The Northern Counties Cup competition reached its remarkable centenary milestone in the year 2000, a testament to the enduring passion and dedication of golfers and administrators in the North and North East of Scotland.
In September 1899, Mr. M. M. Duncan, Honorary Secretary of Aberdeen Golf Club, extended a heartfelt invitation to golf clubs spanning the old Counties, stretching from Kincardine in the South to the Shetland Isles in the North. Their objective: to participate in a remarkable golfing showdown on the illustrious Balgownie Links in the summer of 1900. Aberdeen Club further proposed that each participating club contribute a minimum of two guineas towards the acquisition of a distinguished cup, while the clubs who contributed would collectively decide on the course for the following year.
Eight prominent clubs, namely Aberdeen, Dornoch, Inverness, Moray, Nairn, Orkney, St Duthus, and Victoria (now Tain Golf Club), generously contributed to the purchase of the cherished cup. In August 1900, the first-ever Northern Counties Cup competition took place, etching the names of four exceptional scholars from Aberdeen University—T. B. Reith, K. S. Melvin, C. I. Beattie, and E. Leggie—as the inaugural champions. Following the tournament, the delegates convened and selected Moray Golf Club as the esteemed host for the following year.
For a decade, Royal Dornoch dominated the competition, with notable players John Sutherland and Walter Matheson leaving their indelible mark on the event, except for a surprising upset in 1913 when Deeside defeated Dornoch in the first round at Tain. Play was temporarily suspended during the First World War, and upon its resumption in 1919, Moray Golf Club claimed victory for the second time. The competition then journeyed northward to Royal Dornoch in 1920, where the name of renowned English golfer Roger Wethered was inscribed on the cup. Wethered, who frequently vacationed in Dornoch with his sister Joyce, would go on to win the English and British Amateur championships. Royal Dornoch has since become the most successful club in the competition, triumphing on 21 occasions.
Over the past century, the Northern Counties Cup has seen numerous revered names from across the golfing North etched onto its prestigious trophy. From players such as J. S. Macrae and James MacKay of Royal Dornoch, to Joe Little and Ian Creswell from Royal Aberdeen, the winners’ list tells a tale of skill, determination, and unwavering club pride. As the tournament expanded to include forty participating clubs annually, newcomers such as Brora, Muir of Ord, Banchory, Nigg Bay, and Newmachar have triumphed, adding their names to the annals of history.
One of the remarkable aspects of the Northern Counties Cup has always been the event’s warm and convivial atmosphere. Participants compete not only for individual accolades but also for the honor of representing their beloved clubs. Throughout its storied existence, the competition has cherished this spirit, eschewing individual prizes for the treasured inscribed gold medals awarded to the victorious teams.
We extend our gratitude to Robin Wilson of Brora Golf Club for generously providing valuable information for this engaging article.