Golf’s Lighthouse Family
The relationship between Scotland’s links courses and railway lines has been covered. What is perhaps less well documented is golf’s lighthouse family. Lighthouses have served as beacons for centuries to warn mariners of the perils of veering to close to the coast. It has perhaps not too surprising to see that golf courses have enjoyed a relationship.
The most iconic lighthouse is that which overlooks the 10th tee and 9th green at Turnberry. Indeed, the Turnberry club crest features the Stevenson lighthouse. The lighthouse was designed by David and Thomas Stevenson, celebrated engineers and part of the same family of the even more celebrated author, Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island fame. The lighthouse is 24 metres high, with 76 steps to the top. The foundations of the lighthouse stand in what was once the moat of Turnberry Castle, thought to be the birthplace of Robert the Bruce in 1274. The first light beamed across the waters on 30 August 1878, showing one flash every 12 seconds. As part of his plans for redeveloping Turnberry, Donald Trump is renovating the lighthouse to become the ultimate location for their stay. Two luxury suites will be built to overlook the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran, and Ailsa Craig beyond, where as golfers themselves will benefit from the half way house
Alan Stevenson is responsible for the lighthouse on Fortrose and Rosemarkie golf course, but it requires little imagination to see how important this one is in protecting the approaches into Moray Firth. Chanonry Point juts out into the sea marking a clear barrier to any sailor not paying attention. The lighthouse might not be tall but sits on the tip of the peninsula and overlooks the course behind, which itself is bisected by a road leading to it
The Barns Ness Lighthouse looks out over Dunbar and was constructed by David Stevenson between 1899 and 1901 from stone that proved resilient enough in the second world war to withstand machine fire with absolutely zero damage. The design is traditional round tower of 37 metres with 169 steps to the top. The beam has a nautical range of 10 miles . After a review in 2005 it was concluded that is no longer needed and deactivated in October
The 11th green at Dunbar with the lighthouse in the background
One of the more impressive to look out over a golf course is the Coversea lighthouse which like Tunrberry, also features on the club crest of Lossiemouth golf club and dominates the skyline of the Old Moray Links out on the headland of the curved bay. Applications were made after the loss of sixteen vessels during a storm in the Moray Firth of 1826. Initially is was deemed unnecessary (begs the obvious question of what evidence they needed back then) but after successive petitioning and campaigns the lighthouse was built. Not surprisingly, this is another Stevenson creation, Alan again, and is 36 metres high, opening in 1846. Today it has been decommissioned and converted into holiday lets. The best views are from the far end of the outward nine around the turn.
The lighthouse at Moray sits at the other end of the course from the clubhouse
In Aberdeen the municipal Balnagask Golf Course is dominated by the Girdle Ness lighthouse which announces the entry to Scotland’s deep water oil port. Like so many redundant lighthouses, Girdle Ness is now a converted residential letting. The lighthouse is also visible from the closing holes of Royal Aberdeen’s world top-100 rated links from the north
We decided instead though to finish with a famous lighthouse on Bass Rock even though it really doesn’t connect with the Glen Course at North Berwick being a few miles out at sea. Bass Rock is another volcanic plug, often compared with Ailsa Craig. Look carefully to the right half way up, and you can see the lighthouse that has warned shipping about the rock that sits in the Firth of Forth. Don’t be too enamoured by the quartz like properties of this white rock however. All is not what it seems. Bass Rock is home to 10% of the world’s breeding population of Atlantic gannets
The lighthouse at North Berwick percehed on a ledge on the Bass Rock
– Image by Kevin Murray