A hands-on history lesson: Golf in Scotland's East Lothian region

By Jason DeeganJune 3, 2013, 8:30 pm

GULLANE, Scotland -- Archie Baird unlocks the door to his Heritage of Golf Museum. The tiny room, almost invisible next to the Gullane Golf Club golf shop, doesn’t look like much. Old clubs and balls are scattered about, some broken and dusty. Golf paintings and pictures cover almost every inch of the walls. Odd golf trinkets line the shelves of a bookcase. It looks more like a cluttered man cave than a historical haven.

But inside, all the long lost secrets of the game are revealed. Baird debunks the myth that Scotland is the “Home of Golf.” The Dutch actually played the game on ice long before the Scots took over ownership somewhere between 1400 and 1500 A.D. for simple reasons.

“We made much better clubs than they did,” Baird said. “We had the right kind of wood, beech and ash. And we had lots of unemployed woodworkers.” 

Teeing it up in East Lothian isn’t just another golf getaway. Done right, visiting Scotland’s Golf Coast will provide a history lesson that both educates and delights. All it takes is a few tee times on the region’s oldest links and some time spent with Baird (available by appointment only) for a proper perspective on golf’s origins. No other sport clings to the past harder than golf. East Lothian celebrates this history better than almost anywhere else, while still remaining relevant to today’s game.

Muirfield, home to the oldest golf club in the world, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, dating to 1744, serves as a prime example. The club still clings to its traditions – gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie at all times inside the clubhouse and women still aren’t allowed as members – even though its famous links was altered, by moving bunkers and adding tees, in advance of the 2013 Open Championship this July. This will be Muirfield’s 16th time hosting the world’s oldest major championship. Getting inside the gates isn’t easy, but well worth the effort and expense. Visitor play is welcome Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Muirfield isn’t the only East Lothian course to have hosted an Open, either. The Musselburgh Links, the Old Golf Course – the oldest course in the world still in existence - hosted the last of its five Opens in 1889. Like the Heritage of Golf Museum, this nine-holer will only be appreciated by true students of the game. The course is not in great condition in spots, nor is it long. The 2,954-yard par-34 loop feels forgotten tucked inside the Musselburgh Race Track.

Musselburgh

Golfers can get a throwback experience with hickories at Musselburgh's Old Course, site of five Open Championships.

Mary Queen of Scots is said to have played onsite prior to surrendering to the Confederate Lords in 1567. The first documented evidence of golf came later in 1672. Hickory clubs are available for rent to foster an authentic old-world experience. Musselburgh residents Rob MacLaren and Ian Wood played it with modern equipment instead.

“It’s a privilege to play here,” MacLaren said during a round in April. “I think about the people who came before me. I like to think this is how golf was played a hundred years ago.”

Many firsts happened on this hallowed ground. The wives of local fishermen played the first women’s competition in 1811. Robert Gay used the first hole cutting instrument in 1829. Blame him for cutting a 4 ½-inch hole instead of one larger.

Seven of the current nine holes were laid out in 1838, with two more added in 1870. Musselburgh hosted British Opens in 1874, 1877, 1883, 1886 and 1889. Willie Park Jr., whose legendary father was a pro at Musselburgh, won in a playoff in front of a large crowd in 1889.

Dunbar

Founded in 1856, Dunbar Golf Club is still one of East Lothian's most scenic courses. 

Several others among the world’s oldest courses call East Lothian home. The North Berwick West Links, founded in 1832, continues to be recognized as one of the game’s most cherished traditional links. Its original Redan hole (no. 15) has been copied throughout the globe. Its layout quirks, like playing over ancient stone walls and hitting to the wildest green in golf (at no. 16), remain endearing traits to most golf purists. Dunbar Golf Club, founded in 1856, also brings a stone wall into play on several holes. Much of Dunbar roams the shoreline of the scenic Firth of Forth, creating an epic round of wind and water. Gullane Golf Club, which features three links today, followed in 1882.

Playing golf and gazing out upon the rocky coastline, who knew a history lesson could be so fun and so beautiful?

View more tee times and travel information in Scotland

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.