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Bass Rock Golf Club, North Berwick Golf Club, Tantallon Golf Club
There are three independent golf clubs playing over the West Links. North Berwick Golf Club founded by the gentry in 1832, Tantallon Golf
Club established by the merchants in 1853 and Bass Rock Golf Club founded in 1873 for the artisans, the clerks, teachers and tradesmen.
They were joined by the North Berwick Ladies Golf Club in 1888. The North Berwick New Club was formed in 1879 and a year later they built
the clubhouse overlooking the eighteenth green.
By 1962 the membership of the North Berwick Golf Club had declined to a point that the North Berwick New Club was approached to take
over their assets including the trophies. On 1st January 1963 the New Club adopted the name North Berwick Golf Club and the new club
controversially advertised itself as founded in 1832.
The Ladies Golf Club became full members of North Berwick Golf Club in 2005 and share the facilities. Tantallon Clubhouse is situated
in Westgate and Bass Rock Golf Club by tradition do not have a clubhouse but offer golf to their members at a reduced fee. The course
is owned by East Lothian Council under the auspices of Scottish Natural Heritage and managed by the North Berwick Green Committee made
up of representatives from each Club playing over the West Links. Today duel membership of all three clubs is available for those wishing
to participate in more competitions.
Famous Redan Hole
According to Rev. John Kerr in his 'Golf Book Of East Lothian' it was Major John Whyte-Melville who on seeing the sixth hole on the
West Links for the first time said it reminded him of the formidable fortress or redan he had encountered at Sebastopol in the Crimean War.
The fourth hole with the plantation of trees on the left and sand dunes on the right forming a narrow passage was given the name the 'Shipka
Pass', again from the Crimean. The only remaining reference is Shipka House overlooking the fifth fairway.
When the Crimean War broke out Maj. John Whyte-Melville went out as a volunteer in the Turkish Irregular Cavalry. Whyte-Melville was
Captain of St Andrews Golf Club in 1816 and 1882, a member of the ancient order of Royal Scottish Archers and a distinguished Freemason,
Grand Master of Scotland.
The first clubmaker to set up business in North Berwick was Willie Park Snr. from Musselburgh in 1873. He was followed by Davie
Strath (1876), then James Beveridge (1880) from St Andrews before Tom Dunn (1881) returned as greenkeeper and clubmaker. When Dunn
left in 1889 James H. Hutchison from Musselburgh took over the clubmakers workshop and his son-in-law Andrew Bisset followed (1912-17).
Ben Sayers was described as a 'Golf Boy' on Leith Links before moving to Musselburgh and then North Berwick in 1886 as a ballmaker.
He engaged in many stake matches and played for Scotland against England in every match from 1903 to 1913 except 1911. He played in
every Open Championship from 1880 to 1923. Sayers won 24 tournaments but failed to win the Open, coming second twice in 1888 and 1889.
He had a vey pleasing temperament and a good eye for business. He was a pioneer in leading his fellow professionals by example
to acquire a new respectability.
Sayers began to employ men as clubmakers and constructed a timber building on the wall of Inchgarry House opposite the eighteenth tee
where he sold golf balls, repaired clubs and provided lockers for rent. Following WW1 he moved his business into the vacant clubmakers
workshop adjacent to the first tee on the West Links. Sayers had a most fertile imagination and was forever devising new clubs with
attractive names to catch the popular fancy.
He taught princes and nobles to play the game and gave lessons to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra over the nine hole course at Windsor
Castle. He gave instruction to the Prince of Wales, Princess Victoria, Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia of Connaught.
Princess Victoria was a very keen golfer, and Sayers partnered her in several foursome matches at Chatsworth, home to the Duke and
Duchess of Devonshire.
'Biarritz of the North'
By the 1880s, the express railway engines and plush carriages served the well-to-do, with travelling time from London to Edinburgh
reduced from 17 to 8 hours. One of the earliest references to North Berwick being called the 'Biarritz of the North' was included
in article written by Edmund Yates, editor of 'The World' a weekly society journal. In November 1889, Yates wrote an article about
Arthur J. Balfour when he used the term 'Biarritz of the North' to describe the town.
Arthur J. Balfour (Prime Minister 1902-05) was a keen golfer and visited North Berwick during the month of September when he would
take rooms in the Bass Rock Hotel (5 York Road) and later in the Bradbury Hotel (1 York Road). He would play two rounds of golf each
day and in the evening attended to the affairs of State.
Balfour was 36 years old before he took up the game and was given lessons by Tom Dunn at North Berwick. He joined Tantallon Golf Club
in 1884 and was often partnered by Tom Dunn and Ben Sayers in foursome matches against Captain Grant- Suttie, Lord Wemyss, Duke Of
Cambridge, Lord Rothschild, Herbert Asquith (Liberal Prime Minister 1908-1916), and the American Ambassador Joseph Choate who rented
Cheylesmore Lodge for the season. In 1887 Arthur Balfour was appointed Chief Secretary to Ireland and as such was given round-the-clock
protection. While playing the West Links, Balfour was shadowed by two armed detectives discreetly following among the sand dunes on the
The 'London Set' would follow Arthur Balfour to North Berwick and take part in the popular social gatherings. Resident in the town were
the Tennant family, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, Samuel Peploe, the Scottish Artist and King Edward VII visited the town in 1902. The
following year it was reported that playing golf on the West Links on the same day were four MPs, the Speaker of the House of Commons,
two bishops and the Prime Minister. Later they were joined by Lord Kitchener and HMS Dreadnought on passage to Rosyth, fired a ten-gun
salute over the course.