On March 2 1672, Sir John Foulis of Ravelston played golf at Musselburgh with two friends.
In doing so, he set the wheels in motion for a long and storied history which is today marking its 350th anniversary.
Ravelston may have lost that match with his friends, Gosford and Lyon, but of far more significance both that day and this is the land on which they played.
The trio had played on land which would become Musselburgh Old Course – the first documented evidence of golf being enjoyed at the site, and that remains the case three-and-a-half centuries on.
In fact, the course is in the record books as one of the oldest to still exist on its original site.
Over the next few hundred years, Musselburgh would continue to be at the forefront of golfing innovation. The town was home to some of the world’s first members’ clubs, and the Old Course hosted the Open on six occasions between 1874 and 1889. Indeed, it was the birthplace of the first-ever Champion Golfer of the Year, Willie Park Sr, while the 108mm diameter of a hole, adpopted by the R&A in 1893, was the width of the drainpipe used at Musselburgh.
Now, to mark 40 years since Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club (MOCGC) was refounded in 1982, a series of events are to be held, culminating in a gala dinner in September.
“This is a momentous day for everyone connected with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, and to be the Captain of our club in this historic year is a tremendous honour for me,” said captain Steven Hill.
“While our club only dates back forty years, in that time we have helped to restore The Old Course to its former glory. The history of Musselburgh Links is precious; the members of our club recognise our role as protectors of this ancient course, and hold its traditions very dear to our hearts, including continuing to play hickory golf here.
“We are immensely proud that Musselburgh is one of only fourteen courses in the United Kingdom to have hosted The Open, and it is fitting that in the same year when The 150th Open Championship is played at St Andrews, our course can also celebrate a significant milestone.
“Most of our members grew up playing on The Old Course. In this anniversary year, we want to secure a lasting legacy for golf here by encouraging the next generation of local golfers to experience Musselburgh Links and become part of its future. We also welcome visitors from across the world to visit and join us in our celebrations.”
It is thought golf may have been played in Musselburgh for far longer than 350 years, although little documented evidence exists. Mary Queen of Scots was said to have played “at Seton”, although more likely to be Musselburgh, in 1567. Her son King James is also believed to have played there.
The Old Course is also thought to be the birthplace of competitive women’s golf, with fishwives playing on their days off as early as 1795.
“The Open has been played at some of the world’s most historic golf courses and Musselburgh is undoubtedly one of them,” said Angela Howe, director at the R&A World Golf Museum.
“As one of the three prestigious venues, with Prestwick and St Andrews, which played host to the early days of The Open and the home course of the great Park family among others, it has a rich golfing heritage. It’s wonderful to see this remarkable milestone being celebrated in such fitting style throughout the year.”
Musselburgh also served as the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers for nearly 60 years in the 19th century, with current captain Michael Beamish describing the Old Course as the “cradle of golf”.
In 1995, the Old Course clubhouse was brought back to its original use with assistance from East Lothian Council.
The course is now operated by enjoyleisure on behalf of the local authority.
“The Old Course has a very special place in both East Lothian and Scottish golfing history,” said Lord Provost John McMillan.
“Ever since March 1672, the course has been recognised as a wonderful place to play golf and the fact that it is one of only fourteen venues to have hosted the Open golf championship is testament to that.
“We are very proud of the fact that East Lothian is Scotland’s Golf Coast, with an unparalleled selection of courses, including the Old Course which golfers continue to enjoy to this day.
“I’m delighted that the council and enjoyleisure are working with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club in celebrating this remarkable milestone and I’d like to congratulate all involved as their plans take shape for a year of celebration.”
Bill Axon, chief executive of enjoyleisure, added: “We’re delighted to be marking this significant milestone in Musselburgh Links’ history, in conjunction with Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club, Musselburgh Links Ladies Golf Club and our partners East Lothian Council.
“As East Lothian’s charitable health, wellbeing and leisure trust, it’s an absolute joy to be able to provide public access to this magnificent course; witnessing children take their first drive; engaging with locals on their one thousandth round; and welcoming international enthusiasts eager to tick off another majestic round on an historic Open Championship course from their bucket list.
“Musselburgh Links is truly the people’s golf course; which is enjoyed by all ages and abilities.”