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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Snedeker joins 59 club at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:19 pm

Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with an 11-under 59, becoming just the ninth player in PGA Tour history to card a sub-60 score in a tournament round.

Snedeker offered an excited fist pump after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth hole at Sedgefield Country Club, his 18th hole of the day. It was Snedeker's 10th birdie on the round to go along with a hole-out eagle from 176 yards on No. 6 and gave him the first 59 on Tour since Adam Hadwin at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge.

Snedeker's round eclipsed the tournament and course record of 60 at Sedgefield, most recently shot by Si Woo Kim en route to victory two years ago. Amazingly, the round could have been even better: he opened with a bogey on No. 10 and missed a 6-footer for birdie on his 17th hole of the day.


Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Snedeker was still 1 over on the round before reeling off four straight birdies on Nos. 13-16, but he truly caught fire on the front nine where he shot an 8-under 27 that included five birdie putts from inside 6 feet.

Jim Furyk, who also shot 59, holds the 18-hole scoring record on Tour with a 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Snedeker told reporters this week that he was suffering from "kind of paralysis by analysis" at last week's PGA Championship, but he began to simplify things over the weekend when he shot 69-69 at Bellerive to tie for 42nd. Those changes paid off even moreso Thursday in Greensboro, where Snedeker earned his first career Tour win back in 2007 at nearby Forest Oaks.

"Felt like I kind of found something there for a few days and was able to put the ball where I wanted to and make some putts," Snedeker said. "And all of a sudden everything starts feeling a little bit better. So excited about that this week because the greens are so good."

Snedeker was hampered by injury at the end of 2017 and got off to a slow start this season. But his form has started to pick up over the summer, as he has recorded three top-10 finishes over his last seven starts highlighted by a T-3 finish last month at The Greenbrier. He entered the week 80th in the season-long points race and is in search of his first win since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open.

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Woods' caddie paid heckler $25 to go away

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 4:05 pm

Tiger Woods is known for his ability to tune out hecklers while in the midst of a competitive round, but every now and then a fan is able to get under his skin - or, at least, his caddie's.

Joe LaCava has been on the bag for Woods since 2011, and on a recent appearance on ESPN's "Golic and Wingo" he shared a story of personally dispatching of an especially persistent heckler after dipping into his wallet earlier this month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

According to LaCava, the fan was vocal throughout Woods' final round at Firestone Country Club, where he eventually tied for 31st. On the 14th hole, LaCava asked him to go watch another group, and the man agreed - under the condition that LaCava pony up with some cash.

"So he calls me a couple of names, and I go back and forth with the guy. And I said, 'Why don't you just leave?'" LaCava said. "And he goes, 'Well, if you give me $25 for the ticket that I bought today, I'll leave.' And I said, 'Here you go, here's $25.'"

But the apparent resolution was brief, as the heckler pocketed the cash but remained near the rope line. At that point, the exchange between LaCava and the fan became a bit more heated.

"I said, 'Look, pal, $25 is $25. You've got to head the other way,'" LaCava said. "So he starts to head the other way, goes 20 yards down the line, and he calls me a certain other swear word. So I run 20 yards back the other way. We’re going face-to-face with this guy and all of a sudden Tiger is looking for a yardage and I’m in it with this guy 20 yards down the line.”

Eventually an on-course police officer intervened, and the cash-grabbing fan was ultimately ejected. According to LaCava, Woods remained unaffected by the situation that played out a few yards away from him.

"He didn't have a problem," LaCava said. "And actually, I got a standing ovation for kicking the guy out of there."

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Highlights: Snedeker's closing blitz to 59

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

Brandt Snedeker's first round at the Wyndham Championship began with a bogey and ended with a birdie for an 11-under 59.

Snedeker made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes and then raced home in 27 strokes to become the ninth different player in PGA Tour history to break the 60 barrier.

A very good round turned historic beginning when he holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2 at the par-4 sixth. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.



With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.



Snedeker actually had 58 in his crosshairs, but missed an 6-foot slider for birdie at the par-4 eighth.



Still, 59 was on the table and he needed this 20-foot putt to shoot it.


At 11 under par, Snedeker led the tournament by five strokes.

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have all but been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, the conversation comes down to the two athletes that hugged it out after finishing 1-2 at Bellerive.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”



The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio, Marc Wahl, relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As miraculous as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”