THE CLUB was formed in 1888 on land leased from the third Marquess of Bute who was responsible for re-building Mount Stuart, the stunning stately home on the east coast of the island, after the original house was burned to the ground in 1877.
Founder members engaged David Cuthbert of St Andrews, who was greenkeeper at the Millport club at the time, to design nine holes. Officials of the Cumbrae Golf Club, as Millport was known in those early days, allowed Cuthbert to spend a week at Bute GC’s expense to ‘lay off’ the course. He has created a layout which, although short by modern-day standards, provides a true test of golf with subtle challenges. Natural features of linksland including drystane dykes, whins, ridges and burns have been used to good effect as was the case with the origins of the game.
For most of its 122 years’ existence golfers have had to share the course with livestock from the neighbouring farm of Quochag. This required the need for protective barbed wire fences around the greens to keep sheep, cattle, and, for a time, a couple of Clydesdale horses, at bay.
Also, players had to leave their cars on a lay-by on the A844 West Road route to Kilchattan Bay and walk through the farm on a 500 yards’ trek to the first tee. Gates had to be open and closed – while hens and chickens scattered underfoot as a masticating bull eyed golfers with interest from behind an electric fence!
Now all that has changed with the golf club enjoying sole occupancy of the land from November, 2009 – and, as a result, the condition of the course has improved dramatically. The greens particularly are the subject of high praise by golfers from near and far.
Tom Weiskopf, winner of The Open Championship in 1973 at Royal Troon, visited Kingarth some years ago when he was involved in the design of the Loch Lomond course. He walked the links viewing the surrounding land before offering his opinion that it would make a superb 18-hole championship course.
The wooden clubhouse, which was erected in 1911, has stood up remarkably well in the front-line of prevailing winds and weather from the West for almost 100 years. It is of a pavilion-style which, in the past, was prevalent on rural golf courses throughout Scotland. Unfortunately not many remain and it is the intention of Bute Golf Club to have the building restored to its former glory. A special fund has been set up and money-raising activities are ongoing.
The club celebrated its centenary in 1988 with a Grand Match in which almost 100 took part. Refreshments were enjoyed at the clubhouse immediately after the golf and later a celebratory dinner was held at the Glenburn Hotel, Rothesay. Among the guests was the landowner and patron of the club, the late John Crichton-Stuart, the sixth Marquess of Bute.
The club has a long connection with the justiciary, beginning in 1891 – just three years after it was founded – when the Rt. Hon. J. P. B. Robertson, the Lord Justice General of Scotland, gifted a magnificent silver medal for competition. It is now presented annually to the winner of the first-class medal finals.
For many years The Lord Emslie served as Hon. President of the club. He was, as Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, Scotland’s senior judge from 1972 until 1989 and gifted the Emslie Medal for the second-class medal finals.
Following Lord Emslie’s death in 2002 his son, The Honourable Lord Kingarth – also a High Court judge – became Patron of Bute Golf Club in 2003. He kindly donated the Lord Kingarth Trophy which is competed for annually in our major stableford competition.