Scotland is the undisputed home of golf.
The exact origins are not known, but it is recorded that golf had to be banned in 1457 as it interfered with archery practice. But it was James IV of Scotland who took up the sport around 1505 giving it the royal stamp of approval and it is reported that Mary Queen of Scots also played. However it was also a game of the people.
At Leith Links, there were originally 5 holes, around 400 yards long. The first rules of golf were drawn up here in 1744 and the first international golf foursome was played at Leith as was the first ever national tournament, played by professionals in 1867. By this time, there were 7 holes and four rounds were played to complete a ’round’.
Leith Links was the original home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The Company subsequently moved to their present home of Gullane in East Lothian in 1836. (You can walk around Leith Links and learn more about its history as part of the Sunny Leith guided walk from Edinburgh Walks www.edinburghwalks.com)
I took a walk last week to another area of Edinburgh which has a long history when it comes to golf. A short walk to the South of the medieval city of Edinburgh, but still within easy sight of the Castle – though where is not I suppose – is Bruntsfield Links. Part of the ancient Borough Muir and Borough Loch, the area provided the old city with fresh water and areas for quarrying, grazing sheep and hunting. The Roman road Dere Street is believed to have cut across the southern boundary of the Muir.
But it is golf that was important to the area. Two of the four oldest golf clubs in the world were based here, and their favoured tavern for refreshment was the Ye Olde Golf Tavern
Previously known as the Golf Hotel, this was where the Royal Burgess Golfing Society met, having played golf on the Links from 1735. The Bruntsfield Links Society, which was formed in 1761, also used Ye Olde Golf Tavern as it’s clubhouse. Both these Societies moved to the North of the city in the mid 19th Century as the Brunstfield Links were too busy with other activities. However, you can still play golf for a very small fee on the Links outside Ye Olde Golf Tavern.
You just call into the starters box to rent a club and ball and off you go.
After your round, do as I did and call into Ye Olde Golf Tavern for some food and a drink. You will not be disappointed.
You can also pass through Bruntsfield Links as part of the Three Volcanoes guided walk from Edinburgh Walks ( www.edinburghwalks.com ).