Bute Golf Club will face the biggest challenge of its 127-year existence on Saturday, June 6, when it hosts what is believed to be the oldest inter-club tournament in the world.
The Kingarth course, which was on the brink of closure just five years ago, has been chosen as the venue for the prestigious Firth of Clyde Trophy, an annual event organised by the Associated Clubs of Clyde whose patrons are former Ryder Cup captains Sam Torrance and American Ben Crenshaw.
Leading amateur players from the West of Scotland will come to Kingarth for this five-man team event involving 11 clubs - holders Skelmorlie, Rothesay, Port Bannatyne, Gourock, Millport, Largs, Innellan, Blairmore and Strone, Cowal, Routenburn, and Bute.
Rothesay golfers were inaugural winners of the tournament in 1899 and, with the exception of war years, it has been contested continuously since then. The Canada Hill club have won the trophy on 21 occasions while Port Bannatyne, who were accepted for membership in 1972, have been victors four times including their club centenary success in 2012.
Bute Golf Club is now bidding to join its island neighbours on the winners’ rostrum. The team will be led by Argyll & Bute champion Graham Bolton who is also club title-holder at Kingarth and at Rothesay. He will be strongly supported by Donald Standaloft, Robert McKirdy, Graham McArthur and Arthur Hunter.
Teams will play off scratch with the best three scores counting.
Competitors will find a course which has been transformed from the dark days of 2009 when its future was threatened after livestock, from an adjacent farm with grazing rights, devastated the links, particularly during wet winter months.
Since then the club has enjoyed sole occupancy of the land and the committee of management has embarked on an ambitious programme of restoration and renewal.
The first priority was to create an access road and car park as previously golfers had to walk five hundred yards on a rough path to reach the clubhouse; now attention has turned to the course.
Ongoing work, costing more than £50,000, includes:
* First hole completely re-shaped to form a right-to-left dog-leg. A water feature has been created to guard the approaches to the green. Extensive new drainage is used to ‘feed’ this expansive pond which, in addition to providing a golfing hazard, creates a valuable habitat supporting wildlife.
* Major investment on the greens following the removal of surrounding fencing in place as protection from cattle and sheep. All nine putting surfaces have been refurbished. This has included a sand-injection programme of coring and seeding.
* Three new tees have been built to extend the length of the course – at the first, fourth and eighth holes. Others were re-turfed and enlarged.
* Previously there were no sand hazards because of the livestock problem, but now three new bunkers have been created – two at the dramatically improved first hole and one at the seventh.
Now, with work on major improvements completed, the new-look Kingarth course, with its stunning backdrop of The Sleeping Warrior on the mountains of Arran, will be put to the test on Saturday.