NORRIE T MACDONALD: New year, new beginnings at Scarista

The Harris golf club plans to upgrade facilities

With every New Year comes a determination to make positive changes.

It’s entirely natural.

Every one of us believes that they can become a better person either emotionally, physically, spiritually or (chance would be a fine thing) financially, by waking up and doing ‘things’ differently.

The same should be true of institutions, organisations, businesses and, just as importantly, sports clubs.

It has been no secret, certainly since the August ‘Open’ competitions at Scarista, that there are tentative plans afoot to take the club to the next level.

There can be no doubt that the growth of the ‘wee club’ (as it was always fondly referred to by my old pal Wilie Fulton), is dependent on the biggest leap of faith in its history.

That the course itself merits the proposed investment is an absolute.

The work done over the past five years by sole greenkeeper, James Dunne, has transformed the links into a must-play destination for any player visiting.

The regular playing members are, similarly, in his debt for the small, but necessary, transformations he has inspired.

The continued expansion of the Western Isles, and particularly Harris, as a tourist destination, has seen the number of travelling golfers, determined to tick off one of Scotland’s most iconic 9-holers from their list (all golfers have wish-lists), grow exponentially.

Having survived, thus far, by utilising a portakabin (initially) as a makeshift changing facility, thence progressing to a triple-bunker arrangement for a much-improved ‘clubhouse’; there has, if we are completely honest, never been a feeling of solidity about any of the structures employed to serve the membership.

Yet in all of its various quirky manifestations, the uniqueness of the ‘underground’ arrangement has been much enjoyed and, indeed, much loved by everyone who either calls the club their own (and this includes a very large life/overseas membership) and visitors from other clubs.

But the time for change, the time to consider the ‘next move’, will be front and centre of the club’s deliberations in 2024.

Capitalising, ‘above ground’, on the incredible setting and magnificent views, is the obvious consideration.

A bricks and mortar permanence, a proper tiled roof and concrete floor: the ability to offer a better experience to the membership and visitor alike, will all be on the agenda at the club’s AGM this month.

Naturally, the ‘elephant in the room’, as referred to by development convenor, Gordon Ness, is funding.

The next move will involve a far more significant amount of investment than has previously been considered.

This is where there is the most obvious ‘gamble’.

To make even the most basic of new proposals feasible, there needs to be an expansion of the scope of the club.

A small restaurant, golf simulator and merchandise shop are the obvious add-ons to a basic changing facility.

But the most integral element to the success of any proposal is that the club continues to recognise the very special place that it holds in the cultural and spiritual framework of the south Harris community.

This was enshrined in the promises of several founder members to the landowners from whom the hallowed turf was purchased.

That they will need to bring all of the relevant stakeholders with them is primary in all their considerations.

Neighbourliness is paramount.

As with everything I’ve ever seen from the club previously, they will look to retain their uniqueness and identity, while broadening their beautiful horizon(s) in the most respectful way possible.

Now comes the difficult part.