A brief history of Cardross Golf Club

The home of golf in the West of Scotland

The History of Cardross Golf Club


Cardross Golf Club was founded on 5th November 1895 after a meeting of all residents in the area, at the village school.

The Victorian era had seen a growth of organised sport and leisure activities. A Golf club had been formed in Dumbarton in 1888 and Helensburgh in 1893 so some residents of Cardross wanted their own village club.

They approached the major land owner Mr Burns of Kilmahew whose estate owned most of the land between his mansion house and the railway. He was the most powerful and influential man in Cardross at the time and his co-operation was essential if the Golf Club was to be a success. He offered to rent the Club three fields of 17 acres for £25 a year.

The first committee was formed to organise the running of the Club and they set the membership fees and made Mr Burns of Kilmahew the Patron of the Club at this very first meeting.

The first Cardross Golf Course was not on the same ground as it is today. It was in the area between the main Helensburgh road and the railway. Between the station road and Smithy Road. There was no Reay Avenue in those days; nor was there a football pitch, bowling green or tennis club.

The committee made up course plans and work started to build the greens and some bridges over the burn. Although the course was short and only had 6 holes it was amazingly completed by 21st December 1895. No doubt the result was pretty rough and ready by today’s standards. In fact other than the greens the grass cutting was mainly done by grazing of cattle and sheep on the course. With the local farmer paying rent to the golf club.

For the big opening day they hired a marquee for refreshments and Mrs Burns of Kilmahew was presented with a silver golf club with which to hit the very first golf shot.

At the first AGM in January 1896 the membership was at 75 and rising. They appointed a Green keeper for £10 a year and made plans to build a clubhouse. This was built for £50 and a club mistress and key holder was appointed for £5 per year.

The clubhouse was opened in May 1896 and was sited very close to where the Scout hall is today. It was little more than a wooden shed with toilets and a wooden veranda on the front.

A short 7th hole was added in 1897 but plans to increase to 9 holes were not possible as they could not agree with Mr Burns of Kilmahew to get the use of the nearby fields across the main road. Discussions continued even after the death of Mr Burns, with his son Captain Burns the new Landowner. Plans were made that would alter the whole scale of golf in Cardross.

The year 1904 was one of the most important in the history of the Club. It saw the Club move to the present site north of the main road with room for 18 holes and able to attract many new members to a course of which they could now be proud.

Captain Burns leased the club 80 acres of land and did everything in his power to help the Club with the flitting - returning the old course to field and moving the clubhouse. They arranged for the celebrated golfer Willie Fernie of Troon to design the new course.

The new course was staked out on 7th of March and amazingly opened in May that year. At the formal opening ceremony where Mrs Burns the wife of the Lord of the manor struck the first shot and was followed by an exhibition match between Willie Fernie and Ben Sayers of North Berwick which Fernie won.

Membership rose rapidly to 529 where at the start of the year it had been only 59. There were 51 Life, 330 Gents, 67 Lady 25 artisan and 56 Junior members. Also enjoying the new course were the local farmers sheep. At that time there was a rule “No Member shall be allowed on the course on Sundays”

1905 saw the building of a new clubhouse which opened in June. It was a fine large two storey villa with locker rooms down stairs and bar, dining room, kitchen and veranda looking out onto the course on the upper floor.

1907 saw the appointment of the first Golf Professional and the Club built a shop for him. The course was again extended into another two fields and the annual rent was now £115.

1914-1918 saw the First World War during which time 30 members were killed and all play was suspended. The Club struggled with the loss of income and survived only through those who gave generous donations to keep it going.

1919 Having survived the war the next event to affect the Club was the sale and break-up of the Kilmahew estate from whom the land was rented. As several different owners had now bought the land, the Club had to arrange new leases with each of them and this proved very difficult. Luckily the new owner of the Kilmahew house and much of the land agreed to give new areas from his lands to the Club and another redesign was now required.

1921 James Braid the celebrated Golf Professional and course designer was invited to make his recommendations. The course opened in June 1921 with an exhibition match between James Braid and Harry Vardon who were both Open championship winners. This saw the start of a fairly settled period and the increase in membership and the quality of golfers Cardross was now producing.

1927 saw electric lighting installed in the clubhouse. A motor tractor was bought in 1929 with a motorised lawn mower to replace the horse pulled mowers of the past. 1928 Sunday golf was first allowed after 1:45pm only.
1938 brought the gas supply to the clubhouse.

1939 the start of the Second World War saw the competitions cancelled and again the problem of fewer members due to those away fighting. The clubhouse was used for war work and sheep were returned to the course to help the war effort and save in petrol and labour. The Home guard used the course for training.

1941 Fairways of fire
On the night of 6th May 1941 German air raids on Clydeside came to Cardross. For whatever reason, error or mistake that night incendiary bombs, land mines, high explosive bombs (some delayed action) rained down on the village. The consequences for the Golf Club were dreadful.

The clubhouse was occupied by only the club mistress Mrs Adie and her son James. They were awakened at midnight by a neighbour who had seen the clubhouse on fire. There followed a desperate attempt to extinguish the fire. It was done in the most appalling circumstances including at one point when a HE bomb fell on the 18th fairway, the shock shattered every window at the front of the clubhouse. A hose and pump were fetched and on one occasion Mrs Adie heroically carried at least 5 gallons of water in an urn from one room to another to keep the pump supplied. Eventually they succeeded in extinguishing the fire.

Further bombs fell nearby on the 18th fairway, and first green and not long after 2:30am a terrible explosion was heard. The whole clubhouse shook, and masonry, timber and glass were strewn everywhere. A landmine had been dropped on Peel Street opposite the club and had caused awful death, injury and property destruction there, but powerful enough also to still bring about great damage to the already weakened clubhouse.

At the clubhouse, for a while, there was a strange, eerie silence. Then crackling sounds were heard. Investigation revealed two large red circles, each three feet in diameter between them almost covering the whole kitchen ceiling. Incendiaries, two of them had penetrated the roof and lodged in the attic above the kitchen.

No water was available and the flames in the attic were already too fierce to be dealt with. Escape was difficult and dramatic amidst the rubble. Mrs Adie was loath to leave the building of which she was in charge, and, not surprisingly, was frightened by the screaming noises outside, the sound of the Ack-Ack guns, and the hellish smell of cordite and burning materials.

Eventually both escaped, the club mistress sheltering in the Cardross Inn while her son went by bicycle in search of the Fire Brigade. Unfortunately the principal water main had been hit and the fire Brigade were powerless.

And so the flames enveloped the clubhouse, as they did other buildings in the village and vicinity and by morning all that remained was a dangerous charred shell.
Nearby stood the equally destroyed Parish Church.

It was indeed as if hell had visited Cardross that night.

Written by James Adie


1941-1944 A claim was made to the War Damage Commission for the total loss. The clubhouse was demolished and the Golf Club required a new building from which to operate. Sir Maurice Denny of the local ship building family offered the use of Ardenvohr house which although damaged was serviceable.

1946 the new clubhouse accommodation comprised a series of huts sited where the green keeper shed is today. This collection of wooden huts made up the bar, dining room, locker rooms and toilets of the Club.

1948 saw the sale of the Kilmahew estate to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and although unwilling to sell the land to the Club they did agree to a 10 year lease and did not object to play all day on a Sunday. Special arrangements were made for play by student priests. The Club was at this time able to buy land from some of the other owners including the site of the old clubhouse.

1954 after finally agreeing compensation figure from the War Damages Commission, the Club was able to start the building of a new clubhouse. This was finished in March 1956 and produced a clubhouse very similar in layout to today’s building.

1965 again saw the Club extend the course to increase the golfing challenge but also to protect the long term future from a proposed Cardross by-pass road being considered at that time. An additional field of 18 acres and a new 21 year lease were agreed with the Archdiocese of St Peter’s College.

1967 the new course opened with three new holes constructed being the current 11th,12th and 13th and alterations to remove several shorter ones within the original layout. This resulted in an increase from 5,631 yards to 6,450 yards and standard scratch raised from 67 to 71.

1978 The long running saga of the lease of the land became an issue again as the Archdiocese of Glasgow gave notice they were closing the college and looking to sell the Kilmahew estate. There followed a protracted period of negotiations between local planning and potential buyers. The Club bought the land owned by the Chrystal trust on holes 3 and 4

1987 The Archdiocese land took until 1986 to eventually reach a position where the Club was able to purchase the remaining 62 acres. This was completed on 21st May 1987 for £225,000 and for the first time the Club owned all the land.

1990 A working group was set up to consider major improvements to the clubhouse.

1992 A development sub committee was formed and after special general meeting in November 1993 approved the project and finance that was involved for the £600,000 refurbishment of the clubhouse. On the 29th October 1994 the refurbished clubhouse was opened.

1992 Scottish Professional Golfers Championship was held at Cardross Golf Club. Paul Lawrie was the winner who went on to win the Open at Carnoustie.

Cardross continues to be one of the foremost parkland courses in the West of Scotland and has long been regarded as a top championship course. Host to many National and County events over the years with the recent accolades from the Scottish Golf Union, after we hosted the Scottish Boys Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship in 2012 and from the Scottish Ladies Golf Association following the Scottish Ladies Junior Open Strokeplay Championship in 2011, shows that our course is up there with the best in the country.

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