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In 1891 a small number of local businessmen organised a meeting in St Columba’s
Church hall with the main item on the agenda being the acquisition of land and members to
form what now is known as Largs Golf Club.
A unanimous decision was taken to go ahead and 30 members were enrolled, although still
without a course to play on. Eventually land was leased at the north end of the town at a place called Routenburn and a well known Golf Professional called Willie Campbell (Ranfurly) (see Willie's story below) visited Largs to study the land at Routenburn and, in May, laid out the course.
A month later a 9 hole course was opened for play and the first medal was played in June 1891. The Glasgow Herald of 6th June 1891 carried the insert "The Largs Golf Course is NOW open for the season- for particulars apply to Major A.H. Eckford and John Murray, Honorary Secretary, Union Bank, Largs" Annual subscription was 10 shillings and sixpence (now 52.5p).
In 1893 the Club moved to its present site but still as a 9 hole course. In 1953 the course was made into an 18 hole course with Viscount Kelburn performing the opening ceremony and Dr Bill Mackie, the Captain at the time thanked Viscount Kelburn and said that it was “the most momentous day in the history of the Club”.
Between 1959 and 1969 the present Club House was developed at a cost of £35,000. In September 1981 the Club purchased the land from the Kelburn estate, and now the course truly belonged to the Members. Further extensive development of the Clubhouse was completed in 1991 just prior to the Centenary of the Club.
The Club has only had 8 professionals namely, John McKellar, Fred Bullock, Bert McMillan, Robin Fyfe, Robbie Stewart, Bob Collinson, Kenny Docherty, and the present day Andy Fullen. Fred Bullock led the first two rounds of the British Open in 1960.
The Club attracts many visitors and scenic views over the islands of Arran, Bute and Cumbrae are a delight to members and visitors alike. The Club enjoyed a wonderful Centenary year in 1991, and everyone is looking forward with anticipation to our 125th Anniversary in 2016.
The story of our golf course begins with a young gentleman by the name of Willie Campbell. Born in Musselburgh in 1862, Willie Campbell planned courses in Britain, including Largs at its original siting at Routenburn, before emigrating to the United States in the early 1890's. Once in the United States, Campbell quickly gained fame as an instructor and as a player. He lost the first unofficial U.S. Open in 1894 by two shots to Willie Dunn, while serving as the first Golf Professional at The Country Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts. While at The Country Club, Campbell established the foundations of its present championship golf course, the location for that infamous Ryder Cup.
Campbell was a tall strapping man with a demeanor admirably adapted to the difficulties of a match, fearless and courageous. Willie was regarded as one of the finest match players of his time. Garden Smith of Golf Illustrated described him as a golfing genius. During the 1880s Campbell never backed down from a match anywhere, anytime, with anyone. In 1882 an admirer offered to back him, and the following year Campbell issued a challenge to the world. From 1883 to 1890 he played every player who would meet him for money. Some reports claim he never lost a match during those years, although I have been unable to substantiate that claim. What is certain Campbell delivered some incredible beatings to the world's best players.
Despite all his success his most famous golfing moment was a failure. In the 1887 Open Championship at Prestwick, where Campbell was an assistant professional, Willie was coming home the sure winner when he heeled his drive at the 16th and found a deep bunker (later dubbed Campbell's grave).
The gallery tried to convince him to play backward, unfortunately he ignored their advice and took eight instead of four. Willie Park-Jr won the title by a stroke. Horace Hutchinson told the sad story of coming into Charlie Hunter's shop after Willie had thrown away the Championship. On either side of the shop were upturned buckets. On one sat Willie Campbell and on the other his caddie, both weeping bitterly.
After the disappointment Campbell challenged the champion to a match over 72 holes. He defeated Park 18 up with 17 to play. The year before he had finished second in the Open to Davie Brown at Musselburgh. Again he issued a challenge; ultimately defeating Brown 13 and 12. He had similar one-sided victories over Bob Martin and Willie Fernie. His match against Archie Simpson may have been the most publicized, it was held over Carnoustie, St.Andrews, Prestick and Musselburgh in front huge crowds. The battle ended at Musselburgh with Willie up 16.
Campbell was engaged as professional at Prestwick (1887-88), Ranfurly Castle
(1889-91) and North Berwick (1892-94). His first architectural involvement appears to be at Ranfurly Castle in 1889, where he designed their nine-hole course. In 1891 he laid out the wild links at Machirie on Islay, considered a cult classic today. That same year he designed Largs, Cowal, Rothesay and Kilmacolm in western Scotland, and in 1893 the first nine at Seascale.
Although not as prolific as some he was without doubt one of the most important early golf architects, especially in America. Unfortunately his place in American golf architecture history has been largely ignored. Willie Campbell's life was cut short when he succumbed to cancer in 1900. He was only 38 years old.