Willie Mackay, captain of Royal Dornoch Golf Club (left) presents the “John Sutherland Quaich” to Ali Mackay, captain of Wick Golf Club. Also pictured is Wick historian Roy Mackenzie.
GOLFING ties between the Highland towns of Wick and Dornoch date back to the 19th Century.
The bonds have been strengthened further by the donation of the “John Sutherland Quaich” by Royal Dornoch Golf Club, which will be competed for annually among members at Wick Golf Club.
The trophy commemorates the legendary Royal Dornoch secretary, who was hugely influential in the development of golf in the north of Scotland and far beyond.
The Quaich was presented by Royal Dornoch captain Willie Mackay, in recognition of Wick Golf Club’s 150th anniversary.
While the fall-out from the pandemic delayed the formal handover for two years, a team from Royal Dornoch recently headed north to mark the occasion, with Wick enjoying a 3-2 win in a friendly competition.
Mr Mackay observed that while records show golf has been played on the links at Dornoch since 1616, the town council gave formal permission for the sport to be played on the shoreline in 1877.
The Sutherland Golf Society at Dornoch Links was created seven years after Wick Golf Club, the oldest in the Highlands.
A teenage John Sutherland took over as secretary at the then Dornoch Golf Club in 1883 and continued in post for 58 years until 1941.
In presenting the memorial Quaich, Mr Mackay noted: “In 1906, John travelled north and spent two days laying out this classic, very natural traditional Scottish links golf course at Reiss.”
Sutherland, who also served as town clerk, was also responsible for inviting Tom Morris to Dornoch to enhance the links; he taught legendary US golf course architect Donald Ross to play the game; and he was integral in putting the town on the Edwardian era tourist map.
Wick Golf Club historian Roy Mackenzie’s research has uncovered ties between the two clubs dating back to the 1880s.
Various Dornoch golfers were country members and competitors at Reiss Links when it was a nine-hole course, with Sutherland winning the annual medal in 1891.
Mr Mackenzie highlighted the influential role of the Dornoch secretary in marketing and developing golf in the north of Scotland. He penned various Press articles extolling the virtues of golf at Wick.
When Lady Louisa Duff Dunbar of Ackergill and Hempriggs Estate offered to fund the extension to 18 holes in 1906, Sutherland was commissioned to redesign the course.
“Wick professional and greenkeeper Tom Jameson implemented the plans and in July 1907, the redesigned course was formally opened by Lady Duff Dunbar in front of 200 guests,” said Mr Mackenzie.
“This was followed by an exhibition match between John Sutherland and Thomas E Green of Royal Dornoch which the latter player won.
“In 1908, a new eye-catching clubhouse was built on Reiss Links which set the standards for golf facilities in the north and a couple of years later, Royal Dornoch Golf Club became the standard bearer with a fine course and a new two-storey clubhouse.”