After buying his first set of clubs in Perth in
1502, King James IV spent February 1503 in Edinburgh, and, from his household
accounts, we know he purchased golf clubs and balls
while there. There is also a note by the
Court Treasurer drawing money for the King for a payment in respect of golf
with the Earl of Bothwell, which may be a lost wager. It is not known where
he played; it could have included Bruntsfield
Click image for larger picture
The King's visit
to Edinburgh may have been part of the preparations for his marriage
to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, which took place at Holyrood Abbey in
in August 1503 in Edinburgh. It was because of this marriage that
his great-grandson James VI, also a golfer, succeeded Elizabeth I of England
one hundred years later.
Council records from 17th Century often mention the rights of golfers to use
Bruntsfield Links to play
golf over the rights of others who wanted to quarry pits, graze
animals or drive roads through the Links. In 1687-88 Thomas Kincaid, a
medical student, records golfing in his diary at Leith Links, and probably
also played at Bruntsfield. Thomas Kincaid
wrote the world’s first golf training instructions on
26th January 1687. Though the stance he recommends
appears a bit odd today, he clearly describes the necessity of a full turn
and keeping your shoulders level as well as following through the same
distance as you have taken the club back.
In 1718, Alan Ramsay, the poet, published an ‘Elegy on Maggy
Johnson who died in Anno 1711’ which told of great number of people who
mourned the passing of Maggy Johnson, keeper of a Houff (tavern) at
Bruntsfield, with the well known rhyming couplet:-
‘Whan we were weary’d at the Gouff,
Then Maggy Johnson’s was our Houff;’
From at least 1735, the
Royal Burgess Golfing
Society members were playing on Bruntsfield, but under what name is not
certain. In 1761, or thereabouts, the Bruntsfield Association, which became
Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, began playing
apparently created as
a splinter group from the Burgess Club.
Golf on the Links is seen clearly in paintings of the time by the
military artist Paul Sandy (1746), now at the British Museum, as well later
by Slack (1797) and a print by J Ewbank (1798), which hang in Bruntsfield Links GS
clubhouse at Davidson’s Mains.
golf course 1818
For many years, the course consisted of five holes. On 4th June 1818 the
sixth hole, called the Union Hole was inaugurated with a match between the
Burgess and Bruntsfield clubs. For a larger image of the course, click the
The first house on this area of the Links, then called the Burgh Muir, was built
in 1717, on land feu’d (leased) by the Council in 14th June 1716 to Mr James
Brownhill. The building became known as Golfhall or Foxtoun or Foxton and, over the next eighty years
it was tenanted to Thomas Comb, a golf club and
ball maker; and the Bapties and later Alexander Fraser, who were all
publicans. The Burgess club used ‘Golfhall’ as their clubhouse from at least
1773 until 1792. They then took a lease on Captain Rollo’s house, which
is called both the ‘Golf
Tavern’ and the 'Golf Hotel' in
It is called the ‘Golf Tavern’ in the Burgess Chronicles and is
one later etching as the 'Golf Hotel',
as it is in the course map of 1818, shown above. The Burgess
club met there until 1874, when they moved to Musselburgh.
Both Golfhall and the Golf Hotel have been demolished. They
were almost certainly on the
street now called 'Wrights Houses'. This
name is derived from a mansion called ‘Wryt’s House’,
which was on the other side of
the present road and which gave rise a village
around it called ‘Wright’s Houses’.
Number 30/31 Wrights Houses was the clubhouse of the Bruntsfield
Links golfing club members from about 1788 until 1890, even after the Bruntsfield
club left for
Musselburgh in 1839. The old 'Wryt’s House'
was pulled down in 1800 so that James Gillespie could build
Hospital, now used as the Royal Asylum and School for the Blind.
Houses Bruntsfield Links Oldest Golf Clubhouse now called Golf Tavern
Details of some of the club-mistresses
of 30/31 Wrights Houses are given in
Golfing Society. As the building,
shown above, still exists, it is therefore the
oldest clubhouse still standing. It was probably built in mid/late 18th
Century and was remodeled and renamed ‘Ye Olde Golf Tavern’ in late 19th
Century, after the Bruntsfield Links club gave up their lease.
Click picture above for larger image.
The Bruntsfield Links Short Hole
Golf Club, a long time offshoot of the
clubs who moved to Musselburgh and elsewhere, keeps golf alive on the Links.
The course is a 36 hole pitch and putt course seen in the
picture at the top of the page. The Short Hole
clubhouse is the green hut shown in the picture. The rule
and course layout are shown below. Click images for larger pictures.
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