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.
Musselburgh Links Golf Course (Old) sits inside a race track as a nine hole golf course, which hosted the Open Championship six times between 1874 and 1889.
The four-and-a-quarter-inch (108 mm) diameter of a golf hole was the width of the implement used to cut the holes at Musselburgh; in 1893, the R&A adopted the measurement as a mandatory requirement for all courses.
It is a par 34 with a yardage of 2954 yards. For me easily the best hole was the first, a par 3 of 240 yards with one of the better greens on the course. Another really good hole was the 4th, a par 4 of 431 yards ending in the corner of the property near the road and a building I recall as a pub (perhaps I was thirsty). There is one par five, the short 7th hole at 479 yards.
If you are chasing history and trying to play every course that hosted the Open Championship, then this is worth your time to find and play. I would not save it for the "final" course to complete the Open rota as it is not that special of a memory. Obviously the course will not beat you up given its short length and flat terrain. The two scratch golfers I played with scored even par and I was five over due to a double bogey I took on that 4th hole. But if you like playing inside a unique setting, this is pretty cool.
The green fee is inexpensive.
Well, this is it! The Full Open Rota completed in my 6th trip to the UK, a lifetime achievement! I was very close 2 years ago when I played Archerfield Fidra in the area and missing this one by mistake and poor planning. But this year when travelling for the Centenary of the Eden Tournament I was committed to fix this mistake and have them all played at least once, the current ones and the ones that have at least one hosted golf oldest Major Championship.
I drove from St Andrews in what was going to be a packed day by also playing Kilspindie and Renaissance the same day.
After arrival to the small Club House and presenting myself to the Starter, in 10 minutes I was ready to tee off with 2 Senior Golfers who were fantastic hosts and told be some little stories about the venue.
I was surprised when after finishing with a great 3 on the first hole I found it was a par … 245yds! Course is a short par 34, with 3 par 4s between 320 and 350yds, a 480yds par 5, another 430yds par 4 but the length comes in the par 3s: 240yds (1st), 183yds (6th) and 240yds (8th). It is located inside a Race Track, plays like a links course with high rough, firm and fast fairways, small pot bunkers in fairways and grees, tricky tee shots and all in one a fantastic experience!
This is one of those gems that due to history and tradition needs to be ticked and you need to spread the voice that for just 16GBP you can play a former Open Course!
An enjoyable 9-hole intimate golfing experience literally inside a horse racetrack. A very cheap green fee allows you to explore a historic routing that follows the track to the end of the property before turning back. Each hole has plenty of challenge, and with the turf being so firm and fast, the ground game becomes a shot maker’s paradise. While some holes are better than others, it’s good value for money in Scotland, and a big slice of Open Championship history having hosted the Open 6 times between 1874 and 1889.
Fun experience to tread in the footsteps, see Mrs. Formans, and play on springy turf. That said, the golf itself is fun and great value but with only a few quality holes to remember. Disappointing.
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