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NORTH BERWICK
LINKS IN THE 1890s
by DOROTHY CAMPBELL


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HISTORY of the AMATEUR
CHAMPIONSHIP and TANTALLON GOLF CLUB

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Glen Golf Club
North Berwick, EH39 4LE
Manager, Tom McGinley
Tel. 01620  895288

[18th
Gullane]
18th green - Glen Golf Course
© Digitalsport UK

[14th on West Links]
14th West Links, North Berwick
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[Tantallon
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Tantallon Castle
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East Course Score Card [12th on East
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12th Glen Golf Course, North Berwick
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  History of Glen Golf Course
By Douglas Seaton
North Berwick Factfile

[sign] LEN GOLF COURSE has the most picturesque setting in East Lothian. Most visitors regard the West Links as the course to play, but they are missing a hidden gem. A short climb to the first green reveals unbelievable views of the rugged coastline, with every hole affording the golfer a different perspective over the Firth of Forth. The ground east of the Glen Burn was originally known as Haugh Park, where the 1st and 18th fairways are now laid out. The land was part of the Rhodes farm owned by Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple who in 1894 laid out a golf course on the coastal strip which included the 'End Hole' now the famous 13th 'Sea Hole'. This was James Braid's first venture in golf course design as he assisted Ben Sayers to layout the nine-hole course.

The Rhodes Links measured 2310 yards - par 35, and was formally opened in April 1894 with a match between Ben Sayers and the former Open Champion Hugh Kirkaldy from Oxford, both of whom had just returned from Machrihanish. After a close game of two rounds or 18 holes, the match went in favour of the Oxford professional by 83 to 87.

The Rhodes Golf Club was instituted in 1894 for play over the new nine-hole course and Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple was elected captain, with Joint Hon. Secretaries- R. M. McKechnie and C. L. Blaikie.

Haugh Park was the site of the town's celebrations for the 1902 Coronation of Edward VII.

With the increase in the popularity of golf at North Berwick, overcrowding of the West Links became a major problem and it was proposed by the Town Council to acquire additional land for the provision of a new 18 hole Burgh Course.

On 17th November 1905, the Town Council appointed James Braid (Walton Heath) and Ben Sayers as advisors on the layout of the Burgh Golf Course. Braid and Sayers submitted their report to the Town Council which concluded. "On the whole we think the ground is admirably adapted for a golf course and ought certainly to be in playing order by the summer of 1907".

The surveyors for the North Berwick Estate, John Cruickshank & Son, 60 Princess Street, Edinburgh, were asked to survey the ground and prepare the plans for the application to extend the burgh boundary and purchase the land. In December 1905, Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple agreed by telegram to sell the land for £6250.

In 1906, the Council applied for a Provisional Order which was granted by the Secretary of State, this allowed the town boundary to be extended and the purchase of the land. By tradition, all legal documents drawn up by the Town Council were witnessed by the local police constable and that year constable Tom Scollay signed the document. Stewart & Co. (Seedsmen) Edinburgh were awarded the contact to prepare the ground and layout the course.

In April 1906 the Town Council advertised for a greenkeeper and received 31 applications. The successful candidate was Duncan Fleming a gardener from the Isle of Raasay who was appointed the first greenkeeper with a salary of £1-10/- per week. Also in April 1906, Hugh Hamliton, head greenkeeper at St Andrews was invited to look over the Burgh course and suggest where the putting greens should be formed.

A tournament was held at the opening of the new course and Harry Vardon alone took over a 1,000 spectators with him off the first tee.

Hugh Hamilton was gardener and head greenkeeper to Andrew Carnegie at Skibo Castle in Dornoch before being appointed head greenkeeper on the West Links, North Berwick in April 1902. The following year he moved to Portmarnock Golf Club in Ireland and in October 1903 Hamilton was appointed custodian of the links at St Andrews, taking over from Old Tom Morris in 1904. It was Hamilton who created many of the bunkers at St Andrews and lengthened the course in reaction to the Haskell ball, he also extended the Jubilee course to 18 holes in 1905. Hamilton wrote a chapter in the book 'Golf Greens and Green Keeping' entitled 'Treatment and Upkeep of Seaside Links'.

Following a poor winter in 1906 the seeding on the 'Castleton Field' failed and by the spring of 1907 only 9 holes were open for play. To assist the Town Council the farmer at Wamphray offered turf for the greens and George Dalziel, captain of the Glen Golf Club laid a water pipe to the centre of the course at his own expense. He was also responsible for the design of the first hole, lowering the hill to the north and widening the approach. The original course yardage card (980 yards) and hole names can be accessed here. In September 1907 the Town Council had incurred £10,850 of expenditure which included the purchase of the land. In October that year a site visit was organised with Hugh Hamilton (position of greens), Ben Sayers (bunkers), Robert Maxwell(advice) and the Council purchased a Pennsylvania 19" Mower from John Wightman, Ironmonger 23 High Street costing £5-6s.

In 1906, the golf magazines and newspapers carried a report that North Berwick Town Council was the first local authority in the world to build and manage a public golf course. Following the success of the venture by Provost Macintyre and the North Berwick Town Council other communities were encouraged to layout a golf course in their public parks. In a speech by William Howard Taft recognised as America's first golfing President he encouraged all State Authorities to build municipal courses just like Scotland for those who could not pay for costly club facilities.

In the winter of 1908 James Braid travelled from London to inspect the progress. He returned in July 1909 to consult on the new bunkering, with the advice of Peter Lees, the greenkeeper at Royal Burgess Golf Club. Lees apprenticed as a green keeper at Archerfield before making his reputation at Mid-Surrey Golf Club, Richmond. In 1914 he emigrated to America and worked with the leading course architects Charles Blair Macdonald, Albert Tillinghast and Seth Rayner. He wrote a book and several articles on the maintenance of golf courses on different soils.

[sign] he new course stretched inland over the Rhodes and Castleton farms, with the first six holes skirting the Rhodes steading and Wanton W'as cottages, passing the disused lime kilns and out towards the shooting range of the Volunteer Rifle Corps. The green then took an angular direction towards the eleventh and eighth holes. A turn was made from this point and the inward play was along the cliff top back to the Glen burn, where the eighteenth hole was situated, embracing the ground of the original nine-hole Rhodes Links. In April 1909, Duncan Fleming resigned and Fred Smith from Combe Bank, Seven Oaks in Kent was appointed green keeper and the 18 holes measuring 980 yards came into play. Mr Cockburn farmer at Castleton paid £40 per annum to graze his sheep on the Burgh course.

The course was officially opened on 4th June 1908 when a professional tournament was played which included J.H. Taylor, Alex Herd, Andrew Kirkcaldy and Ben Sayers. J. G. Sherlock of Richmond scored 78 and 79 for a winning total of 157.

The North Berwick Corporation Links Club was founded on 9th June 1906 when George Dalziel was elected captain and Andrew D. Wallace appointed secretary and treasurer. The entry fee was 17/6d and the club had 233 members including 10 ladies. The original Rhodes Golf Club continued with 50 members and the former Amateur Champion Robert Maxwell was their Honorary President.

In 1908 the visitor ticket cost 1 guinea yearly; 7/6d per month; 2/6d per week and 6d per day. The Corporation Links Club played their first competition in October that year with separate prizes for the ladies. At a Special General Meeting in July 1930, the club adopted the name 'Glen Golf Club' which was registered in July 1931. That year the new golf pavilion was completed with the proviso that it remained closed on a Sunday.

Professional Tournament

A letter in the 'American Golfer' in April 1909 from an anonymous gentleman who is donating 300 guineas prize money for a tournament at North Berwick and who has offered to contribute to the expenses of American professionals attending the fixture. He says 'I was extremely sorry and very much disappointed to hear that the United States Golf Association had fixed their open championship for June the 24th and 25th which will likely prevent any of your leading men accepting my offer to come to North Berwick to play on July the 2nd and 3rd. I regret to say it will be quiet impossible for the North Berwick tournament to be postponed as about sixty players have already accepted the invitations and of course they have made arrangements accordingly.

[Golf
Poster]

In 1947 the majority voted against golf on Sunday. Golf was first played on a Sunday over the Glen Golf Course on 11th March 1958.

In July 1909 the Town Council invited the first sixty professionals in the recent Open Championship to take part in the competition for big-money prizes. The invited professionals included five Open Champions; J.H. Taylor, Arnaud Massy, Sandy Herd, Harry Vardon, Willie Auchterlonie and two future champions in Ted Ray and George Duncan. Among the local professionals were Ben Sayers, Willie Watt, David and Andrew Grant, James Souter, Ben Sayers Jnr. and Robert Thomson.

A huge crowd watched the tournament including many spectators who arrived on special trains from Edinburgh. Harry Vardon alone took over a 1,000 people with him off the first tee. The local hoteliers and publicans erected a row of tents near the eighteenth green to supply Lunches and Refreshments. The press had a separate tent while the marquee owned by the Rifle Volunteers was used by the golf professionals. George Duncan, the pro at Timperley GC on the outskirts of Manchester won the tournament with a four round total of 290, including a brilliant 70 in the third round, setting a new course record. Duncan was a former carpenter who turned down the chance to play football for Aberdeen FC. He was later the pro at Wentworth and won the Open in 1920.

Duncan received a gold medal and £125, the largest sum ever offered for a first prize in a professional tournament. This record was beaten four months later when Willie Anderson from North Berwick won the Portola tournament at the San Francisco Golf and Country Club with the first prize of £150. The mid-iron and putter Duncan used to win the event on the Burgh Course are on display in the British Golf Museum. Sandy Herd was runner-up with Vardon third, while local favourite Robert Thomson finished tied for sixth place. During the tournament, W. H. Horne the six-foot tall pro from Chertsey Golf Club had the longest drive ever recorded in a competition. From the 13th tee, Horne drove the ball to the edge of the green which measured 383 yards 1 foot. This drive was recognised as the official world record for over 12 years.

The anonymous donor was Colonel John Weir who resided at Ingleholm in Clifford Road, North Berwick and was conferred Honorary Life Member in 1909. Colonel Weir, although a United States citizen and of Mexico, was born in Scotland in 1852. He made his fortune in America and was president of the Nevada-Utah Mines & Smelters Corporation. On 14th April 1912, Weir perished in the Titanic disaster and his body was never recovered. The former coachman from Innerleithen is remembered annually when the Glen Ladies compete for the Colonel Weir Rosebowl.

George Duncan who won the professional tournament was Open Champion in 1920. He was hired by Edward Esmond, a wealthy financier and race horse trainer who owned Marly Knowe in North Berwick, to travel to Paris for a month each autumn and coach his daughters to play golf. In 1925 Esmond presented a trophy to be competed among the artisan golfers in East Lothian. The Esmond Trophy was first played over the Glen golf course (1925-1945) before being moved to the West Links until the present day.

Golf Club and Ball Makers

D & W Auchterlonie, from the famous St Andrews club making family opened a workshop on the Glen course in July 1907. David was the clubmaker while Willie Auchterlonie, the 1893 Open Champion gave lessons. Clubs stamped with Auchterlonie - North Berwick are highly collectable. An iron putter made by Willie Auchterlonie at North Berwick circa 1910 is on display in the British Golf Museum. At the 1909 Open at Deal a golf exhibition tent was introduced for the first time, where the leading manufacturers and retailers displayed their wares. D & W. Auchterlonie won first prize in three categories, for their drivers, brassies and wooden putters. The judges were Willie Park, Charles Gibson and Peter Fernie.

In 1907, Tommy Hume was also a pro golfer at the Glen, working on his own account while living with his family in the Rhodes Farm Cottages. In 1909, Robert Kirkpatrick proprietor of the Canty Bay Inn was granted permission to erect a timber building at the east end of the course known as The Refreshment Rooms. Alex Marshall, the clubmaker at 27 Station Hill took over Auchterlonie's workshop in 1911 where he repaired clubs until 1919. Alex Marshall lived in May View on Tantallon Road, overlooking the Glen golf course. George Burnside was appointed Starter and Robert Thomson was Burgh golf professional from 1923-1938.

Robert 'Bob' Thomson a club maker to trade had an outstanding playing career. He represented Scotland in the Home Internationals from 1903-1912. In the Open Championship he finished in the top six in 1903 and 1905 and was Scottish Professional Champion in 1909 after defeating Willie Watt from Dirleton in the final. He replaced James Braid at Romford Golf Club in 1904 and three years later returned to North Berwick. He regularily played in the prestigious News Of The World tournament at Sunningdale and was among the prize winners in 1912. Robert Thomson remained single and died in 1954 aged 78 years.

In June 1911, the Town Council entertained a deputation from St Andrews and another from Troon to shown them how the Town Council laid out and operate a municipal golf course. The North Berwick Town Council were one of the first towns in the world to operate a golfing facility on behalf of the community. This evoked much press coverage from New Zealand, Australia and America, encouraging other towns to layout a public golf course.

In March 1912 the Scottish qualifying for the 'News of The World' and Dunlop Cup tournaments was played over the Glen golf course. In June 1914 the Scottish Professional Championship was also played over the Glen, when David Watt from Dirleton scored 71 in the fourth round to oust his brother Willie Watt from the leadership which he held from the start. David won by a couple of strokes and became the first left-handed player to win a professional tournament. David Watt apprenticed as a clubmaker with Andrew Bissett at North Berwick before being appointed golf professional at Mortonhall. In the 1920s the Glen was a popular venue for various tournaments including the Scottish Professional Golfers Association championship (1924), Scottish Ladies Open Championship (1925) Scottish Ladies Amateur Championship in 1926.

When greenkeeper Fred Smith left for Langley Park in September 1910, Peter G. McKenzie, the assistant at Gullane was appointed head greenkeeper at the Glen golf course. Peter resided with his parents in Stanley Road, Gullane, before moving to 2 Law Road, North Berwick. He was a member of Dirleton Castle Golf Club and played in the wining Wemyss Country Cup team in 1899, 1904, 1906 and the first winner of the Watson Cup in 1902 and winner of the Haldane Cup in 1906. At the start of WW1 he enlisted with the Royal Scots rising to the rank of Corporal. He fought at the Battle of Arras and was killed in action on 10 April 1918 and is buried in Cabaret-Rouge, Souchez, France. His name is engraved on the War Memorial beside the Old St Andrews Kirk in Gullane.

Sheep have grazed on the Burgh golf course since it was laid out, and in 1922 the Town Council awarded the grazing rights from October to April to Dundas Thomson, farmer at the Mains for £60 per annum. Tom Dickson from North Berwick was appointed professional and clubmaster at the Glen Golf Club in 1935. Following WW2 the Town Council appointed Arthur Fennell (1910-1974) as professional. He leased a timber building beside the first tee where he sold clubs and balls and arranged golf lessons. He also had a sports equipment shop at 27, Quality Street, North Berwick.

Golf Course Architects

In 1925 the green committee lead by Provost George Sim suggested they should engage a golf course architect to add features and attractivety to the Burgh course. They contacted Colonel Harry Colt, Steventon, Berkshire who was recommended by Robert Maxwell and his fees were 30 guineas plus expenses. They also approached his former partner Dr. Alister Mackenzie from Leeds and his fees were 20 guineas plus travel expenses. Mackenzie visited the course and drafted his report in October 1925 which included a provisional sum of £3,000 to carry out the alterations and his account for £27-10/-.

In January 1926 the Town Council arranged a site visit and the head greenkeeper Andrew Gilholm pegged out the new tees and greens listed in Dr. Mackenzie's report. The Councilors decided the proposed alterations were too expensive and wrote to Dr. Mackenzie asking him to reduce the work but he had sailed for America. Mackenzie visited New York and Long Island before travelling to Cypress Point in California. In his absence the Council decided to carry out some of the alterations he had suggested and in April 1926 the Mackenzie report was shelved.

The first record of American visitors playing the Burgh course was in December 1925 when the Anchor Line Steamship Company wrote to the Town Council requesting permission for twelve couples of American golfers the privilege of playing the Burgh course. The Council approved the request and the American's played the course the following May and were charged the standard green fee of 1/6d each player. The High School Golf Club was established in November 1928, with the minimum age of 10 years, the members played their competitions over the Burgh course on a Saturday morning.

Craig Gilholm, a former member of the Glen and Rhodes Golf Clubs is now the Links Manager at Hoylake for the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. His grandfather Andrew Gilholm was head greenkeeper at the Glen from 1919-1946 and Craig served his apprenticeship as a greenkeeper at Muirfield. In 1920, Andrew Gilholm and Ben Sayers Jnr. were tasked with preparing the ground and laying out the 36 hole West Putting Green at North Berwick.

Booking Fax:01620 895447 Starter Tel:01620 892726

The Glen golf course has changed little since those halcyon days of Braid, Taylor and Vardon, with the islands of Fidra, Lamb, Craigleith and the famous Bass Rock less than a mile offshore. By the 8th tee the view of Tantallon Castle gives the visitor a sense of history, while the course meanders back along the cliff top, with the salty spray of the sea from the waves crashing on the rocks below and sea birds of every species flying overhead. One of the most dramatic holes is the par three 13th, with its elevated tee and partially hidden green at sea level, giving problems with club selection.

The closing holes offer panoramic views of the town, harbour and beaches, which alone is well worth the green fee. The 18th tee situated on a plateau with the fairway dropping away eighty feet below, has ruined many a good score with out of bounds and the beach to the right. But by now the clubhouse is in sight, and the 19th hole beckons. The combination of inland turf with a links setting will appeal to all levels of skill, measuring 6275 yards S.S.S. 70.

[13th East Course]
13th Hole, Glen Course, North Berwick    © Digitalsport UK

[Golfer]
End Hole - Rhodes Links - 1894

[pavilion]
East Elevation of the 'Refreshment Pavilion' built in 1929. Copyright © Peter Lowe

Orginal Yardage and Hole Names from 1908
[*]
 Hole 
 Name 
 Yardage 
   
 Hole 
 Name 
 Yardage 
 1 
 Redholm 
 400 yds 
   
 10 
 Canty Bay 
 450 yds 
 2 
 Rhodes 
 130 yds 
      
 11 
 Dyke 
 220 yds 
 3 
 Lime Kilns 
 130 yds 
      
 12 
 Craigleith 
 400 yds 
 4 
 The Triangle 
 250 yds 
      
 13 
 The Bass 
 390 yds 
 5 
 Knowe 
 430 yds 
      
 14 
 Sea Hole 
 250 yds 
 6 
 The Cup 
 410 yds 
      
 15 
 Leithies 
 420 yds 
 7 
 Wanton W'as 
 250 yds 
      
 16 
 Milsey Bay 
 360 yds 
 8 
 Harelaw 
 530 yds 
      
 17 
 Jacob's Ladder 
 350 yds 
 9 
 Tantallon 
 400 yds 
      
 18 
 Home Hole 
 370 yds 
  Copyright © Glen Golf Club.
[*]
 Travel Route

Driving from the North and Edinburgh Airport

From Edinburgh take the A720 City By Pass (South) - follow sign post Berwick-Upon-Tweed (A1). Continue on A1 (South) and take the A198 - sign post North Berwick. Pass through the villages of Longniddry, Aberlady, Gullane to North Berwick. Then follow signs for Town Centre and East Links Golf Course. Drive time from Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh Airport 45 minutes.

Driving from the South

From the A1 motorway take the A198 - sign post North Berwick. Follow signs for Town Centre and then East Links Golf Course.

Copyright © Douglas C. Seaton 1997 - 2017, All Rights Reserved.