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Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland
Robert G MacDonald
Robert George MacDonald was born in Evelix, just outside Dornoch, in 1885 and began his working life as a gardener. He enlisted in 1900 and served in the Second Boer War. This casts doubt on the entry in Jackson’s Register showing he was professional at King’s Links in Aberdeen between 1899 and 1900 and. In any event, I can find no mention of him in the local press or the Post Office directories of the time.

Certainly the Aberdeen Journal made no mention of a local connection as, on reporting on his successes at tournaments on the French Riviera at Hyères and Costebelle in 1908 they were ‘gratified to learn; he was a native of Dornoch. They described him as ‘a big brawny Scotsman of the Braid type, and has all the makings of a first-class player. He is also an expert clubmaker’. James Braid brawny?: the Press and Journal getting it wrong over two centuries. Prior to his time in France he had been a professional in North Berwick and worked there as a clubmaker with his brother-ib-law Donald MacKay and James Watt.

At the time of the Hyères tournament, where Harry and Tom Vardon, Ted Ray, Sandy Herd, J H Taylor, Rowland Jones, J H Taylor and James Braid played, MacDonald was professional at Aix-les-Bains. Another participant was the local professional William Freemantle and MacDonald took over from him at Hyères the following year. He also married a French girl, the first of three wives, on his continental jaunt.

In 1910 he emigrated to the USA and, as was the way with US immigration officials, MacDonald became McDonald. He started in America at Hyde Park Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, before a spell in Buffalo. From 1915 onwards he was professional at several Chicago area clubs with fellow Scot, Charlie Marr, as his assistant. With Jock Hutchison he opened the first indoor golf facility in Chicago in 1918 which was extended to a 20,000 ft² facility by 1926. Two of his brothers, Bill and Jack, also emigrated to the United States and worked as golf professionals.

Although the New York Times listed him as the fourth best tour pro in the country in 1919 he never won the US Open. He did, however, win the Metropolitan Open twice and the first Texas Open in 1922.

He wrote what was a classic instructional text of the time, Golf, in 1927 as MacDonald rather than McDonald. He died in Florida in 1960.

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