Stuart, Queen of Scots, (1542-1587), allegedly played
golf at Musselburgh in
1567. This claim is apparently derived from a charge that the Earl of Moray put
before the Westminster Commissioners in the ‘Articles’ in 1568. He accused
Mary of playing golf at Seton House only a few days after the murder of her
husband, Lord Darnley, in which he claimed she was implicated. The original
Seton home (above), now destroyed, was 4 miles
east of Musselburgh and it is possible that Musselburgh would have been
another place where she played golf. It is likely she played golf, or else
the charge would have had no credibility.
Tradition has it that Queen Mary
Stuart once lost a golf match
to Mary Seton, whose family home was the Seton House above, and
afterwards the Queen presented Mary Seton with a necklace as a reward. Mary Seton, was one of the
Queen’s three ‘ladies-in-waiting’, who were all called Mary. Mary Seton was
a tall woman and was a life-long friend of Mary
Stuart. In 1811,
(Royal) Musselburgh Golf Club made arrangements for the first recorded
women’s golf competition.
Mary’s son James
VI also reputedly played at Musselburgh, prior to
journeying south to become James I of England in 1603.
There is definite evidence that Sir John Foulis of
Ravelston, an Edinburgh lawyer who kept copious records of
his golf on Leith Links, also played golf at Musselburgh in 1672.
He lost in a match with his friends Gosford and Lyon
and others as his notebook records:
Mar 2 Lost at
Golfe at Musselboorgh with Gosford, Lyon etc .. .. £3 5s 0d
November 1728, Duncan Forbes, President of the Court of Session and
‘eminence grise’ of the Leith golfers, played golf at Musselburgh with his
son. He recorded the event with the regret that he wished his son were as
good at anything else as he was at golf.
after a Very hard Pull I Got the better of My Son at the Gouf in
Musselburgh Links, if he was as Good
at any Other thing as he is at that there might be some hopes for him.
Musselburgh Old Course Medal Day
with former clubhouses and Arthur Seat in background
The Old Links at Musselburgh was originally seven holes, with an
eighth added in 1832 and final ninth in 1870, called the ‘Sea Hole’ and now
played as the fifth. The present Musselburgh course is claimed to be the
oldest layout in the world, and others appears to yield to this claim.
One of the early mechanical devices
for making standard sized
golf holes was purchased by the (Royal) Musselburgh club in 1829 from Robert Gay for
£1-0-0. (One pound, no shillings and no pennies). This
size was adopted as the
standard size for a golf hole in 1893.
Several clubs have played at Musselburgh. Notable among them are four below who
all built clubhouses there. They formed a greens committee, paying roughly according to the number of
their members. (In brackets below are the average memberships in late 1880s).
The map above shows the relative location of the clubhouse buildings which they
built and which still
exist. Click pictures for larger images.
Royal Musselburgh GC Old
Clubhouse 9 Balcarres Rd
Royal Musselburgh Golf Club (90 to 136 members) played
at Musselburgh from about
1760 until 1925. They first occupied a clubhouse
inside the course and then in 1873 the moved to
9 Links Place (now 9
Balcarres Road, shown above).
A few years after the Honourable Company decamped
to Muirfield, they took over their clubhouse at No 8
(below) in 1908 until
Musselburgh moved to Prestongrange House in 1925.
Hon Company of Edinburgh Golfers Old
Clubhouse 8 Balcarres Rd
Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (400 members) played
at Musselburgh from
1836 to 1891, when they moved to Muirfield further east.
In 1865 they built a
clubhouse at 8 Links Place (now 8 Balcarres Road,
shown above). This is now a children's
Bruntsfield Links GS Old Clubhouse
Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society (130 members) began
using Musselburgh from 1839, retaining their
old clubhouse at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh. From 1869 they used
the vacated St Peter's Episcopal Church, since destroyed. Then, in 1886, they
built the clubhouse shown above in Mill Hill. They departed back to Davidson’s Mains
in the west of Edinburgh in 1898, barely ten years after building the
Mill Hill clubhouse. The
building is now the Wiremill Social
Club and has been extensively refurbished inside following a major fire a
few years ago.
Former Burgess clubhouse 10
Balcarres Rd now occupied by Musselburgh Old Course Club
(Royal) Burgess Golfing Society (100 members) opened
a new clubhouse at
10 Links Place (now 10 Balcarres Road pictured above) in 1875
and moved back to Barnton in west Edinburgh in 1895.
The building now
serves as the clubhouse of the Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club who
purchased it in 1993.
In 1874, the ‘Open’, which had first been first
held at Prestwick in 1861,
was held at Musselburgh, after the Honourable Company
became involved in its organisation with Prestwick and St Andrews. It was held there five more times in 1877, 1880,
1883, 1886 and 1889. The last of these was won by the legendary Willie Park Jnr, a Musselburgh man. He and other notable Musselburgh
golfers are honoured on a plaque on the former Burgess clubhouse.
You can join
Musselburgh Old Course either a course member or club member and,
if you live abroad, as an
overseas member with playing rights, (see