Carrick Knowe Golf Club was down to just 20 members when the decision was taken to shut its doors at the weekend - a far cry from the days when it boasted three Scottish international players.
As widespread sadness continued to be expressed about the century-old club joining both Torphin Hill and Lothianburn in ceasing operation in recent years, one of the last members standing has revealed the Carrick Knowe committee had been fighting a losing battle.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but, in total, we were down to 20 members,” Norman Burns, who had been a member for more than a decade, told the Evening News. “The membership had been slowly dwindling. I would say it is just a sign of time in golf.”
Some of those left without a club have already joined the neighbouring Carrickvale Golf Club, which also uses the Edinburgh Leisure-managed Carrick Knowe course that remains open.
“They (the Carrick Knowe committee) spoke to us about a couple of months ago to say that it was highly likely they were going to have to call it a day and what would our reaction be to their guys coming over,” said Carrickvale secretary John Pow.
“We were more than happy to take them on as we have known most of the guys for a number of years. It was never an issue. Currently, we have had eight of their playing members join and we are expecting a few more.”
When Carrick Knowe won the Dispatch Trophy, Edinburgh’s top team tournament in both 1999 and 2004, the driving force in the club was Jimmy Wilkinson.
The man dubbed “Mr Carrick Knowe” joined the likes of former Scottish Golfer of the Year Scott Knowles in expressing his disappointment about the club falling by the wayside.
“It is very sad indeed,” he said. “I was a member all of my life and I have so many great memories at Carrick Knowe, including those two Dispatch Trophy triumphs.”
Both those winning teams featured Knowles, who cut his golfing teeth at Carrick Knowe and has nothing but fond memories of the club.
“Carrick Knowe was where I was taught the game by my dad Louis, who was a member, before going to Kingsknowe,” recalled Knowles, manager of the Stephen Gallacher Foundation.
“I played 100 holes to raise money for the club with Stuart Johnston, Mark Chambers and Brian Smith. It was a friendly club that had great team spirit with great players like Brian Smith, Craig Elliott, Bryan Shields, Simon Mackenzie, Stephen Hansen, Bob Yardley, Jeff Little, Donny Munro, Mark Chambers, Stuart Johnston and so many others. But the greatest member of the team was Jimmy Wilkinson.”
Many of Johnston’s happy memories from playing at Carrick Knowe were influenced by Wilkinson, describing him as a “marvellous man who put his life and soul into the club”.
He added: “I was a member from the age of 18 and, when I first joined, I persuaded my pals in the Lothians team to also join and, at one point, we had three current internationalists playing for us in Scott Knowles, Bryan Shields and Simon Mackenzie.
“My abiding memory of the club is how the members all came together and always encouraged you to do well in Opens and also when playing for the county. So much so that every time I played I felt I was playing for them all and it had a big impact on me.
“Through all the years of playing team golf my favourite memories are of playing for Carrick Knowe in the Winter League.”
The closure of the Carrick Knowe club has come at a time when Edinburgh Leisure is reviewing reaction to controversial plans to redevelop Portobello, another of the municipal courses in the city.
Reacting to the development at the weekend in the west of the Capital, a spokesperson for Edinburgh Leisure said: “The decline in golf club membership nationally is something Edinburgh Leisure courses are not immune to.
“However, given that you don’t have to be a club member to enjoy playing golf and that over 65 per cent of Edinburgh Leisure’s season-ticket holders choose not to join traditional clubs, it perhaps reflects the trend towards more casual or nomadic golf.
“Further to this, the Edinburgh Leisure Golf Club has 130 members and rising which offers medals and handicaps without the ‘fuss’ of the traditional club. Some 227 customers have signed up to our Winter season or Full season membership since October 1st and our usage data does demonstrate that Edinburgh Leisure’s courses are providing a quality product at an attractive price point.
“Golf clubs and courses must change the offer to attract new users, particularly women, young people and families. Edinburgh Leisure is keen to ensure golf continues to be made accessible to Edinburgh residents and we are making playing the game an easy option.
“Consequently, clubs must realise that not to change and look to the future, could place them at risk. Edinburgh Leisure is working with clubs and will support them wherever it is practical to do so.”