In 1890, a group of influential residents of Colinton and Juniper Green had a nine hole course laid out at Torphin Hill where they played for two seasons. Four of the group, holidaying at Lundin Links, after the day’s play retired to a local hostelry. Over cigars and a social glass they discussed the then current boom in golf which then, as now, was popularised as providing healthy open air exercise.
“Why”, asked James Christie, later to become the first Vice Captain of the Club, “with courses mushrooming all over the place don’t we have one near the village?”
That remark was to be the genesis of Baberton Golf Club and the group returned home resolved to find a suitable site, which they did very quickly.
In 1893, having gained an initial lease from the proprietor of a 40 acre field called High Park, part of the historic Baberton Estate, they constituted a golf club on 31st May. A provisional committee was formed and Baberton Golf Club was born.
Having abandoned Torphin Hill, conversion of the field was now urgent. The expert help of Willie Park Jnr was enlisted and he prepared a layout for 9 holes. Work started immediately and the first course was officially opened on 15th July, 1893.
As a tenant, Baberton Golf Club was fortunate in having as its superior, Sir James Gibson Craig of Riccarton Bt, himself a keen golfer and a member of the Honourable Company of Golfers. Sir James was well disposed towards his new and unusual tenant. From the beginning, whilst protecting the interests of the tenant farmers and fuears on his estate, he was sympathetic to the land needs of the fledgling club.
As a result, in November 1893, Wilderness Park and Whitelaw Park were added, extending in all to some 75 acres but excluding the 8½ acres comprising Wilderness Wood and Quarry Wood. Willie Park was recalled and laid out 12 holes and then 18 holes, permission having been given to play across the gully at the then short 6th hole.
New Years Day 1894 was celebrated with the opening of both the extended course and a ladies short hole course.
By 1907, with an ever increasing membership causing congestion on both courses, it became clear that more land was required. The first addition came in 1911 when a lease was taken on a 16 acre field to the south west, then part of Easter Currie Farm. Ben Sayers of North Berwick was commissioned to plan new holes and extend some existing ones.
The next milestone was in 1926 when the Club purchased the course and in season 1929/1930 the decision was taken to embark upon a major reconstruction. In May 1926 James Braid submitted a plan for reconstruction. This plan was adopted but the ladies short hole course had to form part of the new design.
To compensate, the ladies were given additional privileges on the extended course.
In 1936, a strip of ground some 60 feet wide by 1400 feet long bordering the 9th, 17th and beginning of the 18th holes was purchased and in 1952. Thanks to the generosity of Jock Waugh (Captain 1957-1959), owner of the neighbouring property, ‘Windyridge’, the area of its extensive vegetable garden was donated. This ground provided for a 1st tee (no longer in use) and the area where the previous Professional Shop was sited.
In 2001, the Council obtained permission from members to investigate selling the clubhouse and car park area to a developer on the basis that a new clubhouse would be constructed on the existing first fairway. It was subsequently agreed to relay all greens as sand based greens which would be able to withstand the vagaries of the Scottish climate and be able to accommodate the greatly increased number of rounds of golf being played. This construction work is now complete and the new clubhouse which incorporates the new professional shop is open.
World Wars I and II and the HLI Cup
Typical of the vastly increased number of military establishments in wartime was the encampment at Malleny, Currie, which led to the special relationship between the Club and the 3rd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, during the 1914 – 1918 conflict. The privilege of play free of charge was extended to its officers and non-commissioned officers. The compliment was returned by the battalion arranging for squads to work on the course so minimising the neglect caused by absence of greens staff on active service.
In respect of the kindness shown by Baberton Golf Club, the battalion presented the Club with a handsome cup following a match between the Club and their Officers in 1917. The HLI Cup, is still played for by gentlemen today and is one of the club’s major trophies.
By the outbreak of the 1939 – 1945 war, the development of military aircraft posed a more ominous and direct threat to the country. After the retreat from Dunkirk, any flat area in Great Britain, particularly ground near the east coast, became a potential landing area for airborne attack. Golf courses were no exception and immobilising poles were quickly erected on the more open parts of Baberton.
To comply with the measures of the Midlothian Agricultural Executive Committee in its campaign for national food production, an area of ground at the 9th and 10th holes was given over to crops. This area, referred to as ‘Baberton’s Patriotic Potato Patch’ was de-requisitioned in 1945.
Acknowledgement: Information in this section is largely taken from the booklet, ‘Baberton Golf Club – The First Hundred Years’ by the late Gordon Grant, Past Captain of the Club, written in 1992 in anticipation of the Club’s Centenary in 1993.