Musselburgh Links (Old Course) is one of the most historically important golf venues as it is the world’s oldest playing golf course - the Scottish Golf History website has the first record of golf played here as 1567 when Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have played the course. The earliest recorded game was that involving Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, an Edinburgh lawyer, on 2nd March 1672 and the cost of his round was noted in an account book published in 1896 by John Kerr, the minister of Dirleton.
It was the home course in years gone by of venerable golfing greats like Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, Royal Burgess Golf Club, Bruntsfield Golf Society and The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Six Opens were competed for here between 1874 and 1889 so any true golfing aficionado should have this added to their rota of Open Scottish venues to be played – don’t forget Prestwick too.
East Lothian Council today administers the nine-hole course and they deserve plaudits for maintaining the course. It is a mere 2,874 yards off the medal tees and consists of three par threes, five short par fours and a par five. The most remarkable aspect of the old course is the fact that most of it is contained within the track of Musselburgh racecourse – where else have you seen a Local Rule on the scorecard which states Rule 25 (GUR) applies for BALL LANDING ON A HOOF-PRINT?
This is really old-fashioned golf played over terrain that looks as if it has hardly changed a bit over hundreds of years. And at the furthest corner, the green of the par four 4th hole, you half expect the hatch to still be in operation at Mrs Forman’s, the pub next to the putting surface, where golfers reputedly sought refreshment in years gone by. You may think the golf is undemanding and it largely is until you reach the second last hole, a par three of 240 yards. Against the prevailing wind, a score of three here is good going.
This is a true golfing gem and thank goodness the local council have done their bit by preserving a genuine part of Scottish golfing history.
It’s not every day you get to play the oldest golf course in the world! But that’s what happened when I pegged it up inside the racecourse at Musselburgh Links and played the Old Course; host to the Open Championship on six occasions. It was an absolute blast. The Open hasn’t actually been held there since 1889 and it’s actually very easy to play nowadays.
We simply turned up, paid the modest green-fee of £13.50, and were firing away at the daunting 240-yard par three opener within minutes! And whilst the course has been altered a little since the last Claret Jug was contested here it was easy to imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of former champions; Mungo Park, Jamie Anderson, Bob Ferguson, Willie Fernie, David ‘Deacon’ Brown and Willie Park Jnr.
Despite this traditional links course being recognised as the oldest on the planet, and the original home of the historically important Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, there are no sea views to be had at this nine-hole layout. You do however get a real and rugged true links experience with tight lies and plenty of odd bounces thanks to the lovely bumpy fairways.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The summary overview of the course sums Musselburgh up well enough. Its not a tough test, until the 8th. but its great fun to play and you'll have walked in the steps of the golfing greats of the past.
The 9 hole links only measures 2954 yards with a par of 34. While short by modern standards, Musselburgh has many well placed bunkers that could be very difficult to play from. Shots offline could be in trouble as the rough can be difficult. The day we played the links played very hard and firm and the racetrack encircling the links certainly received more water than the links. The 3 par 3s all played into the wind and measured 240, 183, and 240 yards from the white tees. Certainly no pushovers and pars are an accomplishment. For us holes 2, 3, and 4 played downwind and with the ground so hard the ball rolled farther than I have ever seen. My son drove the 357 yard par 4 fourth and it is the longest shot I have seen him hit. The 431 yard par 4 four fourth was a nice solid hole and with the ground so hard a nice bump and run second shot had to be played. The 350 yard par 4 ninth was a nice dogleg left hole with bunkers protecting the green.
Overall, the links was in good condition. However, playing a links that is labeled The Oldest Course in the World is a great experience. My only regret is that we did not hire hickory clubs to play the links as in its heyday. Would highly recommend anyone interested in the history of the game play this links steeped in history. While not in the greatest condition, it certainly was fun to play at a very reasonable cost. Click here to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady
I'll try and separate the review into two parts: the course itself and the experience with the hickory shafted clubs. The course runs in and around the Musselburgh horse racing track, which lends an air of enjoyment and frivolity to the entire experience. There are several holes that would challenge the modern golfer with modern equipment. The 240 yard par 3 first, 430 yard par 4 4th, and the 350 yard par 4 9th, with it's green stuck around the bunkers, would challenge any golfer of any day. With hickory shafted clubs and the old ball these challenges would be formidable. The course itself was well maintained with tight fairways, smooth putting surfaces and an abundance of the thick fescue rough present in all links courses this year due to the wet spring and summer.
To play with hickory shafted clubs is to step back in time and savor the history of our great game. These clubs demand that you play with feel , touch and tempo rather than the brute strength demanded by the modern game and equipment. Golf has been played at least since the 1500's, and at Musselburgh Old links you have the chance, at a very reasonable price, to step in time and savor the challenges that earlier players faced. If you are a lover of golf, and of links golf in particular, then you owe it to yourself to visit this wonderful facility and step back in time. Richard Smith, Knoxville, Tennessee USA