The credit for establishing the first formal golf club on the Isle of Man goes to a retired British army officer Major General James Brereton. Brereton had retired to Ramsey after a distinguished career (as so many others were to do over the course of the next 125 years or so!) and had laid out several holes for the use of his friends and himself at his home Riversdale, Jurby Road, Ramsey. It was clear that the game of golf appealed to a large circle of friends and acquaintances, one of whom was Alexander Bruce, a banker. Bruce happened to be a Trustee of the Milntown Estate and an agreement was made between Bruce and Brereton that the land at Milntown be made available under a short term lease to a golf club, yet to be established.
A meeting was held on 21 September 1891 at the Freemasons Hall in Water Street, Ramsey, now the offices of Dickinson Cruickshank & Co, where it was agreed to establish the Ramsey Golf Club and to formalise the lease already agreed in principal.
Matters then proceeded rapidly under an enthusiastic committee. Old Tom Morris was engaged to design a course layout and under his guidance a 12 hole course was planned and prepared and was ready for the grand opening on 5 January 1892. Crowds flocked by train from all over the island, arriving at the Milntown halt in time to see the newly appointed club president Major General Brereton drive the first ball. The course occupied the land that now forms holes 11 to 15 on the present layout.
The initial 12 hole layout was shortened to 9 holes shortly afterwards and the club prospered.
The ownership of the land passed into the hands of the Phoenix Assurance Company shortly after, as did the adjoining land of the Brookfield Estate. In 1905 the club was able to secure a lease on a further parcel of those lands giving sufficient area to enlarge the course to 18 holes to a plan by John Morris of Hoylake, a nephew of the original designer. The new layout was ready for play and opened by the Governor Lord Raglan in 1906 and the clubhouse, which had stood to the right of what is now 15th hole was removed and rebuilt on the site of the present clubhouse, where it remained until its demolition in 1988. In his opening remarks Governor Raglan congratulated the club for its endeavour but not being a golfer he said that he personally regretted the loss of the wetlands which now formed the first hole. Those wetlands were to be the source of further major works on the course some 90 years later when nature tried to reclaim them.
The club continued to prosper, providing a popular facility for locals and some of the thousands of visitors that Ramsey used to welcome in the first half of the 20th century.
A major opportunity arose in 1928 when the landlords offered the sale of the course plus further adjoining land for the sum of £8,000. It was agreed that the purchase would proceed, funded by members subscriptions to a new company which raised £4,000 and a mortgage from the vendor for the remainder.
This enabled the club to carry out a further course redesign and the three major figures of British golf, James Braid, Harry Vardon and J.H.Taylor where each approached with a view to their tendering for the work involved.
All three expressed their interest and it was decided to appoint five times Open champion James Braid to carry out the redesign work at a fee of twenty guineas.
Under Braid’s guidance the new course was laid out by the Glasgow firm of J.R.Stutt and in 1929 the layout as we now know it was ready for play.
Since that time the course has remained essentially unaltered, although in recent years the bunker configuration has been amended, under professional guidance from Steve Marnoch, to protect Braid’s original design from the advances made in golf technology.
The course remains however a good example of the work of one of golf’s greatest architects.