Craigmillar Park Golf Club
Craigmillar Park Golf Club was constituted in 1895 and moved to its present location in 1907. It was extended to 18 holes (designed by James Braid) in 1927.
On 12th of January 1895 the Scotsman newspaper carried the following “birth” announcement :
“NEW GOLF COURSE IN THE SOUTH SIDE OF EDINBURGH. A nine-hole golf course is being formed at Craigmillar Park and is expected to be ready for play in February. A lease of the ground which extends from Crawfurd Road to Lady Road has been obtained from Captain Gordon Gilmour of Liberton and Craigmillar. The principal entrance will be from Crawfurd Road within three minutes’ walk of the Craigmillar Park car terminus and Newington Suburban Station. The course is about a mile in length and has been laid out by Mr. Day of Musselburgh, who has given a very favourable report of the suitability of the ground for the purpose. Already about 150 ladies and gentlemen have been admitted as members of the club.”
Many, perhaps most, of the new clubs created about the same time as Craigmillar Park were (and some continue) as male preserves. It is clear that from the outset equality of the sexes was the rule at Craigmillar Park, although it was not until 1914 that the subscriptions were equalised.
The course was situated in an area of land close to Newington Railway Station and the Newington Bus and Tram Terminus and was thus, easily accessible. In those days there was very little building development between the course and the iconic Craigmillar Castle from which the club derives its name. The castle was a haunt of Mary Queen of Scots, the world’s first recorded lady golfer. How ironic then, that since the golf club's inception, ladies have had equal status with men and there was no gender barrier to any office. This was in an age when golf clubs were regarded as male preserves. In 1914, ladies started paying exactly the same subscription as their male counterparts and this has remained right up to the present day. When you consider that all women did not get the vote until 1928, Craigmillar Park Golf Club were indeed trendsetters!
Despite the club's early success, with 400 members and a waiting list, they were dealt a blow when their course at Newington was taken over for housing development. They decided, rather than to disband, to relocate the golf course to the eastern slopes of the Blackford Hill in 1907. Once again the close proximity of Blackford Railway Station and Bus Terminus were factors in their decision making. Another factor in choosing Blackford Hill was the potential for increasing the length of the 9 holes that had been played for in the course at Newington and possibly even converting the new course to 18 holes at some future date. This is in fact what happened and James Braid designed a splendid 18 hole course which officially opened in 1927. The new course was a real test of golf with no two holes being the same. The course boasts marvellous views over Edinburgh and Fife and down the coast to the Berwick Law, Bass Rock and the Isle Of May. There is also a quietness about the course and Deer are regularly seen.
A more appropriate name for the new course would have been Blackford but there was already a Ladies club of that name in existence and the club decided to stick with its original name of Craigmillar Park. Curiously enough the Ladies club disbanded soon after and they all joined Craigmillar Park.
15 club members fell in the First World War and in the Second World War 4 members were killed in action. Two of the four were arguably the finest golfers ever to play for the club. Robert McKinna and George Roberts Junior were internationalists for Scotland at golf and George played full-back for Scotland at Rugby and won a Triple Crown at Twickenham of all places. He was also club champion 5 times. George was a Captain in the Gordon Highlanders. He was killed when he attacked a Japanese guard in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Burma. Robert was runner-up in the Irish Amateur Open in 1938. In the same year he played for Scotland against Wales. He turned up at a golf tournament at Gullane in 1938 and equalled the course record at the No 1 course and for good measure he equalled the course record at the No 2 course in the afternoon. Needless to say, he walked off with all the prizes! He was in the RAF, a member of the Pathfinders and won D.F.C. and Bar.
Things were not plain sailing in the new course. Whereas before in Newington they had one landlord, now they had three! None were sympathetic to the club. They could terminate the lease at will and encroach on the course at will. However in 2003, the club, at long last bought the part of the course that they did not own and they now have security of tenure and are masters of their own destiny.
In 1961 the Craigmillar Park Open (formerly the King George IV Trophy) was inaugurated in early April of that year and has been played for every year since. This is the first order of merit event of the year in Scotland and has World Amateur Golf ranking points at stake. The list of previous winners reads like a "Who's Who" of Scottish golf. From the legendary Ronnie Shade and Charlie Green to the present day players of Lloyd Saltman, Scott Jamison and Marc Warren.
Surely the most famous winner however must be Sir Nick Faldo who won in 1976. He literally won the tournament on the Sunday and turned professional on the Monday.
Although the club always had equality of sexes, there was only ever one Lady Captain, Miss Catherine Nicolson in 1930. She had the distinction of being Lady Champion in both the original course and the present one. Now we have another Lady Captain in Mrs Karen Ballantyne who attained office in 2014. She is a Scottish internationalist at golf and is also the current Lady Champion.