~   WHY MUSSELBURGH IS IMPORTANT   ~

WHY MUSSELBURGH IS IMPORTANT

THE 'SHORT' GAME


Most people assume St Andrews to be the oldest golf course in the world. The basis for their claim is the declaration of Archbishop John Hamilton in 1552 whereby golf amongst other pastimes, was approved for play on St Andrews links. However, similar games were being played all over North Europe and the evidence suggests very strongly, this was the game being played at St Andrews as well as other Scottish links, including Musselburgh, at that time. David Hamilton in many of his publications on the history of Scottish golf, refers to this as the “short game.” (Golf-Scotland’s Game)

THE 'SHORT' GAME


Most people assume St Andrews to be the oldest golf course in the world. The basis for their claim is the declaration of Archbishop John Hamilton in 1552 whereby golf amongst other pastimes, was approved for play on St Andrews links. However, similar games were being played all over North Europe and the evidence suggests very strongly, this was the game being played at St Andrews as well as other Scottish links, including Musselburgh, at that time. David Hamilton in many of his publications on the history of Scottish golf, refers to this as the “short game.” (Golf-Scotland’s Game)

FIRST 'LONG' GAMEGOLF COURSE


FIRST 'LONG' GAMEGOLF COURSE


During the 17th century we see a marked change in how the game was being played. No longer were targets selected at random or rules made up to suit the situation of the time and place. Instead we see golf clubs and balls being made by craftsmen commissioned by rich gentlemen, in order to play a more expansive and structured game. Three golf clubs were prominent. The Royal Burgess Golfing Society, The Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. These clubs were formed in Edinburgh and played their new game (referred to by Hamilton as the “long game”) on courses at Bruntsfield and Leith in the Edinburgh area.  Accounts from these members confirm them also playing at Musselburgh. The length of hole was much longer. Leith had 5 holes all over 400 yards in length. Bruntsfield had 6 and Musselburgh 7. Musselburgh has continuously seen golf played on it since that time. Records unequivocally tell us Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, a fastidious lawyer noted in his account book, “… lost at golfe at Musselburgh …£3.05.0.” The date: 2nd March 1672. Sir John Foulis was the first man who can be named, unequivocally, to play a prepared golf course.

The layout today is still remarkably similar to the course all these years ago and has seen little alteration in direction of play. Other than the St Andrews declaration of 1552 we hear little of them until the 18th century, nearly 80 years after Sir John Foulis played his golf at the Edinburgh courses. St Andrews’ claim lacks the circumstantial evidence needed to confirm it was at the forefront of the Scottish evolution of the game. It is just generally assumed it was. In fact, if it is true then it can, and has been claimed by others with some justification, that Scotland was not the birthplace of the game we know today as the game in 1552 would be the imported version from northern Europe.

During the 17th century we see a marked change in how the game was being played. No longer were targets selected at random or rules made up to suit the situation of the time and place. Instead we see golf clubs and balls being made by craftsmen commissioned by rich gentlemen, in order to play a more expansive and structured game. Three golf clubs were prominent. The Royal Burgess Golfing Society, The Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. These clubs were formed in Edinburgh and played their new game (referred to by Hamilton as the “long game”) on courses at Bruntsfield and Leith in the Edinburgh area.  Accounts from these members confirm them also playing at Musselburgh. The length of hole was much longer. Leith had 5 holes all over 400 yards in length. Bruntsfield had 6 and Musselburgh 7. Musselburgh has continuously seen golf played on it since that time. Records unequivocally tell us Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, a fastidious lawyer noted in his account book, “… lost at golfe at Musselburgh …£3.05.0.” The date: 2nd March 1672. Sir John Foulis was the first man who can be named, unequivocally, to play a prepared golf course.

The layout today is still remarkably similar to the course all these years ago and has seen little alteration in direction of play. Other than the St Andrews declaration of 1552 we hear little of them until the 18th century, nearly 80 years after Sir John Foulis played his golf at the Edinburgh courses. St Andrews’ claim lacks the circumstantial evidence needed to confirm it was at the forefront of the Scottish evolution of the game. It is just generally assumed it was. In fact, if it is true then it can, and has been claimed by others with some justification, that Scotland was not the birthplace of the game we know today as the game in 1552 would be the imported version from northern Europe.

INFLUENCING THESCOTTISH GAME


Leith and Bruntsfield golf courses have older records but are no longer full-size golf courses. Each has a society dedicated to its heritage and have active memberships. Bruntsfield has a short course of 36 holes which golfers can still play for free. Leith has five holes cut every July to coincide with the Open Championship where members and guests can still play with their hickory clubs for a few weeks in the year.

There are other sites all over Scotland which have records of people playing golf, some dating back to 1502. But none of these can name individuals and can confirm they were playing to the Scottish influenced game born in Edinburgh. Many of these no longer serve as golf courses or have had sizeable periods when golf was not played there. E.g. Perth, Kingsbarns

INFLUENCING THESCOTTISH GAME


Leith and Bruntsfield golf courses have older records but are no longer full-size golf courses. Each has a society dedicated to its heritage and have active memberships. Bruntsfield has a short course of 36 holes which golfers can still play for free. Leith has five holes cut every July to coincide with the Open Championship where members and guests can still play with their hickory clubs for a few weeks in the year.

There are other sites all over Scotland which have records of people playing golf, some dating back to 1502. But none of these can name individuals and can confirm they were playing to the Scottish influenced game born in Edinburgh. Many of these no longer serve as golf courses or have had sizeable periods when golf was not played there. E.g. Perth, Kingsbarns

EARLY RULES

But surely the first set of rules must come from St Andrews? After all is it not that for which they are most renowned? Again, no. That particular honour belonging to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who wrote the first code of rules at Leith Links, on March 7th 1744.

THE HOLE

The golf hole size originated at Musselburgh. The first hole cutting amchine was made by a local blacksmith from a piece of drainpipe. Measuring 4¼ “ this standard was adopted by all golf courses by the end of the 20th century. Today it remains unchanged.

GOLF CLUB INNOVATIONS

The first metal plates (and weighting) was introduced at Musselburgh to protect wooden headed clubs while playing from the adjacent road. The club became known as ‘The Brassie’ and was the forerunner of modern club weighting and sparked a revolution in golf club making.

EARLY RULES

But surely the first set of rules must come from St Andrews? After all is it not that for which they are most renowned? Again, no. That particular honour belonging to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who wrote the first code of rules at Leith Links, on March 7th 1744.

THE HOLE

The golf hole size originated at Musselburgh. The first hole cutting amchine was made by a local blacksmith from a piece of drainpipe. Measuring 4¼ “ this standard was adopted by all golf courses by the end of the 20th century. Today it remains unchanged.

GOLF CLUB INNOVATIONS

The first metal plates (and weighting) was introduced at Musselburgh to protect wooden headed clubs while playing from the adjacent road. The club became known as ‘The Brassie’ and was the forerunner of modern club weighting and sparked a revolution in golf club making.

WHERE SCOTLANDCHANGED THE GAME


Only Musselburgh can claim to be the oldest surviving, continuously played golf course in the world. Not even St. Andrews Links Trust with all their mighty media profile can change that fact. (Golf was suspended at St Andrews 1812-21 due to a feud with rabbit breeding merchants. Rabbit breeding was another of the permitted activities sanctioned by Archbishop John Hamilton’s charter!) Coupled with its Open Championship pedigree the golf course leaves one in no doubt this was and should be again, a most important golfing heritage site.

What can be said without contradiction is; Musselburgh was there when Scotland changed the ‘ball and stick’ game to the sport we know and respect today. The large amount of club and ball makers in the area, the formation of societies dedicated to the game, golf courses laid out in a recognised pattern, rules to play the game, all testify to the changes going on. It was all happening in the Edinburgh area and at Musselburgh.  Musselburgh remains the last complete source to that game changing era. This influence from the Edinburgh area is what makes golf a Scottish game.

WHERE SCOTLANDCHANGED THE GAME


Only Musselburgh can claim to be the oldest surviving, continuously played golf course in the world. Not even St. Andrews Links Trust with all their mighty media profile can change that fact. (Golf was suspended at St Andrews 1812-21 due to a feud with rabbit breeding merchants. Rabbit breeding was another of the permitted activities sanctioned by Archbishop John Hamilton’s charter!) Coupled with its Open Championship pedigree the golf course leaves one in no doubt this was and should be again, a most important golfing heritage site.

What can be said without contradiction is; Musselburgh was there when Scotland changed the ‘ball and stick’ game to the sport we know and respect today. The large amount of club and ball makers in the area, the formation of societies dedicated to the game, golf courses laid out in a recognised pattern, rules to play the game, all testify to the changes going on. It was all happening in the Edinburgh area and at Musselburgh.  Musselburgh remains the last complete source to that game changing era. This influence from the Edinburgh area is what makes golf a Scottish game.

~   LET’S MAKE MUSSELBURGH GREAT AGAIN   ~

LET’S MAKE MUSSELBURGH GREAT AGAIN

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