WHEN, three years ago, Tom Burnham agreed to assemble a book marking the centenary of Earlston Golf Club he did not envisage an onerous challenge.

“Given that the club has not had a course to call its own since 1940, I thought I’d be producing a booklet,” admits the retired salesman who came to live in the once thriving market town in 2009. “I could not have been more mistaken.”

Tom was commenting after the publication this week of “From Huntshaw to the Moon: the Life and Times of Earlston Golf Club 1906-2006”.

And far from being a booklet, the illustrated volume runs to no fewer than 464 fascinating pages, illuminating, through the prism of the club, a comprehensive cultural, industrial and social history of the town and its people.

“Going through club records and newspaper archives and bringing it all together, I felt personally acquainted with many of the former members purely be reading about them,” says Tom.

“I got so involved with their lives that I shed a few tears learning so many of the club’s original members and Earlston characters did not return from the Great War.

“It was illuminating too to find out about the key role of women in a sport which has famously been reluctant to accept gender equality. In that regard Earlston was a trailblazer.”

Tom Burnham weaves a superbly readable narrative around key events since 1906 when the club was founded, leasing farmland at Huntshaw for form a nine-hole course, designed by legendary Musselburgh golfer and twice Open Champion Willie Park Jnr.

The Great War intervened, the land – known as Caldie’s Hill - was ploughed to support the war effort and the club did not reform until 1924. The Second World War proved the nemesis of the same course in 1940.

Post-war attempts to find a course drew a blank, with club competitions being played at venues across the Borders and beyond.

By 1999, membership had dwindled and the club faced extinction, only to be saved by a fresh committee of local golfers who, in an ebullient proclamation of their homelessness, spent £100 to obtain the title deeds of 10 acres of land on the moon.

The purchase, from MoonEstates.com, received worldwide media coverage and the committee even managed to sell 11 associate memberships for the Moon Course at £50 a go.

“It was a whacky way of saying that, despite not having a course, the club had big ambitions,” says Tom.

It was not the first time Earlston Golf Club, which currently boasts a healthy membership of 60, had hit the headlines.

In 1908, the club famously refused to postpone a tournament when Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith visited the town to address a “great meeting” on the issue of land reform in a specially erected marquee.

The golfers thus cocked a snoot at what the Berwickshire News described as: “The first time in the political history of Berwickshire that a Prime Minister of Great Britain has delivered a speech at a public meeting in the country and there is a desire on the part of inhabitants to show their appreciation of the honour which is about to be conferred on them.”

As well as being shunned by the golfers, the visit was notable for being targeted by hundreds of suffragettes from across the south of Scotland, at least one of whom was ejected from the meeting.

The illustrated book also records that the club had a ladies’ section within two years of being formed and that full membership was granted to females even before universal suffrage was achieved in 1928.

So why is a centenary book being published 11 years after the passing of the milestone?

Current club captain Brian Thorburn explains: “At a committee meeting in 2004 when I was vice-president, I agreed to attempt to produce a centenary book or brochure for the club.

“I obtained and collated as much information as I could through appeals to the community and the local press. After about 18 months of sifting and searching, I realised the groundwork for this type of publication should have been started 10 years earlier.

“Another few years passed, then hallelujah, along came Tom Burnham who has worked tirelessly editing and producing this magnificent book about our club and our town.”

Published thanks to the generosity of local sponsors, “From Huntshaw to the Moon” is available, priced £5, from the Black Bull Hotel, Earlston (01896 848170).