Scottish Golf History began as a personal odyssey to find the oldest golf
courses in Scotland
to play. Two problems emerged in my research.
The first was that the historical data was not related to the present day,
and thus you did not know exactly where ‘X marks the Spot’. This website
seeks to relate the golf history to present day courses, locations,
websites and maps.
Secondly, it became clear that information on early golf history was
patchy and conflicting. In cross-referencing the facts, I became aware
that almost every publication contained gaps or at least one error or piece of
Some websites list dates that are several years adrift of the documented
date. The terms ‘instituted’ and ‘foundation date’ are often used when
what is meant is ‘first documented date’. Even prestigious books confuse
the ‘Golf Hotel’, former clubhouse of the Burgess club, now destroyed,
with that of the extant ‘Golf Tavern’ next door, which had served as the
clubhouse of the Bruntsfield Links club.
A few of these issues are typographical errors or flow from the fact that
some websites are created by enthusiastic students practicing their
new-found technical skills for the benefit of golf history; and far be it
from me to dampen their enthusiasm for the game or inhibit their scholarly
studies. Other oversights appear part of a
campaign to maintain an orthodoxy about golf history and the relative ages
of certain golf clubs that the evidence does not merit.
||As is common in a literate
world, there is a natural tendency to over-value documentary evidence at
the expense of traditional or oral evidence. Yet history is littered with
examples where archaeology and the passage of time have revealed more than
a passing truth in oral history. A detailed and corroborated story can be
relied upon more than an isolated date inscribed on a brass plate.
Moreover, as mentioned, ‘written’ evidence can contain errors and
omissions and cannot be taken at face value.
the other hand, traditional stories of kings or queens playing golf on
particular occasions are sometimes recounted in detail as if they were
known facts, although no contemporary source is available to support the
story. The correct presentation is neither to denigrate the traditional
nor to repeat it blindly, but to note the facts and the references or lack
There is a danger, as the catalogue of errors is repeated, that
‘historical lies’ will be created in golf history. In the end, I decided
to publish here to put some records straight. In so doing I shall
doubtless introduce errors of my own, but so be it.
The history of golf in Scotland must forever live with the problem that there are
few written records on it and what there are shed light on the day-to-day
minutia of how much golf balls cost, but little on the monumental matters
of who invented the golf hole or where or when. Sadly the good ‘burgesses’ of Edinburgh
(and elsewhere) did not record their
inaugural golf meetings or thoughts and we are left forever guessing about
many details. For those interested in knowing which are oldest societies
and courses either for their amusement or even to go and ply them, I offer
the information on the other pages of this website, in a spirit of
helpfulness and encouragement of the great game of ‘Gowfe’.
Neil JB Laird