Strange Course Locations - Golf on the Island
You can find golf courses in the unlikeliest of places. From Indonesia's Merapi, located next to an active volcano, to the mid-runway fairways of the Don Mueang International Airport Golf Course in Thailand, and Prison View in the grounds of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which is carefully maintained by the inmates, there are some fairly surreal and dangerous locations for layouts across the world.
We may not have anything comparable to those extremes in the UK, but there are nonetheless some venues that stand unique. King James VI Golf Club is one such course. It may seem like an everyday parkland, immaculately presented and enjoyable to play, but that is until you discover that it's located on an inland river island that cannot be accessed by car.
Situated on Moncrieffe Island in the River Tay, the tranquillity of King James betrays its position within the small city of Perth in central Scotland, a scenic and historic settlement that bridges the Highlands and Lowlands, connecting the major cities to the heart of the country.
But if you can't drive to King James, how exactly do you get there? Bizarrely, you must walk across a narrow footpath on a railway bridge, lugging your clubs and gear over to the other side and back again. We'd recommend thinking twice about bringing a trolley with you as that journey may prove fatal to the more unathletic among us, but the island serves as an oasis within the city, crossing from one world into another, with the framework of trees helping to block out the noise pollution of traffic, providing an unexpected level of serenity.
Designed by Old Tom Morris and opened in 1897, the course shares the island with a vast space for allotments, home to the Perth Working Men's Garden Association, resulting in a daily population that crosses the bridge covering a unique demographic range of golfers, gardeners, walkers, commuters, and hedonistic teenagers in search of a quiet spot free from prying eyes.
Looking at reviews submitted on Golfshake, King James VI is highly rated, although the location is regularly commented on.
"First of all I have to say I was a bit hesitant as it's quite a walk to get to the course. Having said that the course is superb and well worth the visit. Be prepared for quite a haul if carrying a trolley but at the end, you will be glad you did."
"Different not parking at the club - but having to cross over the River Tay on foot over bridge. Course excellent. Test for all golfers. Lovely course close to the city of Perth, but not the noise."
"Difficult to find. You need to walk over the railway bridge to get onto the island. What a beautiful little course, a bit hard to get to but well worth the effort."
The story of golf within Perth - nicknamed The Fair City - dates back to the origins of the game. In 1502, the first recorded purchase of golf equipment, a set of clubs costing thirteen shillings, was made by King James IV from a bow-maker in the town that was then known as St John's Toun.
King James VI - who later united the crowns of Scotland and England - learned how to play golf on the Inches of Perth, the two considerable public parks that remain in use. Golf has been played on the North Inch since the 15th century - reflecting the same era as St Andrews, North Berwick, Musselburgh and Edinburgh's Leith Links - with a popular municipal course still drawing thousands of rounds each year.
Founded in 1858, King James VI Golf Club shared the 10-hole North Inch with various other local clubs until its migration to Moncrieffe Island. Notably, the club retains a connection with Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, host of the 2019 Open Championship, where a visiting member played the first recorded shot on the Portrush Links in 1887.
Growing up in Perth, I was a member at King James for years, first venturing across the bridge as part of a school visit for a day of group coaching from then professional Andrew Crerar. Spending countless hours there since, I possess many fond memories of playing the course and encountering a wide variety of characters on the bridge, some of them morally dubious.
Now, during this lockdown and age of self-isolation, I have grown increasingly nostalgic for my hometown and eagerly look forward to the next time that I can cross that bridge to tranquility - a tonic that we all need these days.
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