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August 27, 2008

South Uist community unearth golfing gem

Tom Morris, the man who designed many world famous links golf courses including Muirfield, Turnberry and Carnoustie was also responsible for some lesser known courses. In 1891, he spent time on South Uist and laid out an 18 hole course. Last week Storas Uibhist, the Community Company which led the community buyout of South Uist in 2006 were celebrating the restoration of the original 18 holes.


August 22nd marked the opening of the new golf course at Askernish on South Uist. This is not just another golf course but one which was designed in 1891 by the sport’s first superstar, Old Tom Morris, three times winner of the British Open and who also designed some of the world’s most famous links courses such as Muirfield, Turnberry and Carnoustie.

The new golf course is a big success for Storas Uibhist, the Community Company which led the community buyout of South Uist in 2006 and which has led the push to develop the course. The course has been in use for many years but consisted of only 9 holes. The new development extends it to 18 holes based on Old Tom’s original design.

This month’s opening was the culmination of a great deal of voluntary effort by local people and skilled golf course architects and designers drafted in from elsewhere. In December 2005 Gordon Irvine, one of the world’s leading Master Greensmen, visited Askernish having heard that there used to be an Old Tom Morris course there. He was enthralled by the turf and the landscape and proposed the idea of trying to restore the course back to the eighteen holes laid out by Old Tom Morris.

Though the Golf Club Committee were enthusiastic about restoring the course, a lack of funds almost scuppered the plans before they got going. Gordon Irvine then proposed using volunteers, who would give both time and expertise free of charge, to help restore the course which would in turn help the fragile economy of South Uist.

With great dedication, Gordon Irvine gathered together a group of expert volunteers and returned to the island in March 2006. The renowned Golf Course Architect Martin Ebert, of MacKenzie and Ebert, along with Gordon and a group of both local and visiting volunteers, spent two days mapping out an eighteen-hole course that incorporated a number of areas they believed could have been greens on the original course.

Since the initial mapping exercise, Askernish Golf Club worke on the restoration project and the course layout was completed in early March 2008. Fairways and greens have been brought to a high standard and a new clubhouse has been built. Thousands of hours have been worked by volunteers on the project and the result is a course which has been praised by the media across the globe (see, for example, The Resurrection of Askernish Old in Travel and Leisure Golf).

Askernish Golf Club (, a Community Interest Company, is a tenant of Stòras Uibhist, and all surpluses generated by the Club will be returned to Stòras Uibhist for re-investment on other projects that will benefit the community.