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Sunday golfers win right to play 19th hole - just not the other 18

Golfers on the Isle of Lewis enjoyed a historic round when their clubhouse opened for the first Sabbath drinks.

The ruling means members of Stornoway Golf Club are able to drink, but cannot play their course after winning the Sunday drinks licence for their 19th hole - at the third time of asking.

The island club is banned by its landlords from playing golf on the Sabbath, but, despite objections from church groups, won a Sunday drinks licence on appeal last week.

The club welcomed more than 50 people in the first two hours of opening yesterday.

It had only officially received the amended Premises Licence issued by the Licensing Standards Officer on the previous day.

"On a beautiful winter day, members and guests were able to relax in a friendly, comfortable and convivial environment," said the management committee in a statement.

"Children were able to be present with their parents in accordance with the Club's Constitution. After a walk in the Castle Grounds, a bowl of Diane's excellent tomato and basil soup recharged the batteries of numerous patrons.

"In these difficult financial times, the club was pleased to receive several formal applications for membership. Over the next few weeks the management committee will monitor the business outcomes of the additional opening hours.

"The provision of Sunday lunches remains a target for due consideration, which will require some planning, in consultation with members and guests."

Following the appeal hearing at Inverness Sheriff Court, acting sheriff principal Charles Stoddart ruled in favour of the golf club - and said that the Western Isles Licensing Board must pay the club's expenses.

Stornoway Golf Club secretary Ken Galloway said the club looked forward to "welcoming many members and guests" every Sunday from now on.

The club is furious that the past refusals meant that it has missed out on badly-needed income - such as from watching the Ryder Cup.

Mr Galloway said after winning the appeal: "We have lost 25 Sundays on which we could have been open. The issue of compensation is something that has yet to be discussed."

The club has said that the decision to apply for a Sunday licence was not linked to the issue of Sabbath golf.

Club members previously voted 2-1 for Sunday play but claim that they have been continuously thwarted by their landlords, The Stornoway Trust, over their demand.

The trust says the club's 25-year licence - which is at a peppercorn rent - includes the condition of no-Sunday play.

Source: Mike Merritt, The Scotsman, Sunday, 23rd January, 2011