years but Linzi Allan won her 8th Ladies Club Championship in a row in 2015. She has now completed her PGA Training and works alongside Iain Darroch in the West Kilbride Professional Shop.
Over the years the Club has played host to many important Championships – the British Girls’, the Pringle Seniors’, the British Senior Ladies’, the Scottish Girls’, the Scottish Ladies’, the Scottish Boys’ and more exotically, the World One Armed Golfers Championship.
For most members golf is not a matter of Championships, but rather a friendly foursome with the cheerful male insults or the ladies with their scrupulous adherence to the Rules of Golf. A small added bonus though is having the thousand faces of Arran as a backdrop!
West Kilbride Golf Club, 33-35 Fullerton Drive, Seamill, West Kilbride, Ayrshire, KA23 9HT