'˜World's oldest golf course' could be axed amid council cuts

A SCOTS golf course said to be the oldest in the world could be axed this week, as part of council cuts.

North Inch Golf Course in Perth is believed the be the oldest in the world. Picture: North Inch

King James VI played on Perth’s North Inch Golf Course in the 1500s, and Beasley’s World Atlas of Golf names it “the first recognisable golf course in the world”.

St Andrews is known as the “home of golf” throughout the world, and is famed for the Old Course, with the first recording of golf being played on as far back as 1574.

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However the Perth Merchants Golf Club says James IV played golf on the North Inch more than 70 years earlier.

Golf has reportedly been played at North Inch for the best part of 500 years. Picture: North Inch

The proposal - which would save cash-strapped Perth and Kinross Council some £100,000 a year and was condemned today as “sacrilege” - will be discussed on Thursday when councillors decide which services will survive a need to make cuts.

The SNP-led authority is looking to slash £5 million from its spending next year.

Alternatives to closing the 18-hole municiple parkland course include a reduction in street sweeping, which would save more than twice as much, or greater efficiencies in the provision of community care packages for adults, a service which is said to be “ripe for review” where £1.37 million could be saved.

Axing a so-called “safer communities team” would save £300,000 - more than three times the cost of maintaining the historic golf course.

Golf has reportedly been played at North Inch for the best part of 500 years. Picture: North Inch

The current arrangement of holes at the North Inch was laid out by Old Tom Morris, who also designed Carnoustie, Muirfield and St Andrews New.

King James IV, who was crowned at Scone Palace in 1488, decided in 1502 that the threat of war with England had receded and lifted the longstanding ban on golf.

This had been imposed to encourage archery, and he then personally took up golf.

In the first recorded purchase of golf equipment, he then went and ordered his first set of golf clubs from a local bowmaker in Perth, costing him the princely sum of 13 shillings (65p).

The course is open to all, and is home to two ancient golf clubs, the Perth Merchants and the Perth Artisans, both of which have used it for over a century.

Robin Valentine, 83, of the Perth Merchants Golf Club said: “This is a golf course that belongs to the people of Perth. I would be sadly disappointed if it was closed.

“This is our home course and there are connections going back more than 100 years, in the same way as Perth Artisans who have used it for over 120 years.”

Only two years ago, the council spent £50,000 on measures to protect the course from flooding by the adjacent River Tay.

Lee Bushby, club captain of the Royal Perth Golfing Society (RPGS) said it would be “devastating” if the course was to close.

Charlie Gallagher, president of the Perth and Kinross County Golf Union, has written to the council’s chief executive, local councillors, and the Provost of Perth calling for the course to be saved.

He said: “We appreciate the council are facing massive cuts over the next few years, but it would be a tragedy if the North Inch golf course was to be lost to the community at a time when the tide is turning.”

Mr Gallagher said the North Inch was the area’s only municipal course.

He added: “We see it as part of the legacy the area was promised in the wake of the Ryder Cup.”