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It’s official: Musselburgh Links has the oldest course

12.33am 15th December 2009 - Course Development - This story was updated on Monday, June 21st, 2010

The Old Golf Course at Musselburgh Links, just outside of Edinburgh, has been officially recognised as the oldest surviving golf course in the world by Guinness World Records.

Historians uncovered the earliest record of golf being played on any surviving golf course from an Account Book of Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, an Edinburgh lawyer. The earliest game played on Musselburgh Links took place on 2 March 1672 where he documents “he lost at golfe at Musselburgh…£3.05.0.” This documentary evidence was included in The Golf Book of East Lothian, published in 1896 and written by John Kerr, the minister of Dirleton.

Musselburgh has long been known affectionately as “The Cradle of Golf”. Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have played the course in 1567; its origins however are probably in the twelfth or thirteenth century.

The first tournament for women was held on the course in 1811 and it was one of the three founding venues for The Open along with Prestwick and St Andrews, Musselburgh Old Course holding The Open six times between 1874 and 1889. Many of the golfing legends have played there, including Open Champions Willie Park Senior – winner of the first Open Championship in 1860 – Willie Park Junior, Tom Morris Senior, Tom Morris Junior, Willie Fernie, Mungo Park, Jamie Anderson, Bob Ferguson, David ‘Deacon’ Brown and J H Taylor.

Damian Field, a spokesman for Guinness World Records, said: “We hope that golf continues to be played and enjoyed there for many years to come.”

The Old Golf Course, which is now managed by Enjoy Leisure on behalf of East Lothian Council, was originally a seven-hole course. The eighth and ninth holes were added in 1838 and 1870 respectively.

Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club (MOCGC) ‘The Club at the World’s Oldest Golf Course,’ has launched a unique and timely opportunity for golfers worldwide to obtain an Associate Membership.

Associate Membership provides full access to the historic clubhouse for the Member and their guests, provides handicap administration if required, and the opportunity to play the world’s oldest golf course. Associate Members receive a prestigious wooden presentation box containing items, all of which bear the club’s crest; a replica ‘gutta-percha’ golf ball, leather membership bag tag, leather key ring, pitch mark repairer/ball marker, personalised certificate of membership, golf discounts and special rates at other esteemed courses, and a superb booklet on the legendary events of the past that make it the place of pilgrimage it is today.

MOCGC was formed by a group of local men in 1982, determined to retain the venue’s prestige and create growing awareness of Musselburgh’s important role as a pioneer for the modern game of golf. Like St. Andrews, Musselburgh Old Course has a long history of local authority ownership. Since 1892 East Lothian Council has maintained the course relatively unchanged and in pristine condition.

MOCGC own and occupy the clubhouse originally built for the world’s oldest golf club in 1873, The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh (1735). The clubhouse is a thriving Members’ Club with regular competitions on the course for men, women and juniors.

Fittingly, Tom Foggo, Captain of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh, became the first Associate Member, with other early-confirmed memberships rapidly coming from Scotland, England, USA, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the Far East.

Commenting on Associate Memberships, MOCGC secretary Robin McGregor said: “The Musselburgh Old Course is hugely important in terms of golf’s past but it can and must play a more significant role in the future. Not only should its rich tapestry of history be widely known by all lovers of golf, it should prompt golfers to ask; “Why haven’t I heard more of Musselburgh? Why didn’t I know it’s the oldest golf course in existence? To all who love the game of golf and value its traditions we are delighted to offer the privilege of playing golf on the world’s oldest course and enjoying the benefits of our historic clubhouse.”

“MOCGC is an ambitious Club with very achievable plans for the future. The Associate Membership is a package of outstanding value and early applicants are virtually assured membership. Our plans, when achieved, have the potential to benefit the town of Musselburgh, East Lothian, and many of the other superb golf courses and facilities in the area.”

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