The oldest golf course in the world...
If I asked you where the oldest golf course in the world was what would you say? Scotland ? yes, good guess so far. But where in Scotland?
When pressed most golfers eventually say St Andrews, but they're wrong. Golf was played at Musselburgh near Edinburgh at least ten years before any recorded games at St Andrews. Local records suggest that golf was played on the links land near the shore at Musselburgh from around the year 1567.
The "old course" in Musselburgh is still there today and retains much of its original layout. It has nine holes and the golf course can be played by all comers. Seven of the old course holes were laid out before 1830 (and probably much earlier) and the two "new holes" were added in the mid 1800's.
The British Open golf tournament was held at Musselburgh on five occasions between 1874 and 1889 and the first ever golf competition for women was played on the old course in 1811. The club members still compete for the Old Club Cup, which dates back to 1774.
Even the holes in the greens are significant at Musselburgh. In 1829 the members decided to buy a mechanical device from a local blacksmith to cut the holes on the green. By chance he made it with a diameter of exactly four and a half inches. Golf holes at the time could be any size that the members wanted ? there was no rule about it. In 1893 the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews ? who by this time wrote the rules of golf for the game worldwide ? decided that all golf holes should be the same size as the ones at Musselburgh old course and the decision has remained unchanged to this day. Just measure the cup size on your local golf course if you don't believe me.
For a golf course of such historical importance, access is remarkably easy. You can simply pay and play if you wish and there is a small shop selling special souvenirs. Memberships are available for both local and overseas members ? the latter might make a particularly unusual golf gift. Each overseas member receives a welcome pack with a history of the club, a special bag tag, special golf balls and tees and is welcome to join in any competitions if they come for a holiday in Scotland.
This truly is golf at it's most authentic and in its most historical setting. Come try it ? you will really feel the history of the place.
Gary Hill lives and works in central Scotland.
His website has lots of information on travel in Europe and about golf in Scotland or Ireland golf vacations
Gary also contributes to a medical website on the theme of whiplash injury