Summer course back in play.
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The first golf course in Inverness was situated in the Longman area and it was here that the Inverness Golf Club was first founded in 1883. The course remained in this position adjacent to the Moray Firth until the onset of the Second World War when the then War Department commandeered the land to be used as an RAF base for the duration of the conflict. Post war, the Longman was designated as an industrial area for the growing town. It is still just possible to see the site of some of the original tees if you know where to look! The Longman Trophy is an annual event named after the original site of the course and the Longman Cup is one of the many assets donated to Torvean by the original Longman club.
By this time, Inverness had just the one private course, Culcabock, located in the Kingsmills area. Demand for golf facilities in the area continued to grow after the war, but it wasn't until 17 years after the war ended that the Town Council made good their promise and purchased the current Torvean site on the outskirts of the town.
The site of the Torvean Golf Club has three main features:
Torvean Hill – is a geologically important ‘esker', formed at the end of the last ice age when the great glen glacier melted. The hill, or mound was the rock and rubble pushed ahead of the glacier and has been used as a source for a lot of the sandstone of local building in and around Inverness. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There is some dispute around the name. Torvean or Tor-a-Bhean, translated from Gaelic means "hill of Bean". There may be some difficulty in identifying Bean. According to the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland New Edition1 it might take its name from St. Bean, an 11th century saint, 1st bishop of Mortlach, who died after 1012. However an earlier edition (1882 - 1884) of the same book mentions that the name may be linked to Donald Bane, killed in 1187 fighting with the Inverness garrison. The most likely source of Torvean however is from St. Baithen, (536 - 600), who was second abbot of Iona and successor to St. Columba. The hill itself is a prominent landmark on the west of the city.
Loch-Na-Sanais – from the Gaelic ‘The Loch of the Whispering' – was formed as a result of clay extraction during the construction of the adjacent Caledonian Canal. The loch was originally used as a curling and skating pond when the Inverness Curling Club moved to Torvean from Kingsmills in 1838. The Loch was originally much bigger in size with it being reduced to accommodate the current 5th and 8th fairways. This was a lucky foresight by the Town Council as the loch site was actually used as a dump for the excavations of the widened Bridge Street in Inverness and also for the new bridge over the River Ness.
The Caledonian Canal - Work began on the canal in 1803 and was completed in 1822 at a cost of £840,000, over £54.5m in today's money. The Inverness section was opened to shipping in 1818. The idea was that ships would no longer need to make the long and dangerous trip around the North of Scotland to reach the West coast from the East coast and vice versa. It was designed by Thomas Telford originally to be 20ft deep, but was only made 14 ft deep to save time and money. This was corrected between 1844 and 1847 to the full 20 ft as the canal did not properly serve its purpose at only 14ft. By the time this correction had been made, ships had become bigger and Inverness was connected by rail so that the canal became less useful anyway. Unlike other canals in Scotland , the Caledonian canal has remained in constant use since its completion. The canal skirts around the east side of the golf course and provides a unique backdrop to several holes. Boats are a common site and golfers have been known to receive encouragement or otherwise from on board!! It was during the construction of the canal that the massive Torvean Chain was found, close to what is now the second fairway and is now housed in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. It is made from solid silver and consists of 16 pairs of linked silver rings, and weighs 2.88kg. It is a stunning piece of craftsmanship and, according to the Inverness Journal of the time it was: "…the work of an artist of no inconsiderable skill."
Torvean golf course was officially opened as a nine hole course on Friday 28th April 1961 by Baillie Alan Ross, the Convener of the Council's Parks Committee. Following a symbolic drive down the first tee, a match between Town Council Officials and Town Councillors took place with the Officials narrowly winning by a margin of 2&1. It was noted in the Inverness Courier that ‘refreshments were enjoyed at the Council's expense in the Millerton House Hotel'! (now the Premier Inn.).
However, it wasn't until a year after the opening of the course that the idea of an official club was mooted when a scribbled note asking for interested parties to meet in the locker room that evening was posted! Everyone present agreed that the formation of a club was a good idea that needed to be explored further. After an advert was placed in the Inverness Courier, a meeting was held at the Gellions Hotel in Inverness on 28th November 1962 when around 50 golfers attended. That evening it was agreed that the Torvean Golf Cub should be formed and the first office bearers and management committee be formed. One committee member Jack Cumming later remembered that the meeting was adjourned to the bar ‘where there was a celebration to mark the birth of Torvean Golf Club – quite an expensive night, I recall'!
In 1979, the original 9 hole course was extended to the full 18 holes when land was purchased on the opposite side of the A82 Fort William road. Although initially somewhat bland and uninteresting, the back 9 has matured over the years and many features such as additional bunkers added together with a significant tree planting programme being undertaken. The result is unique with the first 8 holes being centred around Torvean Hill and bordered by the Caledonian Canal with the last ten having a very different and more open feel. This combination, albeit unintentional, has created the wonderful Torvean golf course enjoyed by many thousands every year. The condition and improvement accelerated dramatically, when in June 2002 the Club agreed a 20 year lease with Highland Council to administer and maintain the course. The acquisition of a dedicated green keeping staff has, in the last 10 years, transformed the course into a wonderful golfing experience with many challenging holes and a layout to test golfers of all abilities.
Of course, no golf club is complete without a clubhouse and Torvean is no exception. The Torvean clubhouse has itself a long and fascinating history, having originally been used for agricultural purposes. There are several theories as to the use of the original building – a byre, smithy or piggery have been mentioned. Regardless of it's origins however, it is of sufficient historical merit to be determined as a Class A Listed Building. It is in this section that the changing facilities and starter's office are located. In 1981, the club decided that professional catering and bar facilities were required and a sympathetic extension was designed and built that year. This now forms the bar and restaurant enjoyed by members and visitors. Access to the large decking area is from the clubhouse and it is a common site, during the summer months, for post-match meals and drinks to served al fresco overlooking the 1st tee and several greens.
There can very few golf courses with such a fascinating and varied history as Torvean. The one thing often mentioned by members, however, is that this history has become very much part of the course played today and the course's history is what helps make playing Torvean Golf Course such a memorable golfing experience. As the Club celebrates its half centenary, it has much to look back on with pride but looks forward, also to the changing needs of members and visitors to ensure that Torvean remains not only one of the friendliest clubs in Scotland but also one of the most enjoyable courses to play.