Wednesday, 25 September 2013
The Swilcan Bridge is one of the many iconic sights and sounds of the 'Home of Golf'  (EuropeanTour)
The Swilcan Bridge is one of the many iconic sights and sounds of the 'Home of Golf' (EuropeanTour)

By Nick Totten for europeantour.com
From St Andrews

With the latest edition of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship being played on three of Scotland’s most esteemed golfing links, europeantour.com decided to take a look back at the history of the game on Scottish soil ahead of what is certain to be another thrilling sporting spectacle this week.

Some may see the earliest forms of the game as those played in the Netherlands in the late 13th century, but it is here at the ‘Home of Golf’ where the sport as we know it today is believed to have originated some 200 years later.

First mentioned in an Act of Scottish Parliament in 1457, King James II proclaimed the playing of gowf (a Scots term) as prohibited alongside football, as it distracted from the practising of archery for military purposes. This ban was lifted some 50 years later as future monarchs embraced the game themselves, with Mary, Queen of Scots known to be a keen player during her reign in the following century.

As time went by the game developed and was formalised through the use of ‘rules’, which we now depend on today to govern how golf is played across the globe. The earliest forms of these were written in 1744 for the Company of Gentleman Golfers, later known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and these are preserved in the National Library of Scotland to this day.

These Leith Rules, named as such because the company played at Leith Links, formed the basis for subsequent iterations, with the likes of ‘Your tee must be upon the ground’ and ‘You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee’ still very much part of the game today.

From there golf remained a mainly Scottish pursuit for a number of decades until a boom in tourism brought about by a royal enthusiasm for life north of the border. In the 1850s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built Balmoral Castle, prompting a greater interest in all things Scotland, including golf, which led to the rapid spread of the game across the British Isles.

By 1880 there had been 12 courses established in England, which rose to 50 just seven years later, and more than 1000 by 1914. This boom also saw golf spread across the British Empire, and by the end of the 19th century there had been clubs set up in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Singapore.

The rest, as they say, is history. As the game grew in popularity, so did golf’s biggest tournaments, with the first Open Championship staged at Prestwick Golf Club, Scotland in 1860, and won by Willie Park Snr.

The US Open Championship (1895), US PGA Championship (1916) and Masters Tournament (1934) all followed suit, and with each generation the game developed in stature en route to what we have now.

Within this timeline of the game though, the three venues this week – St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns – have all played their part. Here is a look at their own plotted histories within the sport itself.

Old Course, St Andrews

The iconic clubhouse at St Andrews and the Swilcan Bridge
            Known by many as the ‘Home of Golf’ within Scotland, the Old Course at St Andrews is said to have had people playing the game on its land since the early 15th century. The course evolved for many years without the assistance of any one architect, but Daw Anderson and Old Tom Morris both had a say along the way.

The Old Course was also instrumental in the layout of the courses we play today. It originally had 22 holes, but when the first and last four were deemed too short by the members, they were added together to form the 18 hole layout that has since become standard.

In 1863 Old Tom Morris separated the first green from the now infamous 17th putting surface, famously known as the road hole, and that was the final touch to the Championship layout we know today.

Since 1873 the Old Course has hosted 28 Open Championships, most recently in 2010 when Louis Oosthuizen triumphed by seven shots. It has also staged the Alfred Dunhill Cup, a national team event held from 1985 to 2000, before the Alfred Dunhill Link Championship as we know it today, which is entering its 13th year.

Carnoustie Golf Links

Records state that golf was played at Carnoustie as early as the 16th century, and in 1890 money was raised for the local authority to buy the land from the 14th Earl of Dalhousie who owned the property.

The original course was just ten holes in length, based around the now iconic Barry Burn which wound its way across the land, and was designed by Alan Robertson and Old Tom Morris before it was opened in 1842. Thanks to an influx of golfers to the area brought about by the coastal railway from Dundee to Abroath, Morris lengthened the layout to the full 18 holes that we know today in 1867.


The winding Barry Burn across the Championship Course at Carnoustie

Carnoustie’s Championship Course played host to its first Open Championship in 1931 after James Braid had made further alterations, and was won by Tommy Armour. Since then some of the true greats of the game have won on the hallowed turf, with the likes of Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999) and Padraig Harrington (2007) all tasting glory there.

Kingsbarns Golf Links

A look at Kingbarns' rugged links terrain
            The third venue on the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship rota is a relative baby in comparison to its elder siblings, with the manmade golf links designed by world renowned architects Mark Parsinnen and Kyle Phillips having opened in the year 2000.

However, the village’s association with the game is much further reaching than that, with the Kingsbarn’s Golfing Society having been formed way back in 1793. The course, then, was laid down on land leased from the Cambo Estate, and was used for golf until 1850 when it was returned to its original use; farming.

A nine hole layout was founded again in 1922, designed by Willie Auchterlonie, but it was returned to farming once again in 1939 as part of the war effort. In its current guise though, it is now one of Scotland’s finest courses, and is ranked eighth in Golf Monthly’s Top 100 courses in Great Britain and Ireland.

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