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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
Scottish Golf History

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Scots and Carlsbad
(Source: © 2014-17, Douglas MacKenzie)

If I mention Carlsbad and golf, many of you will think Callaway, TaylorMade or Cobra and the “village by the sea” in California. However, there is another Carlsbad, now Karlovy Vary, the second-oldest golf course in the Czech Republic which became a fashionable resort at the start of the twentieth century. Golfarch.cz published a very interesting article on Carlsbad and golf in July 2013. As I don’t speak Czech it has taken me this long to get through it but one thing jumped out at me. The Czech authors contacted the R&A for some information about the professionals who came from St Andrews to teach at Carlsbad before the First World War. Now, even allowing for the fact they contacted the wrong club (it was the St Andrews Golf Club which provided the instructors) that is disappointing. This article, and the links in it, will, I hope, put that right to some degree.

The first British involvement was not from St Andrews, came from south of the border. In 1903 Franz Drobny, the planning director in Carlsbad, wrote to William Freemantle, an English pro based at Cannes in France in the winter and Engadine in Switzerland in the summer, for advice on where to site a golf course. This was followed up by correspondence with Cann and Taylor, in early 1904 which resulted in the arrival of J H Taylor, in April to consult on the detailed layout of the course. The course was opened the following year with the first competition played over it in 1906.

It seems the first professional at the club was William Horne in its first year. A much travelled professional, and the longest hitter of his day, Horne later emigrated to South Africa as a professional but ended his career in the United States.

The first Scots professional to work at Carlsbad was the Montrose-born A W McDonald who spent two seasons there before becoming professional at Kirkby Moorside in 1907.

The Czech article mentions W Adams from Glasgow in 1907 as one of the professionals/instructors at Carlsbad. I can find no record of him being there. This is not academese for ‘I don’t believe you’; the record of professional golfers is far from complete. It may have been William Adams who was listed as professional at Wishaw the following year. The joy of internet articles is that they get wide exposure and often a family member will send in information and the article can be changed without a forest having to die in the process.

Robert Herd came as a professional in April 1908 but had to return home to St Andrews, seriously ill, the following year. His recovery was sufficient for him to be sent to the front in the First World World War from whence he was invalided home late in 1916 and died from tuberculosis in April 1917.

It appears that the connection with the St Andrews club came from an unlikely source, a Musselburgh man, a town which had long vied with St Andrews for golfing supremacy. Robert Doig. He laid out the very first course in what is now the Czech Republic, Marienbad (Mariánské Lázne) and was professional there in the summer months, spending the winters in Rome.

Carlsbad postcard around 1907

As the picture shows, Carlsbad was hardly shabby as a spa resort but, in terms of golfing kudos, Marienbad had the patronage of King Edward VII. He was an honorary life member there, formally opened the course on 21 August 1905 and contributed 600 crowns to club funds. On his visit to Marienbad in 1906 he presented competition prizes: a gold cigarette case with the King’s initials in rubies and diamonds as the mens’ prize; for the ladies, a gold handbag with a lock studded with diamonds, rubies and other precious stones. Having discussed the affairs of the day with his prime minister Campbell-Bannerman and Haldane, the secretary of state for war on the Kreuzbrunnen, he did drive to Carlsbad for lunch but was back in Marienbad for dinner!

Doig seemed to have the responsibility for finding the instructors for Carlsbad and the last two who came out before the war were not professionals (thoughS orley later became one). The first was James Sorley, the match secretary of the St Andrews club. He was also a journalist, the St Andrews correspondent for the Dundee Evening Telegraph which was a bonus because he sent home a description of the Carlsbad course in June 1911,

The course is a short one but beautifully situated 'neath glorious pine woods which shade it from the rays of the hot summer sun, while a small river intersects the course and has to be crossed four times in the round. It forms a nice hazard. The holes are short, and rather against a good player in respect that his long driving is not required; there are, indeed, no two wooden shot holes. The Bogey 37 is rather beyond the average player, there is so much deft pitching required, while the course is rather narrow, and the greens very bad. although the last green is large and very good. Numerous trees are obstacles much encountered on the Carlsbad course. I manage to put in about six rounds (9 holes) per week. I generally got round in 37 38, but have done it in less. The season is a short one—May to October. In winter heavy snowstorms occur, and the river overflows its banks. When King Frost reigns the course is converted into a skating pond, and practice in the Scottish game is an impossibility.

It obviously did not occur to him to play the other Scottish game, curling, during King Frost’s reign.

Another member of a famous St Andrews golfing family, George Ayton also seems to have had teaching duties at the Carlsbad club at the same time. Like Auchterlonie and Sorley he played for the St Andrews Golf Club.

Two of the last professionals to come out before the start of the First World War were Auchterlonies: David and Joseph. Joe was unlucky in his timing. He was in Carlsbad at the outbreak of war. Although many British subjects got away via Vienna through the intervention of the American consul, Joe was interned ‘somewhere in Austria’ until, at least, 1916. I have a number of documents on this to go through and will update this piece shortly.

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