Farewell to the Hill of dreams

MORE than 100 golfers braved the elements last Saturday to compete in the last ever competition over 18 holes at Galashiels Golf Club.

The final ascent of the Hill at Ladhope took on the mantle of a poignant pilgrimage as members past and present rolled their trolleys over holes 10-16 one last time. But as players gathered in the 19th, the feeling of sorrow dispersed to be replaced with one of optimism as golfers young and not so young looked ahead with driving ambition to a nine-hole future and the dawn of a new era at the popular club.

Having joined in season 1968/69, Ellis MacGregor has enjoyed the course longer than most and is saddened at the loss of The Hill.

Along with his clubmates, however, Ellis has resigned himself to the fact that with the drop in numbers and its inevitable financial implications the change was necessary and he to is looking forward to the future.

Ellis told TheSouthern: "I will be sorry to lose the Hill. Over the years I have walked it many a time and enjoyed the views available at the 10th (affectionately known as Cardiac Hill).

"Golf has changed since I joined, though. New courses are popping up everywhere and players have more choice, so for our club to grow again we have to make these changes."

Indeed, since announcing that they would be shrinking the course, the club has been inundated with players looking to join ahead of next season and the prospect of re-establishing the ladies section is also on the cards.

Club president Billy Ritchie added: "We have downsized and over the next few years we hope to make some radical changes to the new layout. It is a very exciting time for the club and I think the buzz is catching on, not only within our current membership, but outwith the club as well.

"Many people found the Hill a bit of a struggle and are now considering joining to take up the new challenges we will have to offer. Build Centre in Gala have given us some free materials to start building our new tees and over the next three years we plan to make further changes."

The club was founded in 1884. The then nine-hole course was laid out around Appletreeleaves House and alongside the Ladhope Burn. In 1895, a breakaway group founded Torwoodlee Golf Club and at a special meeting, Galashiels Golf Club was disbanded in August 1897 when it was agreed that all the assets and trophies would be handed over to Torwoodlee.

Fifteen years later, Galashiels Golf Club was reformed in August 1912 and the following October Mr H. Roberts, the proprietor of Ladhope Estate, gifted the land to the people of Galashiels the area now known as Ladhope Recreation Ground.

The amenable Mr Roberts donated more land and on July 14, 1914, Galashiels Golf Club commenced with the development of the 18-hole layout that was designed by James Braid, whose numerous claims to fame include Gleneagles and Carnoustie.

An Open Tournament, sponsored to the tune of 300 by the town's merchants, was staged in May 1920, and attracted an impressive international field.

With the advantage of local knowledge, Braid took the honours with Harry Vardon the runner-up. The club still has the result sheets with the players names and scores, which proudly hang in the clubhouse.

The course has changed little throughout the intervening years, except for a major development in April 1992 when the club took over the running of the club from the local District Council.

Subsequent changes over the past 12 years have included a new first hole, new tees, which has lengthened the course, and also the introduction of bunkers.

Club captain John Heath added his thanks to the current membership for supporting the changes.

He told us: “Everyone has to look forward now and that’s what everyone is doing. We also have a thriving junior section. At the end of the day, we are doing this for them so that they and their families can enjoy the course for many years to come.”

The Captain’s Texas Scramble officially starts the new season on Saturday, March 8.

This event is a shotgun start and all players should meet in the clubhouse at noon. An entry list is on the noticeboard in the clubhouse.