From an article by Greg Ramsay, which appeared in Paul Daley’s “Golf Architecture Volume IV”
I’m not sure when I first awoke to Ratho Farm’s living golfing heritage, but with golf in my blood from three keen grandparents, and a historian for a mother, I was bound to become captivated by the area’s golfing history.
The primary responsibility at Ratho Farm is to restore the golf course to its true origins. The challenge is to translate that history into an enriching experience that is relevant to the modern golfer too.
Like Prestwick in Scotland, the layout used to be twelve holes. Starting from the homestead, six holes ran north of the shearing shed in a paddock, and six holes south of it towards the village, before returning near the homestead’s back door. These six southern holes are no longer in play. Three were abandoned when play was resumed after the Second World War. The other three holes were ploughed under in the early 1980s, when new access road and bridge into Bothwell were redirected alongside the old first hole. The ensuing government compensation was used to build three new holes (the current fourth, fifth, and sixth holes).
Resurrecting these lost six holes is one aspect of the restoration. The other is the reinstatementof several quirky but fun features on the remaining original holes. As well as bunkers,’hazards’ such as hedges, vegetable gardens, rock walls, irrigation canals, and sheep yards all came into play!
Importantly, the fences surrounding each green used to be removable for big open events, giving the golf course a totally different look and feel for a few special days each year.
Growing interest in playing hickory clubs to better interpret and understand old courses is very encouraging, as demonstrated by the success of the National Hickory Championships at America’s oldest course, Oakhurst.
As well as reviving the original course and original play with hickory clubs, we also hope to enhance Ratho’s appeal to today’s golfer armed with modern technology. Guided by old maps, scorecards, photographs, and local legend, the accurate restoration of the lost sixholes will stimulate and challenge today’s longer hitters, in spite of the comparatively short length of the holes. The openness of the ‘paddocks’ provides the width to offer a variety of routes from tee to green, and the resurrected greens will reward only the deftest touch in approaching the pin.
The timeless appeal of great short holes appears to be enjoying greater appreciation today, and Ratho is packed full of tremendous risk and reward shotmaking decisions. We also intend to unveil six new holes to complement the reunited twelve holes to make a full eighteen-hole round.
It has been a privilege to see Tom Doak, Bruce Grant and their very talented crews craft the Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links to seamlessly fit in with their surrounds. It provides such a thrill to visiting golfers. We hope to deliver a similarly memorable and relevant experience at Ratho Farm through the historical integrity, charm, and challenge of the golf holes. Like the originals, the new holes will be maintained by sheep and feature fenced square greens mown from existing contours. The selected routing and green sites for the new holes will complement the twelve original holes in their natural simplicity.
Restored thoughtfully and tastefully, Ratho Farm has the potential to become something of a national pilgrimage for Australian golfers to learn about the origins of their favourite pastime. This will see the role of the Ratho Links turn full circle. From its original application when golf first brought together the new settlers of Bothwell to enjoy their shared Scottish heritage, to once again being an important contributor to the local community as a major drawcard for the region.
Who knows, perhaps we’ll host the 2022 Australian Open to celebrate 200 years since the arrival of the golfing Reids from Scotland!