AN EXILED golf club that has been without its own course for 16 years will this weekend mark another milestone in its remarkable history.
At noon on Sunday (28th April), Robert H Stewart, vice-captain of the Eriskay Whisky Galore Golf Club, will hit the first shot in the inaugural club competition of the newly ‘reborn’ club.
The competition, for the Bonnie Prince Charlie Shield, will be the first held since Eriskay GC became an officially-registered club with the Scottish Golf Union.
It will be played at Tain Golf Course, some 300 miles from Eriskay, the Hebridean island where the club’s story began.
In 1994 island golfers created a six-hole course by hacking out fairways and greens from croftland, rock, rushes and sand dunes. The course, and the island’s historic associations, became an attraction for golfers across the world.
The beach behind the fifth green was where Charles Edward Stuart first landed in Scotland during the Jacobite uprising in 1745.
In 1941 a cargo ship, the SS Politician, also sank off the coast of Eriskay while carrying 28,000 cases of malt whisky.
The sinking, and the escapades of the locals as they attempted to salvage the whisky cargo in the face of stiff opposition by the Customs and Excise men, gave rise to a bestseller book by Compton Mackenzie, entitled ‘Whisky Galore’, and a later film of the same name
The famous six-hole course was forced to close by an ‘immovable hazard’ in 1997 when a four-bedroom house was built on the green of the 150-yard par-3 fifth, which also made the second and fourth holes unplayable.
Despite the setback, the Eriskay Open and Club championship survived and were held in 1997 and 1999 at a nine-hole course at Taynuilt in Argyll, 100 miles and a five-hour ferry trip away.
In 2000 the competitions moved to Torvean Golf Club Inverness, where Willie Rusk, the former Eriskay boatman and co-founder of the golf club, has worked for 13 years.
This year Eriskay GC, which has over 50 members, affiliated to Tain Golf Club and became members of the North district Golf Association
Eriskay also runs a seniors event and the Whisky Galore Gentleman’s Open as well as an annual inter-island match against Orkney when the teams play for a Jack Nicklaus-signed flag from St Andrews, where he played his last major championship in 2005.
Willie, who is also Eriskay GC’s honorary secretary, said: “We have been running the increasingly popular Whisky Galore Opens for many years, along with a growing number of other events – inter-club matches and suchlike.
“Our members were keen to develop the club as a fully-operational golf club, so that’s exactly what we have done.
“We have now affiliated with the Scottish Golf Union, have prepared a full range of competitions for our members during 2013 and are now authorised to administer our members’ handicaps.
“And golfers who make the annual pilgrimage to play in our two Whisky Galore Opens will be pleased to learn that these will this year be held by kind permission of Tain Golf Club, with whom we have affiliated - we shall be playing our Whisky Galore Opens and our own Club Competitions on their excellent course.”
Entries are now being taken for the Whisky Galore Gents and Senior Gents Opens to be held in July.