Ladies European Tour star Kelsey MacDonald has reflected on her time growing up yards from the Nairn Dunbar links in Scotland and junior golf with Russell Knox as she encourages more women and girls to join the club.
Encouraging more women and girls into golf is a key target for Nairn Dunbar, with honorary member MacDonald proving a great ambassador for the club. The 30-year-old from Nairn, a former Scottish Women’s champion, has highlighted starting out in golf over the ‘Dunbar’ links and her sustained passion for the venue, recently named 2021 Environmental Golf Course of the Year.
“I lived only a pitch away from Nairn Dunbar’s 18th green,” said MacDonald, who is preparing for the start of the new LET season. “I joined when I was eight-years-old. My Dad plays and he took my twin brother, Craig, and I out in the evenings, learning the rules and the game.
“Junior team events were great fun. Playing nearby clubs got the competitive edge in us going. We also enjoyed the social scene in the junior room, playing the pool table along with the usual crisps and 10p juice (I’m sure the price has changed now)! Playing Nairn Dunbar most days after school and during school holidays, I look back now and realise how fortunate we were to have such an amazing course on our doorstep.”
MacDonald and fellow honorary member Knox, a Tour winner in Europe and America, have enjoyed impressive careers – with the pair even junior team-mates together at Nairn Dunbar.
“It’s such an honour to be recognised by the club, the members who have all supported me during my career and it means a lot,” added Kelsey. “Russell and I were Juniors at the same time, so I played a lot of junior competitions with him and we were also teammates in the Nairn Dunbar Junior Team. As a club, we were encouraged to play and had great support from the members, who were always positively keeping us in line.
“We had a thriving, strong and talented junior membership at Nairn Dunbar and the professional was David Torrance, who is recognised as one of the top coaches in Scotland. I believe all of the above contributed in some way to Russell and I choosing our career paths. After enjoying my junior years, I’m more than happy to encourage any junior to pick up a club and to enjoy it.”
When she is back at Nairn, MacDonald likes nothing more than a game over the links and counts the par-3 8th and the finishing stretch from 16 to 18 as her favourite holes. She also been impressed by the work of the club’s course manager, Richard Johnstone, as he continues to return the course to more of a links-feel and work hard at environment and sustainable practices.
She said: “Richard is making extensive changes, bringing back the natural linksy course and any time I’m back home I’ve enjoyed the developing course. I’m always impressed with the standard of the course. There have been lots of amazing changes, but I especially love what they have done with the 11th, which was one of the first changes made.
“Derek Roy was head greenkeeper before Richard and he also did an excellent job with the course. Richard has added to what was already a fantastic layout and conditioned course. It’s challenging times for all golf clubs at the moment. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic more people took up golf at Nairn Dunbar. The changes being made can only enhance its reputation and it’s up to everyone concerned to keep them as members.
“Nairn Dunbar is and always will be my home course and I’m proud to represent it. Honestly, wherever I am in the world, someone will know someone from Nairn so, yes, I consider myself an ambassador.”
Initially a 9-hole course from its founding in 1899, before its extension to 18 holes in 1924, Nairn Dunbar offers views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle and beyond to the mountains of Sutherland, as well as inland to the neighbouring Cawdor Hills. The par-72 layout offers a fun and enjoyable test, characterised by holes such as the picturesque 8th.