THEY are separated by hundreds of miles, a choppy sea and several centuries of tradition but have been linked by one common rule that is unique to the two.

But now members of Stornoway Golf Club are set to challenge the rule of no play on Sunday which would leave the Old Course in St Andrews as the only course in the country that closes on religious grounds.

Playing golf on the Sabbath is banned at Stornoway under a historic clause in the lease with community landlord, the Stornoway Trust.

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But now an elected member of the trust, Callum Ian Macmillan, has set up an online survey in a bid to gauge islanders views on finally allowing the course to be open to members.

Mr Macmillan intends to present the results to a meeting of the Stornoway Trust on Monday when the golf course lease is expected to come up for discussion.


(Picture credit: @StornowayGolf)

If the bid to open on a Sunday is successful, it would leave the Old Course as one of the remaining courses in the world to be closed on the Sabbath, after a rule introduced in the 16th century.

Like the Old Course, Stornoway is on land owned by the local community trust and is open to locals to enjoy any activity that they like on a Sunday - as long as its not gold.

Now, however, Mr McMillan is challenging that rule with an online survey question: Should all sports which take place in the Lews Castle Grounds be treated in the same way by the Stornoway Trust?

He queried why golf is banned while other sports and activities like jogging, running or biking are allowed.

Mr McMillan said: “All sport should be encouraged - not restricted. They should all be treated in the same way whether it be cycling, athletics or sledging in winter.

“Currently the only sport which is restricted in the castle grounds is the opportunity to play golf on the Stornoway golf course on a Sunday.

“People play football on the pitches behind the golf club, cycle on Stornoway Trust cycle paths and take part in athletics in the castle grounds seven days a week.”

The golf club is situated in Lews Castle grounds and was gifted to the community by industrialist Lord Leverhulme in 1923.

Since then the grounds have been enjoyed by families on the Sabbath without the danger of being hit by flying golf balls.

Dramatic change in the Sabbath landscape compared to just a few years ago has seen the introduction of seven-day ferries and planes while a number of pubs and a couple of shops now open on the Lewis Sunday.

But many islanders who are not church goers nor particularly religious strongly back Sunday observance where shops, public services and facilities are closed. Pro-opening campaigners point to alcohol and food being served at the licensed café within the Western Isles Council-owned Lews Castle.

Campaigners also call for more Sunday services like the Stornoway Sports Centre to operate.

However Sabbath Observance adherents say this not only breaks the Fourth Commandment against Sunday employment but also attacks at the heart of traditional island values.

Sunday observance campaigner John Macleod said: “I think Callum Ian misses a moral issue – that Stornoway Golf Club acquired the land for their course, at a pretty nominal rent, on an agreement freely entered into that there would be no play on the Lord’s Day.

“We, as a community, have a right to expect that organisations like that keep their word, and so far the community has continued to elect a majority of trust members on the side of our safe and restful island Sabbath.”