Bill Maitland is happy to be taking to Fraserburgh’s fairways for a 75th year – just days after receiving his Covid-19 vaccine.
A well-kent face from Fraserburgh through to Nairn, Bill started playing golf at the age of eight during the Second World War and became the club’s honorary club president in 1999.
After spending his working life at the family’s Maitland Furniture store in the Broch, the 83-year-old reflects on the many changes he has seen at the Corbiehill Club over the last eight decades alongside club captain Seamus Logan.
Q You must have thought you had experienced everything ahead of getting your Covid vaccine. How have you been feeling since?
A I was delighted to get it. The nurse was very reassuring and I have had no adverse reaction. I would encourage everyone to get their jab.
Q What are the big changes you have seen during your 75 years at Fraserburgh?
A I remember when I began you were still allowed to “stymie” your opponent by deliberately obstructing their path to the hole with your ball.
Some players chipped their ball on the green to jump over their opponent’s ball.
I also remember greenkeeper Jimmy Gibb carrying his mower on his shoulder and cutting 18 greens in a morning!
In the early days, my adult subscription was less than a pound and about five shillings when I was a junior. Now it’s more than £500!
There was still a railway line to Inverallochy and St Combs back then and the last train on a Saturday night was nicknamed “The Boozer”. The driver would stop outside the golf club on request!
Q What was the equipment like in your youth?
A We carried our clubs back then as there were no mass-made trolleys, only locally made ones from the “toolies”.
We wore sturdy shoes as golf shoes were expensive.
There were few big-name golf club manufacturers, but I do remember Spalding, Ben Sayers and John Letters.
Most were made in Scotland, for example Tom Morris or Jean Donald for the ladies. My first set was from Forgans of St Andrews, who are sadly no longer in existence.
We had different names for some of the clubs like the Niblick (7 iron), the Mashie (5 iron) and the Mashie Niblock (8 iron). In addition to a standard Persimmon Driver, we had a Brassie (2 wood), a Spoon (3 wood) and a Baffy Spoon (4 wood).
There were no sand wedges in those days. New golf balls were a very scarce commodity and when they came in at the pro shop there was usually a waiting list and they were all gone immediately.
Q Was golf exclusive in those days?
A Sadly it was. I remember when I worked in Glasgow in the 1950s applying to join a club and, before I could become a member, I was interviewed by the captain and the secretary, principally to ensure I was the right kind of person.
Thankfully, those days are gone and golf is now for everyone.
An annual subscription at a Glasgow club at the time was £8, so while it wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t financially exclusive.
I am proud Fraserburgh was one of the first to introduce equality between men and women in the early 1950s.
My mother Jessie proposed lady members should be treated equally with the men. It did cause a lot of arguments, but it was quickly resolved because the men realised there was more revenue while holding the majority when it came to any voting.
The club council agreed, providing the ladies paid the same subscription as the men and that remains the case.
Q Were you a good golfer?
A I was OK, but didn’t win that much – the Cruden Bay championship in 1970 and a Duff House open are two particularly favourite memories.
I managed to get down to a handicap of four in 1957, but nowadays you’d have to put a 2 in front of that!
I almost won the Fraserburgh Annual Championship in 1966, but lost at the 17th hole to four-time winner Alec Summers.
‘Great privilege’ to help Fraserburgh Golf Club come back from devastating fire
Bill Maitland’s proudest achievement at Fraserburgh was helping to restore the club to its former glory after a fire in 2004.
“It is my great privilege to have chaired a committee meeting as captain in the immediate aftermath of a fire in 2004, which destroyed the clubhouse,” said Bill.
“It was at a time when significant renovations were already under way. We worked very successfully over the next two years and were very lucky to have had the help of a small number of benefactors from the area who supported the club.
“However, the entire membership also provided a one-off levy of £500 without which we would not have survived and the membership would have been saddled with massive debt. Now, 17 years later, we are in a much better place and looking forward to a much brighter future.
“Without the work we put in then, we might not have a golf club in Fraserburgh. I first served on the club council in the early 1960s and went on to take on the captaincy from 1967-1970.
“We achieved a lot by purchasing, from Lord Saltoun, the ground the course stands on for £3,000. We also brought in the three-time Open champion Henry Cotton to develop a new course design, although it was never used, and it was around that time we finally made the Corbiehill Links our permanent 18-hole course.
“Later we were able to develop the nine-hole Rosehill course.
“Today, I believe the club has a strong future. We are blessed with a forward-thinking club council who want the local community to be part of and proud of their golf club.
“It is a friendly, accessible and relaxed club where members from every background can enjoy our wonderful sport and be part of something special in their local community. New members pay £330 here in their first year and we have a range of other memberships to suit everyone.”