350 YEARS OF GOLF AT MUSSELBURGH LINKS

Enjoying golf at Musselburgh Links 1672 - 2022

2nd March 2022

The Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, enjoyleisure and East Lothian Council commemorate today’s 350th anniversary of golf being played on the historic Old Course.

March 2, 1672 is the earliest recorded date of golf having taken place at Musselburgh, which is recognised as one of the oldest courses in the world still played upon in its original state.

Documented evidence shows that Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, a prominent Edinburgh lawyer, played golf at Musselburgh on this day, 350 years ago, losing a match with his friends Gosford and Lyon.

Musselburgh later became home to some of the world’s first members' golf clubs, and between 1874 and 1889 hosted The Open on six occasions. Musselburgh is one of fourteen golf courses to have hosted the oldest golf championship in the world, which this year celebrates its own milestone with The 150th Open Championship being held at St Andrews in July.

To mark the 350th anniversary of golf at Musselburgh, MOCGC - which later this month celebrates the 40th year of its re-founding in 1982 - are hosting with a series of events across 2022, culminating in a gala dinner to be held in the town in September.

This Saturday, March 5, members of MOCGC will contest the club’s 40th Anniversary Stroke-play Championship. On July 4, more than twenty golf clubs and foundations from across Scotland have been invited to participate in an eighteen-hole tournament on the Old Course.

Sir John Foulis of Ravelston’s game 350 years ago was referenced in “The Golf Book Of East Lothian”, compiled and documented by John Kerr, M.A, F.R.S.E, F.S.A.Scot, the Minister of Dirleton, which was published in 1896.

Golf may have been played by royalty at Musselburgh even earlier than 1672. Mary Queen of Scots was reported on her indictment in 1567 to have played golf ‘at Seton’, most likely at Musselburgh, while her son James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, was also reported to have played golf here.

Musselburgh’s Old Course has left a lasting legacy on golf in many factors. The accepted diameter of a golf hole (four-and-a-quarter-inches, or 108 mm) was the width of the piece of drainpipe used at Musselburgh to cut the holes. This was adopted by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 1893 as the official measurement requirement for all golf holes, as they standardised the rules of golf.

The Old Course is also regarded as the birthplace of competitive women’s golf. As early as 1795, the local fishwives were reported to have indulged in golf on their days off. In 1811, the club that later became Royal Musselburgh sponsored a women’s golf competition on New Year’s Day with prizes - a fishing basket and silk handkerchiefs.

Perhaps the most famous of the many golfing families to have been based at Musselburgh were the Park family. Willie Park Senior, born in nearby Wallyford, was the first winner of The Open in 1860, and went on to win it a further three times. His brother Mungo won the first Open Championship to be played at Musselburgh in 1874, while Willie Park Junior was a two-time winner, including in 1889, the final year that Musselburgh hosted The Open.

 

Steven Hill, Captain of The Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, said:

“This is a momentous day for everyone connected with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, and to be the Captain of our club in this historic year is a tremendous honour for me.

“While our club only dates back forty years, in that time we have helped to restore The Old Course to its former glory. The history of Musselburgh Links is precious; the members of our club recognise our role as protectors of this ancient course, and hold its traditions very dear to our hearts, including continuing to play hickory golf here.

“We are immensely proud that Musselburgh is one of only fourteen courses in the United Kingdom to have hosted The Open, and it is fitting that in the same year when The 150th Open Championship is played at St Andrews, our course can also celebrate a significant milestone.

“Most of our members grew up playing on The Old Course. In this anniversary year, we want to secure a lasting legacy for golf here by encouraging the next generation of local golfers to experience Musselburgh Links and become part of its future. We also welcome visitors from across the world to visit and join us in our celebrations."

Angela Howe, Director at The R&A World Golf Museum, said:

“The Open has been played at some of the world’s most historic golf courses and Musselburgh is undoubtedly one of them. As one of the three prestigious venues, with Prestwick and St Andrews, which played host to the early days of The Open and the home course of the great Park family among others, it has a rich golfing heritage. It’s wonderful to see this remarkable milestone being celebrated in such fitting style throughout the year.”

Michael Beamish, Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, said:

“The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers has written records stretching back more than 275 years. Originally based in Leith and, since 1891, at Muirfield, the Club grew and flourished during the period when Musselburgh Links was its home.

“Musselburgh Links was the home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from 1836 until 1891. In 1865, The Honourable Company built a clubhouse in Golf Place at the west end of the Links and throughout this period both the town and the nine-hole course played a leading role in the development of the rapidly growing game of golf. Musselburgh and the Links have a long, important and distinguished history and well deserve the title, ‘The Cradle of Golf’.

“The Honourable Company would like to congratulate the clubs at Musselburgh Links and the affiliates involved in managing and maintaining the course, enjoyleisure and East Lothian Council,  for such a wonderful golfing legacy, and send very best wishes for the 350th anniversary celebrations.”

John McMillan, Provost of East Lothian Council, said:

“The Old Course has a very special place in both East Lothian and Scottish golfing history. Ever since March 1672, the course has been recognised as a wonderful place to play golf and the fact that it is one of only fourteen venues to have hosted the Open golf championship is testament to that.

“We are very proud of the fact that East Lothian is Scotland’s Golf Coast, with an unparalleled selection of courses, including the Old Course which golfers continue to enjoy to this day.

“I’m delighted that the council and enjoyleisure are working with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club in celebrating this remarkable milestone and I’d like to congratulate all involved as their plans take shape for a year of celebration.”

Bill Axon, Chief Executive of enjoyleisure, said:

“We’re delighted to be marking this significant milestone in Musselburgh Links’ history, in conjunction with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, Musselburgh Links Ladies Golf Club and our partners East Lothian Council.

“As East Lothian’s charitable health, wellbeing and leisure trust, it’s an absolute joy to be able to provide public access to this magnificent course; witnessing children take their first drive; engaging with locals on their one thousandth round; and welcoming international enthusiasts eager to tick off another majestic round on an historic Open Championship course from their bucket list. 

“Musselburgh Links is truly the people’s golf course; which is enjoyed by all ages and abilities.”

 

Press Coverage : 

Scotsman Website : https://www.scotsman.com/sport/golf/how-musselburgh-old-course-celebrated-its-350th-anniversary-3593881