If Old Tom Morris Were Here Today...

askernish_18773t.jpgThanks to reader Stan for this Mark Hughes story on the resurrected Old Tom Morris design at Askernish that's opening this summer, and the controversy surrounding it's rebirth.
It has already been described as the "jewel in the crown of world golf". But this isn't Carnoustie, Prestwick or any of the other famous Tom Morris courses. It is the tiny Askernish Golf Club – a one-time nine-hole pitch and putt course on South Uist, an Outer Hebridean island with a population of less than 2,000.

But, while the golfing world has been vocal in its appreciation of the resurrection of Old Tom's lost course, and many of the islanders say it is a chance to provide a much-needed boost to the island's flagging economy, not everyone on South Uist is pleased about the proposals to restore the links course of Askernish to its 18-hole glory.

A small band of local crofters has started legal proceedings against the golf club, claiming that the expansion of the course will leave them with less land on which to graze their animals. They say that their rights to the land on which the golf course is situated – known as Askernish machair – were enshrined in 1922.

The club claims that isn't correct and that the golfers have more rights to the land than the crofters. The argument over who has the better claim has divided the small island community and has now spilled into the courts.

Both sides are confident they will win, the golfers so confident that they have already set a date for the official club opening – 22 August – and have named an honorary president, the former Liverpool and Scotland footballer Kenny Dalglish.

The crofters, meanwhile, are vowing to go to the highest courts possible to stop the golf course going ahead on land they believe is rightfully theirs.

It's fair to say that the rugged but beautiful island of South Uist, a tiny, windy speck on the north-west corner of the UK map, has never seen such a bitter divide.