Golf history in the west of Scotland
did not shine as early as that in the east. The
rainfall in the west is higher because the clouds make landfall
Today there are well-known golf links
courses in the south-west of Scotland,
but in the 16th and 17th Centuries, golf was a game played between December and March, when the grass was naturally
cropped short and there was
no agricultural work to be done. At this time of the
year, prominent Scots from the shires went to
Edinburgh for the social ‘season’ and the convenience of warmer
winter city living. This meant they
mainly played their
golf in the east.
First mentions of golf in the west, as is common elsewhere, are in the
annals of the Kirk. In 1589, the Glasgow Kirk Session decreed
‘no golf, carrict, shinnie, in the High or
Blackfriars yard, Sunday or weekday’. As this
stricture does not limit itself to just ‘Sunday observance’, it may have
been occasioned by the dangers of playing ball and stick games in confined
spaces, much as you see the signs today ‘NO BALL GAMES ALLOWED.’
The location also
implies the game being banned was the ‘short’ form of golf, as discussed at
length by David Hamilton.
Possibly because there were no coastal links accessible to the
good burgesses of
Glasgow in the early days of golf, they used Glasgow Green, shown above as it
is today. Glasgow Green has been landscaped and most of it looks very
different now to the time when the golfers played there.
In 1642, Glasgow University, like St Andrews
University in the same year,
declared their approval of
such sports as ‘Gouffe, Archerie, and the lyk’ (sic). In
1674, there is a record of golf equipment being bought for the young Earl
William of Annandale, who was attending Glasgow Grammar School.
In 1721, James Arbuckle, a student at Glasgow University, wrote a poem about
the River Clyde, which he called ‘Glotta’. In it, he incidentally records
several details about golf on Glasgow Green, the clubs and the game, though
he does not appear to have been a golfer himself.
In Winter too, when hoary
The verdant Turf, and naked lay the Mead,
The vig’rous Youth commence the sportive War,
And arm’d with Lead, their jointed Clubs prepare;
The Timber Curve to Leathern Orbs apply,
Compact, Elastic, to pervade the Sky:
These to the distant Hole they drive;
They claim the Stakes who thither first arrive.
Care in needed in interpreting exact details, given
the difficulties of poetic rhyme and the ‘licence’ poets take as a result.
Golf Club played on Glasgow Green from 1787 to 1870 when they moved to
Queens Park because the Green was common ground and becoming
popular. From the beginning of the 19th Century
play became difficult. The overcrowding was compounded by a
municipal drainage scheme in 1813, which apparently made the area
‘unpleasant’. This role is now fulfilled by the local
Templeton Business Centre
There are many historical
sights on Glasgow Green including the Templeton
Business Centre built in 1839 as a
carpet factory and shown above. There is also the first civic Nelson
Monument, started in 1806, and the Peoples Palace, opened in 1898, which
commemorates the history of Glasgow from 1750 to the present day. A picture
and more details of the Nelson Monument
can be found on the page about the early history of
One early visitor to Glasgow Green
was James Watt. In his account of
his invention of the improved steam engine, James Watt
referred to the 'Golf Course'
on Glasgow Green. While walking on Glasgow Green
one Sunday in 1765, he passed
by the old washhouse
and, before he had reached
the Golf Course,
he had developed a clear vision of the separate
steam condenser, which greatly
improved the efficiency of steam engines and thus began the industrial age.
The event is commemorated on the Green by the James Watt Boulder,
pictured above. Good job he was not hit by a golf ball.
More details of Glasgow Golf Club
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