Musselburgh Old course hosted its 6th and last Open Championship in 1889. This venerable old links is one of the world’s most historically important golf venues.
Musselburgh Links (Old Course) is one of the most historically important golf venues as it is the world’s second oldest golf course. The Scottish Golf History website has the first record of golf played here as 1567. 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.
Like many before me, I drove past this place plenty of times on my way to play links golf further along the coast. That was until my golfing sidekick Martin gave me the proverbial kick up the backside to stop off and sample the environment that the game used to be played in a long time ago.
Really, there’s no excuse for not putting aside a couple of hours to play the Old course on your way to or from the more celebrated links along the Lothian coastline. Musselburgh’s something of a museum piece and hats off to the local authority for making it available for play to inquisitive visitors.
It’s far from perfectly manicured out on the course, to be honest, but don’t let the less than pristine conditioning put you off teeing it up here – you are, after all , trying to get a feel for how the game was played back in the days of the early Open contests that took place here in the 1870s and 1880s.
The current 1st hole was added to the original seven holes in 1832 then the 8th hole was added in 1870 but I remember reading somewhere before that the green for the current 1st was played as the 9th back when the Opens were played so this is where the winners would be presented with their prizes.
The Old course at Musselburgh doesn’t have the reputation of the oft-vaunted “Sacred Nine” on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall but, for me, the 9-hole golfing ground here is infinitely more hallowed than the turf down near Newmarket ever will be.
We played the magnificent 9 holes at the racecourse on the way from Goswick to Panmure, it's very hard to rate it objectively, because of what it is and what it means to the history of golf.
However, i really enjoyed playing it, as a glimpse into the past, and how courses were, and to see the scores achieved with the equipmnet used just boggles the mind.
Well worth a stop to take it all in !!
Well worth a try if passing through or if staying in East Lothian. It is council run but the greens were in excellent condition and the slightly lower maintenance meant the fairways were even browner and bouncier than elsewhere. On the 9th I was able to putt from 90 yards.
The 1st is a beast of a par 3 to start, 240 yards across the race track to a raised green. All of the green sites here are interesting, with multiple borrows plus run-off areas. It’s obviously a shorter course, but is in no way a pushover. Some of the fairways are very narrow, the rough so-so. If you put a ball on to the race track it is still in play.
The 4th was my highlight (pictured), a long 4 which doglegs around the race track fence and finishes very close to a busy road. Again the green is one to drop a couple of extra balls and have some fun with.
Our nine was over all too quickly. This is an ideal warm-up or emergency nine that despite being inland, is as firm a site as anywhere. The history is the icing on the cake.
As a serious golfer, you simply have to play this course. It’s not world beating in its quality or its conditioning but it is a must play for the history, the charm and the fun of this place.
It’s only 9 holes but there are some decent holes here. The first tee sits underneath the Newish clubhouse, crossing over the racetrack towards the first green. Quite unassuming and you wonder what the fuss is all about. However, when you get to the green and see the deep pot bunkers, you realise that despite not being able to see the sea, this is a real classic links course.
The second is a good par 4 with a green sat dangerously in front of the gorse bushes and 3 is a lovely par 4 with a lot of fairway and greenside bunkers as you play down to the nestled green.
You cross the racetrack again on 4 and you find out that this course still packs a punch. This is a slight dogleg right with the green nestled in the corner of the property (where there used to be a hatch to order drinks). 5 is a tough par 3 with a few nasty bunkers covering the green here.
6, 7 and 8 all head back inside the racetrack and are good solid holes with plenty of fairway bunkers punishing the wayward shots.
9 is one of my favourite holes here. This is a sharp dogleg left with two bunkers at the dogleg meaning your drive needs to be accurate, bold or it’s a layup. The approach is played to a slightly elevated two tiered green with a deep bunker short of the green. A great final hole.
You should definitely stop by this place if you are in the Lothians to play some of the more prestigious courses here. If you’re brave, try it with the hickory clubs. If you have time, you’ll no doubt want to go back out for another 9 holes of historic golf.
Musselburgh Links is known as the world's oldest playing golf course. It is equally well known for the fact that the 9 hole course is located in the middle of a busy racecourse.
Ideally located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and on the road to the iconic golfing destination of East Lothian, Musselburgh Links offers golfers a glimpse of golf's beginnings.
The Open Championship was played here 6 times between 1874 and 1889, so Musselburgh's place in history is assured. Back in the day they played the 9 hole loop four times in a day for the Claret Jug!
The course has changed little since those early days, so it is a wonderful chance for Travelling Golfers to 'go back in time' and experience the old course.
Even better is the fact that Musselburgh Links will hire out hickory clubs to enhance a truly unique golfing adventure.
The course itself is modest compared to the modern Open courses, but holds it's own when played with hickories
Notable holes include:
- hole 1 (Home Hole), a 240 yd par 3 across the racetrack
- hole 2 (The Graves), a 348 yd par 4 in the middle of the racetrack
- hole 6 (The Table), a 326 yd par 4 which negotiates some undulating ground en route to a raised green
- hole 7 (The Bathing Coach), a 479 yd par 5 that plays long with the hickories..
- hole 9 (The Gas), a 350 yd dog leg par 4 with a very well protected green
In my opinion playing Musselburgh Links with hickories is a great start to any golfing trip to Scotland, and should not be missed!
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Don’t miss out on this 9 hole gem of a course. This former Open venue is surrounded by the race track and still offers really challenging holes despite not hosting The Open since the 19th century. The members were all really friendly and clearly rightly proud of their local links.
It’s a public owned course and fantastic value when you consider its history. A must play
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.