| || A
History of Golf at North Berwick |
Coastal Communities Museum
School Road, North Berwick
Open Wed-Sun until Oct 2014
Tel: 01620 894313
13th West Links, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK
Rock Golf Club
Secretary: Tom McGinley
North Berwick Golf Club
Secretary: Christopher Spencer
Tel. 01620 895040
Tantallon Golf Club
Secretary: Ian F Doig
Tel. 01620 892114
'Carry For You Sir' |
North Berwick Factfile
The origins of golf are open to speculation, but most historians agree that the ball and stick games played during the middle ages
had certain common elements with golf and they almost certainly influenced one another. Evidence shows that golf, as it is played
today evolved in Scotland and in the 18th century, began to spread to the rest of the world.
According to Frank Morin the respected golf historian and former correspondent of The Scotsman - 'Golf was first played on Leith Sands,
then Leith Links and then Musselburgh Links'.
At North Berwick golf was played on the Burgh Common or East Links during the 17th century. By the 1790s, the golfers had moved
from the Common and were playing their sport on the West Links. Today there are four Golf Clubs playing the West Links, a
practice unique to many Scottish courses.
In the 15th century several Acts of Parliament banned football and golf - although that did not stop the Stewart kings enjoying
their games. James VI played golf at Gosford House and Mary Queen of Scots played a famous game of golf at Seton House in 1567.
Gosford and the site of Seton Palace are within a few miles of North Berwick.
The first reference to the 'toune links' was made in the Kirk Session book of 15th January 1605. The East Links were in common
ownership as the King gifted the land to the town in return for their political support and the supply of soldiers when necessary.
The land was given for the common use of the citizens, for grazing their animals, washing and bleaching clothes, repairing the
fisherman's nets, travelling fairs and playing their sports, under the authority of the Burgh Council.
In Scotland it was not just parliament which disapproved of sport, from the 1560s onwards both the Burgh Councils and Kirk Session
throughout Scotland laid down a statute banning games including golf, especially on the Sabbath. Fines were imposed and repeat
offenders sent to prison.
The earliest reference to golf in North Berwick is recorded in the Kirk Session Book in January 1611, when Alex Lockart and Thomas
Gowan were accused of playing golf on the Sabbath. For their punishment they were committed to sit at the front of the St Andrews
Old Kirk on the Anchor Green on cuckstools (pillory stools), facing the congregation, as they listen to the ranting of the parish
minister Thomas Bannatyne against them and their sins.
| || || Due contrition was
to be shown by the penitents as they fell to their knees at the feet of the minister and prayed for atonement for their misdemeanours
and after a suitable number of humiliating appearances, they were forgiven. In the Session Records of South Leith Parish Church from
the same period a twenty pound fine was also imposed. The extracts below are taken from the North Berwick Kirk Session book. |
January 20th 1611 |
On quilk (which) day the repentance of Thomas Gowan and others was required by humbling themselves on their knees and craving god
forgiveness for prophaning the Sabbath ye 6th January instant for playing at the goulf.
January 22nd 1611
The gudeman of North Berwick delatit (accused) Alex Lockart as a prophanor of the Sabbath for playing at the golf.
North Berwick is the fourth oldest to make reference to golf, St Andrews (1552); Leith (1593); Perth (1604) and North Berwick
(1611). Prior to 1620, golf took at least two forms, the 'Long Game' played on the links by those able to purchase golf balls
and clubs, and the 'Short Game' played in the street or in the churchyard with a stone or pebble and a wooden stick as a club.
It would have been the pebble and stick game which Lockart and Gowan were caught playing.
The game of Shinty similar to golf, played with a stick and ball was also played in North Berwick. An extract from the Town Council
minutes of 1st January 1671 reports ' Teams from the East and West Gait were playing schinnie on the Sabbath last, in the afternoon.'
The game of golf was played on the links land by gentlemen of independent means, wealthy merchants and burgesses of the town. The
word 'links' means ridges, hummocks or rough open ground. Over the years the sea receded from the arable land exposing sand dunes
with a thin layer of top soil that nurtured fescue, marron, bent and meadow grass, all with deep roots. Part of the links land was
only good enough for grazing sheep and goats but were found to be ideal for playing football and golf.
Golf was originally played on the East Links during the winter months as the Council harvested the grass on the Common in summer.
The golfers were banned from playing their sport from March until September which was first mentioned in the Town Council minutes
of 27th March 1728. 'The Baliffs and Council order that intimation be publickie made that no person suffer their horses [note] (what be
this wonderous beast?), sheep, or swine to pasture upon the common green until the same be broken up [ie. until the same be in
common] and that non play at the golf, nor go through with carts or horses to prejudice the growing of grass'.
An extract from the Council records of 21st March 1775 reads.'The Magistrates and Council gave order to discharge all golfing on
the Toune Green on the south side of the road leading from the Toune to the Milns and over Castlehill after 25th of March till the
1st. September next and so on yearly without liberty asked and given by one of the Magistrates or Toune Treasurer and no person or
persons shall be permitted to play golf over Castlehill without a runner before to forewarn passengers and the Magistrates are
empowered at any time to stop all idle persons from golfing on the green to the prejudice of the pasture ground, and for every trespass
of this Act the Magistrates or Magistrate at the time are empowered to draw a fine of twenty shillings Scots. Signed Hew Dalrymple,
(Bailie), George Watt (Treasurer), Robert Hogg (Bailie) Hew Lauder, Robert Dickson Jnr. (Councillor).
| || Balls, clubs and men I sing, who just methinks, |
sport and bustle on North Berwick Links,
brought coin and fashion, betting and renown,
champagne and claret to a county
and lords and ladies, knights and squires to ground,
where washerwomen erst, and snobs were found!
Golfiada (1833), George Fullerton Carnegie
|| || The first feus
on East Links were sold in 1852. The ground to the east of Castle Hill was intended to be feued in 1863 but a legal action was
brought to prevent this. During the court case a number of witnesses stated that they had never seen golf played on the East Links.
From this we can deduce that the game ceased to be played on the Burgh Common during the 1790s. At this time interest in golf had
declined throughout the country and many of the early clubs had disbanded. North Berwick Golf Club almost closed in 1848. By the
1860s interest had increased and the game was being played on a regular basis over the West Links with the North Berwick Golf Club
meeting on the first Wednesday in May, June, July and August. |
The West Links was originally part of the Abbey Farm owned by the Nunnery, and in 1694 the ownership passed to Sir Hew Dalrymple
(1652-1737) who held the barony of North Berwick. Sir Hew, made the West Links available for the benefit of the community where
they could participate in sports and other activities. The Dalrymple family have had a long association with first archery, then golf.
David Dalrymple an advocate in Edinburgh, who as Lord Westhill was Lord of Session, and Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh
Golfers at Leith Links. Hew Dalrymple (later Lord Drummore) second son of the 1st Baronet of North Berwick became a member of the Royal
Company of Archers in 1710, and was also Captain of the Honourable Company.
Professor John Chiene of Edinburgh University remembered his grandfather mentioning that his father Captain John Chiene RN while tenant
of Williamstone Farm, North Berwick brought over the first clubs from St Andrews and began golf on the West Links at the beginning of
the nineteenth century.
Captain John Chiene, born 22 August 1779 in Crail, Fife was the son of John Chiene a ship owner. He joined the Royal Navy in 1790, and
served on a number of ships including HMS Victory and Princess Caroline. Stationed in the Mediterranean he took part in the blockade of
Malta and received the Egyptian Medal. He was made a captain in 1813 but with the peace in Europe he was depraved of more action and
retired to Williamstone. He died in 1848 and is buried in the St Andrews Kirk graveyard in North Berwick. His wife gave up the tenancy
of Williamstone Farm situated south of the Dalrymple Petrol Station and moved to the High Street, North Berwick.
The Statistical Account in 1839, compiled by the Rev Robert Balfour Graham, minister of the St Andrews Parish Church, stated 'the prevailing
popular game of the parish is golf for which the western links are peculiarly well adapted. The landowner to the west of the town was Rt. Hon.
John Nisbet-Hamilton, owner of Archerfield Estate. He was a keen golfer and provided the land for the Ladies' golf course in 1867, and the
extension of the West Links in 1877 and 1895. Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple laid out a nine-hole golf course on the Rhodes farm to the east
of the town in 1894, which was extended to become the Burgh Course in 1906. He also supplied premises for the clubmakers and supported the
formation of the Ladies' Club in 1888.
Rule 4. Caddies fourteen years of age and upwards shall
rank as first class caddies; caddies under fourteen years of age shall rank as second class caddies. A second class caddie may be
promoted to the rank of first class for displaying exceptional merit and good conduct, and a first class caddie may be reduced to
the rank of second class for misconduct, breach of rules etc. by order of the Green Committee 1895.
The Factory Acts was another important factor with skilled workers getting the Saturday half-day in the 1850s and most unskilled
workers by the 1890s. It was only as the 1880s wore on that Saturday afternoon became established as the appropriate time for team
games. This is why most accounts of sporting encounters before the late 1800s are about games played on the great national
holidays such as New Years day.|
New Year did not necessarily mean 1st January. Many communities continued to celebrated the Old New Year on 12th January well into
the 1880s. This was a hang over from the government's decision to change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752 which
involved writing off eleven days, thus apparently moving Ne'erday back in time. In North Berwick the main festival was held on
Hansel Monday, the first Monday in the New Year when the community turned out to compete in games on the West Links which included
the annual town horse race.
Two Provosts of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick, Peter Brodie (1866-87) and John Whitecross (1893-96) were both accomplished
golfers and took a leading role in promoting the game. Provost Peter Brodie's father who was also Provost for a time and a keen
golfer. He died in 1864 at the age of seventy. Provost Peter Brodie Jnr. could remember as a boy carrying his father's clubs which
comprised of a heavy iron, putter and spoon. This formed the set generally used by the townsfolk when they played. Peter Brodie Jnr.
was a very sporty character and kept a string of racehorses at Gullane which often won at Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth. Whitecross
was a leading grocer and as the town flourished so did he. Peter Brodie Jnr. was instrumental in drafting the Burgh Police Act (1892)
which allowed many Scottish towns to reclaim their lost linksland. When Brodie and Whitecross partnered Edward Blyth and Robert Chambers
they could hold their own against any players sent from St Andrews and Musselburgh.
Tom Morris, Peter Brodie and John Whitecross |
The Town Council realised the economic benefit of attracting visitors to play golf at North Berwick and began an advertising
campaign, describing the town as the 'Biarritz of the North'. Posters featuring the golf courses appeared at railway stations all
over the country, and are now highly collectible. This initially attracted the well-to-do but later as the game become more
affordable the middle-class took up the sport. |
In 1902, the American Ambassador Joseph Choate rented Cheylesmore Lodge for the autumn season and during September he played golf
everyday with Prime Minister Balfour, Duke Of Cambridge and Lord Rothschild. Mr and Mrs Asquith (Shipka) were also in town.
Another essential requirement was decent sports equipment, and it was the advances in industrial technology that probably did more
than anything else to drive the sporting revolution. This covers everything from the invention of vulcanised rubber for tennis
balls, the production of high quality iron and steel for golf clubs, ice skates and lawn mowers, watches and clocks for accurate
timekeeping and the invention in 1845 of the gutta percha golf ball. As golf clubs were established and national rules adopted,
the next step was challenge matches with other clubs. This was conducted by letter, telegraph or even newspaper correspondence
columns. These new technologies were now helping to transform nineteenth century society.
Part of the West Links, (Elcho Green to the March Dyke) remains common land protected by the Scottish Natural Heritage. The
remainder of the West Links was purchased by the Town Council in 1954. Following local government regionalisation in 1975, all the
town assets including the East Course were administered by East Lothian Council who now own the land.
the beginning .......
The West Links was originally part of the Abbey Farm owned by the Nunnery and the feuars of the property in Westgate (Law Brae
to Abbey Road) were granted the right to graze their animals on the West Links in place of ground near the Abbey. The term 'feu'
in Scottish Law is a right to the use of land in return for a fixed annual payment (feu-duty). |
The feuars were each entitled to graze two cows or horses on the West Links, which stretched from Elcho House north of Church
Road, to the March Dyke at Kaimend. Except from Candlemas to Whitsunday when cattle were restricted to the east side of the track
called Ware Road, the remains of which cross the present second fairway. A cow herders hut was also sited in this area until
It was the custom in 1826 when turf was taken from the West Links to cover a grave in the churchyard, sixpence was paid to the
Feuars of Wetgate as compensation. In 1834 the feuars complained that the golfers were causing harm to the West Links and asked
for compensation from the Lessees of the Private Green. In June 1834 payment was agreed at 18/- a year to each feuar who kept
cows on the links, and this was collected from the golfer in the form of green fees. In 1881 only three people among the feuars
kept two cows each, and by the early twentieth century the practice of grazing cattle on the links had ceased. A typical byre
and adjoining cottage can be seen at 11 Abbey Road, where the last working tenant was carter and dairyman Alex Brown.
H. Taylor; H. Vardon; B. Sayers; W.
Auchterlonie; A. Kirkaldy; W. Fernie; J. Braid; G. Causey; A. Herd (Open Champion); J. White;1902
| || ||
The town took on a festive mood at the start of the two day golf meeting. The
carriages would arrive from the elegant country houses with the gentlemen and their house guests. The ground was cleared, a
marquee erected, several holes cut from the turf and the local caddies and forerunners would line up to be hired. The golfers
would bring donations of food to be cooked on the site adjacent to the marquee for the luncheon and dinner after the game. This
included mutton, venison, pheasant, duck and from the local fishermen, lobster, crab and sand eels, all washed down with the best
The first portable golf tee was invented in 1889 by two members
of Tantallon Golf Club at North Berwick, William Bloxsom, secretary and Arthur Douglas.
| || ||
John Gourlay, the finest feathery ballmaker of his generation was also a talented speaker and was often invited to be 'Master
of Ceremonies' at the North Berwick golf meetings. By 1865 the committee of the North Berwick Golf Club were meeting at the
Dalrymple Arms Hotel in Quality Street during the first week of May, June, July and September.|
Humans have always congregate together so group meetings on a convivial basis was a natural development. British Golf Clubs tended
to run along segregated lines either by sex or by class, as well as having an occupational or economic basis, so it was no
surprise that those wishing to pursue the traditional game of golf would follow a similar pattern. The Masonic influence was
common to most golf clubs in those early days. When a person wished to join the club he was selected by each member placing a
white or black ball into the Yes of No compartments of a wooden box which was vintage Masonic practice.. The candidate had to
receive two thirds majority to be accepted. In 1864 this was reduced to one black was enough for the individual to be refused
membership. No reason was given to the unsuccessful candidate, and nobody knew who had blackballed them. Often the captain was
allowed to enter three members a year 'on the shake of a hand.'
For over a hundred years from 1750 when there was no royal patronage of the game, the Freemasons kept the interest in golf alive.
With the practice of bets being placed among the golfers, there was a requirement for rules and the Freemasons laid down a code of
fair play for its members so that everything was equally shared out - hence the term fair-ways. The word 'fairways' was also used
by fishermen meaning 'safe passage' for the journey out and back, like the nine holes out and nine back on the early courses. It
was through the association with the Society of Freemasons that golf spread to North America and the British Colonies.
Today our attitude to Freemasonry has changed considerably. We are now wary of the secrecy involved. In those bygone days
Freemasonry was perceived as an organisation that promulgated the egalitarian views which would later be enshrined in the American
and French Constitutions.
Harry Vardon tied with J.H. Taylor for the Open Championship
at Muirfield in 1896. Before the replay he looked into James Hutchison's shop beside the first tee at North Berwick and his eye was
caught by a cleek putter. It helped to give him his first 'Open' championship.
| || ||
North Berwick Golf Club was established on 8th May 1832 in George Sligo's mansion
house at Seacliff. Sir David Baird of Newbyth was elected Captain and he struck the first ball off the tee at 12 noon on Wednesday
4th June 1832. The parties then retired to the Dalrymple Arms where Mrs. Blair served dinner. The tall figure of Sir David Baird was
a leading spirit in the formation of the club and presented three dozen bottles of champagne at the first competition and ladies where
often present at the social events. The club had a limit of fifty members, of the wealthy leisured class and heavy betting was a feature
of the club with large sums of money changing hands. The joining age was twenty-one years old, and throughout it's 130 year history
the club has never owned a clubhouse but instead the membership preferred to use the traditional marquee for their lunch with dinner
in the Dalrymple Arms in the evening. By 1894 interest in the Club had declined and for the next thirty years the members held only a
single meeting each year. |
The use of a tent for the Club Meetings continued until 1960. This was reflected in the North Berwick Golf Club Local Rules and
Regulations (1926). Rule 11. Any ball driven inside the tent or the ropes is to be lifted and placed outside without penalty.
Rule 6. The Annual Meeting of the Club is to take place on the Thursday and Friday of the week immediately preceding the
Doncaster September Race Meeting. The Business Meeting is to take place in the tent at 10.30am followed by the Medal competition
at 11 o'clock, with Lunch served in the tent on the arrival of the last couple. Members can obtain Luncheon Tickets from the purveyor
for themselves and their guests.
| || || Rule X. No Candidate shall be admitted if fewer than fifteen Members ballot for
him, in which case his name shall be withdrawn, and put up at the next ballot. One black ball in five shall exclude, but when fewer
than twenty ballot, three black balls shall exclude, when fewer than twenty-five ballot, four back balls, and so on in proportion
to the number of those who ballot. |
New Club - Rules and Regulations 1891
| || ||
Twenty of the original members of North Berwick Golf Club were also members of the Royal and Ancient Club in St Andrews and
the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Leith Links. Including James Campbell of Glensaddell from The Priory in St Andrews,
his friend J.O. Fairlie from Coodham near Prestwick, Archibald Montgomerie the 13th Earl of Eglinton, a landowner in Aryshire,
Robert Liston surgeon to the Royal Infirmary in 1827, Sir David Baird of Newbyth, Robert Stuart of Alderston, Haddington and locals
John Buckle and Captain Brown. Together they were able to set the dates for the various golf meetings to avoid the major race
meetings in Scotland and England. Those gentlemen started the 'Big Professional Money' matches in the 1840s and ignited an interest with
the press and public which formed the foundations of the popularity of golf today.|
Tantallon Golf Club, founded on 17th September 1853 by the merchants in the Royal Burgh, also held their golf meetings on the West
Links. During the first thirty years of Tantallon, the Club organised the upkeep of the links before a Green Committee was established
The first portable golf tee was invented in 1889 by two members of Tantallon Golf Club, William Bloxsom, secretary (Cromwell Lodge,
North Berwick) and Arthur Douglas (Castle Mills, Edinburgh). Made of rubber with three vertical prongs to hold the ball in place.
The tee rested flat on the ground, rather than being pressed into the ground. The patent No. 12941 was applied for in August 1889
and approved on 14th June 1890. The first known tee to pierce the ground was a rubber-topped peg sold commercially as the 'Perfectum'
in 1892. Cromwell Lodge in North Berwick was situated between Dirleton Court and Cheylesmore Lodge.
The Amateur Championship was instigated by Royal Liverpool Golf Club and Tantallon was represented on the organizing committee by B. Hall
Blyth who was also Captain of Royal Liverpool Golf Club. In August 1885 B. Hall Blyth chaired a meeting of deligates in the Windsor Hotel,
100 Princes Street, Edinburgh when he was instructed to contact the R&A with the proposal they should organise the first Amateur Championship
and Tantallon was one of 25 clubs that contributed to the Amateur trophy.
The Bass Rock Golf Club instituted on 24th April 1873 was one of the first independent artisan clubs in the country. The Club held
their meetings on the West Links on Saturday afternoon. Although the membership was open to all in 1969 with a limit of 120, the
Club to this day does not have a clubhouse.
Bass Rock Golf Club organises the Esmond Trophy, first played for in 1926 among the artisan golfers of East Lothian. The silver model of
Edinburgh Castle is recognised as one of the finest trophies among golf clubs in Britain, and ranks along with the Silver Frigate
of the Thorpeness Club and the Antlers' trophy of Royal Mid-Surrey.
| James Braid's first venture into golf course design came in 1894 when he
assisted Ben Sayers to layout the Rhodes course at North Berwick. |
In 1879, the North Berwick New Club was established and the following year they built their own clubhouse, situated beside the 18th
green which was laid out with turf supplied by Sir Hew Dalrymple from his estate at Leuchie. William Cree, as winner of the Club Gold
Medal was first Captain of the New Club in 1881. 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.|
Since the 1860s the Visitor's Golfing Association organised by James Lewis and secretary James Bryson held a junior competition over
the West Links. In 1867 Major A. V. Smith Sligo, The Vale, North Berwick organised two Juvenile Golf Tournaments, the first in August
for families of visitors and the second in September for donated prizes. In 1868 Lord Elcho presented a silver medal for a handicap
competition played in August and the first winner was Andrew Peacock. The juniors aged between ten and sixteen years, which was altered
to fifteen years after the first competition, played two rounds over the seven hole West Links. Those between six and nine years of
age played the short course or Ladies Links.
The Juvenile Golf Tournament organised in September was for prizes donated by the organizing committee including Mrs. W. Nelson, wife
of the Edinburgh publisher, golf balls gifted by A.B. Fleming (Ink and Chemical Works), Leith. and David Stephenson, cousin of Robert
Louis Stephenson who gave a set of golf clubs and James Robertson, the publisher donated bound books. This tournament in September was
open to all juniors and developed into a Scratch competition.
On the same day a match was played over the Ladies' Links by the young lady visitors which was won by Miss Nelson. In 1873 the Elcho
Medal and Scratch competition were both open to all and played at the same meeting and in 1894 a gold medal was offered for the new
'Residents Scratch' competition. Played over the new eighteen hole West Links while those under ten years continued to play over the
Ladies Links or Children's course. The clubmaker James H. Hutchison continued to donated clubs for prizes and Ben Sayers offered a
prize for the best inward nine holes. Originally the medals and prizes were presented outside the house of Major A.V. Smith Sligo in
Forth Street. The Elcho Medal, purchased in 1868 from Mackay, Cunningham & Co, goldsmiths to Queen Victoria, 54, Princes Street,
Edinburgh, continues to be played and is the oldest junior tournament in the world.
The first lady golfer in North Berwick was Violet Chambers who attracted a large following of spectators when she started, all
intrigued to see a lady playing golf. Violet was the daughter of Robert Chambers, champion amateur golfer and editor of Chambers'
Encyclopedia. She encouraged other ladies to play the game and to join the North Berwick Ladies Club, founded in 1888.
Her father Robert Chambers was made a burgess of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick in June 1885 and he built St Baldred's Tower
situated above the tennis courts in North Berwick. Violet often spoke at public meetings and wrote articles in the press about the
appalling conditions for those working in agriculture and the fishing industry. Under her married name of Violet Tweedale she wrote
several books on her favorite subject of spiritualism. In 1889 she moved to London and attended seances with Lord Haldane, Arthur
Balfour, and his brother James Balfour. W. E. Gladstone also held sittings in her house.
In March 1887, Baillie James Kendall of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick Town Council, wrote on his own behalf to Robert Higgins J.P,
Land Agent and Factor to Miss Nisbet Hamilton at Archerfield requesting to feu a piece of land for recreational use. This was agreed
and a field on Ferrygate Farm was provided (now the children's course). Violet was joined in the Ladies' Club by Maud and Blanch
Anderson, daughters of the Rector of St Baldred's Church and gradually as enough people became interested a nine-hole course was laid
out by Tom Dunn. The course was leased by the Ladies' Club with their own greenkeeping staff and a timber clubhouse in the grounds of
the Marine Hotel. In 1897, the Ladies' could play on the West Links before 9am and from 11am -1 pm, though mixed foursomes could play
at any time. In 1905 Helen 'Maud' Anderson became the first Lady Golf Professional in Great Britain when she gave lessons at Princes
Ladies' Club on Mitcham Common.
The use of the long course by the Ladies' was unusual and it has been suggested that this was the reason why the North Berwick Ladies'
dominated women's golf during this early period. In 1905 the Ladies' used the premises at 25 Station Hill as their clubhouse, and
in 1924 they used the basement of the Commercial Bank of Scotland at 12 Westgate as their base. In 1936 they amalgamated with North
Berwick New Club which allowed the Ladies to become Associates and they moved into North Berwick New Clubhouse. The Ladies Club became
full members of the North Berwick Golf Club in 2005.
Many youngsters were introduced to golf on the Ladies' Course including Robert J. T. Digby-Jones who at the age of fourteen
won the under-15 Scratch Medal in two successive years, 1890 and again in 1891 with an outstanding 85 strokes over the West
Links. Eight years later he was killed in the Boer War and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. David Blair also learned
to play on the Ladies' Course and he was the first Scottish School Boy's champion (1935) and Walker Cup team member in 1955-61.
Raymond Russell another Walker Cup player, was introduced to golf on the Ladies Links when his father cut down his first set of
clubs in 1982. Russell joined the European PGA Tour in 1993 and a career hightlight was closing with a 66 to finish fourth behind
Mark O'Meara in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale and representing Scotland in the Dunhill Cup that year. Although most junior
competition's were mixed, leaving the girls at a disadvantage, Catriona Matthew did manage to reach the final of the Balfour-Melville
Cup in 1982 and 1983 before becoming three times North Berwick Ladies' Club Champion. Catriona joined the professional ranks in 1994
and won the Women's British Open in 2009.
John E. Laidlay J.P. and Robert Maxwell have the unique distinction of being elected Captain of the North Berwick Club, Tantallon
Golf Club, and North Berwick New Club during their careers and both won the Amateur Championship twice. Robert Maxwell lived at
Balgone House, then The Lodge in Quality Street, before his father built Pointgarry House as his residence in 1898. Maxwell would
play the West Links all day and walk the course in the evening. When U.S Amateur Champion, Walter J. Travis saw Maxwell for the first
time at North Berwick he described him as 'A human battering ram, who can drive a ball half-a-mile'. Maxwell won the Amateur
Championship at Muirfield in 1903 and 1909 and represented Scotland from 1902 until 1910. In 1903, for the second consecutive
year he was leading amateur at the Open. During his first senior tournament in 1897, Maxwell defeated John Ball and Horace Hutchison
on the first day. For many years Robert Maxwell was also President of the Rhodes Golf Club at North Berwick. The original watercolour
drawing of Robert Maxwell published in 'Vanity Fair' was presented to the British Golf Museum by Tantallon Golf Club and is now on
His brother David Maxwell emigrated to Australia and won the Royal Melbourne Golf Club medal in 1891. He moved to Flinders in
Victoria and founded the Flinders Golf Club in 1903. His other brother Francis Maxwell, also a golfer, extended the original Royal
Adelaide course to 18 holes at Glenelg in the southern suburbs of the Australian city in 1903. In WW1, Robert Maxwell enlisted as
a private in the 8th Royal Scots. He was awarded the Military Cross and by 1918 was commissioned Captain Robert Maxwell.
Johnny Laidlay born in 1860 at Seacliff, two miles east of the town, learned to play the game over the links at North Berwick and
Musselburgh while attending Loretto school. He was the last of the true gentlemen golfers and dominated the Amateur Championship
for seven years from 1888, winning twice in 1889 and 1891 and runner-up 1888, 1890 and 1893. Laidlay was a member of a number of
golf clubs and throughout his career won over 130 medals, many are on display at the British Golf Museum. In 1887 for example, he
won 11 scratch medals at Prestwick, St Andrews, Hoylake and North Berwick. He played with an overlapping grip before Taylor or Vardon,
the later is credited with popularising the grip. In 1899, Laidlay built Invereil House overlooking the eighth fairway on the West
Links as his residence.
| Dorothy Campbell went over to the United States in 1909 following her triumph at
Birkdale and became the first woman to win the British and US amateurs in the same year. |
Johnny Laidlay represented Scotland every year from 1902 until 1911, when he was fifty one. He also played cricket for Scotland,
was a pioneer of wildlife photography and carved furniture for a hobby. Following the First World War, he moved to Sunningdale
where his former caddie Jack White was the professional and called his house 'Auldhame' after his family estate at Seacliff, North
Benjamin Hall Blyth was Captain of Tantallon Golf Club in 1896-98. He was also Captain of the Royal Liverpool Club (1885) and a
life member of the Royal and Ancient Club. Hall Blyth was an engineer like his father also called Benjamin Hall Blyth who founded
the firm of Blyth & Cunningham, which eventually became Blyth & Blyth. Hall Blyth Jnr. was a consultant engineer to the
Caledonian, North British and Great North of Scotland Railway companies. He was responsible for the construction of Waverley Station,
the North Bridge above and extending the North Berwick branch line to include stations at Aberlady, Luffness and Gullane. He was also
President of the Scottish Football Union in 1875-76.
Hall Blyth is credited with securing the transference of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers from Musselburgh to Muirfield
and will always be associated with the acquisition of the Braid Hills as a municipal golf course by the citizens of Edinburgh. As
Captain of Tantallon Golf Club he supported the creation of the Amateur Championship and was one of the original members of the
new Rules of Golf committee in 1897, serving as its chairman.
His father Benjamin Hall Blyth (1819-1866) also had a long association with North Berwick. He built Kaimend House overlooking the
famous Redan hole on the West Links as his summer residence and on his death he bequeathed enough funds to secure the building of the
North Berwick Abbey Church in 1868.
Robert Bertram, born 1832 in North Berwick was one of the first to emerge from the town with a talent for golf. He joined Tantallon
Golf Club at the age of 23 years in 1855, and was the only member playing off scratch. He was also a member of Dirleton Castle Golf
Club whose members played over Gullane Hill and he won the Wotherspoon Medal in 1858 and 1860, and the Patron's Medal in 1858.
In June 1857, Tantallon Golf Club received an invitation to play in the Grand National Foursomes Tournament at St Andrews which was
instigated by Prestwick Golf Club. Tantallon paid one guinea entry fee but chose not to take part. Robert Bertram as the best player
in Tantallon then decided to represent Dirleton Castle. Those invited to take part were Musselburgh, North Berwick, Perth, Carnoustie,
Blackheath, St Andrews and Leven. The tournament took place on 29th July at St Andrews when Montrose, Bruntsfield, Dirleton Castle,
Innerleven, Panmure and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers were also invited. The Dirleton Castle team comprised of William
Carse and Robert Bertram.
This was the first attempt at running a national golf tournament open to all clubs, which dramatically altered the direction of the game.
Golf became more organised and the Grand National Tournament developed into the Open Championship. Robert Bertram, an artisan among the
gentry, played his part in the evolution of the game. Bertram died in 1871 aged 39 years and is buried in St Andrew Kirk graveyard in Kirk
Ports, North Berwick.
Tantallon Golf Club instigated the first inter-club golf tournament in East Lothian, played at Gullane in September 1864. At that
time there were six golf clubs in the county, and four took part. They were Dirleton Castle and the East Lothian Club, both
playing over Gullane Links; Thorntree from Prestonpans Links and Tantallon, each sending four representatives.
The East Course at North Berwick was originally nine-holes laid out in 1894 by the landowner Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple. The
Burgh Golf Club was established on 9th June 1906 and the following year James Braid supervised the extension of the course to 18
holes. In 1934 the Burgh Golf Club adopted the name 'Glen Golf Club'.
During WW2 large sections of the East Course were commandeered by the Ministry of Agriculture and ploughed over for the production
of food. Following the conflict, Philip Mackenzie Ross restored the course which was reopened in March 1949. Mackenzie Ross resided
at 17 Hamilton Road in North Berwick and during the 1950s was responsible for redesigning the Ailsa course at Turnberry.
the caddie ......
The name 'caddie' is French for Cadet (junior) and was used in 18th
century Scotland to describe a messenger or errand-boy. Originally the Caddies were a semi-official band of porters and messengers
who hung about the market cross in the High Street, Edinburgh, touting and picking up what work they could. They carried luggage,
took messages, directed visitors around town and were acquainted with the 'low life'. There is a 'Cadie Society' Poor Box on
display in the Peoples Story Museum in the Canongate, Edinburgh.|
The only way for the boys in the town to learn the game was play the course in the evening with one club and a ball after the members had
retired to the clubhouse. Often the club was shortened and the grip removed so when they played a full shot the hickory shaft would slip out
of their fingers and travel further than the ball. As the caddie was obliged to give all his earnings to his mother, it was his winnings from
betting among the caddies that paid for his first set of clubs. Gambling on their ability gave the caddie the confidence they could compete
against their peers. Moving up the ladder from caddie to licensed professional on the West Links allowed them to play golf everyday and
their game improved dramatically. In the 1860s there were over two dozen professional tournaments around the country and this had
doubled by the 1870s with prize money averaging twenty-five pounds. With the introduction of the cheaper gutty ball the game became
more accessible. This significant move away from only the privileged gentry playing the game towards the caddie, made golf in Scotland
the game of the people, which it remains to this today.
The other route to the professional ranks was by serving a five year apprenticeship as a clubmaker with Ben Sayers & Son and then applying
to join, the artisan Bass Rock Golf Club at the age of eighteen years and receive a handicap. Winning the club scratch medal was their
passport to being appointed a golf club pro and emigrating to America, Canada, Europe and Australia.
| || || US Open champions, Willie Anderson and Fred McLeod lived in the same stair at 98
High Street when they were teenagers in 1893. |
| || || The first Open Championship at Prestwick was a competition
for professionals. Prior to the event eleven clubs were written to directly with a request 'to send the names of the best players
on your links, not exceeding three players'. The letter continued, they must be known and respected caddies. Professional Players not
being Keeper of the Green have to produce a certificate of respectabilty from the Treasurer of the Club where they are attached. Only
eight took part on 17th October 1860 and just before noon they gathered in the Red Lion at Prestwick and signed a sheet of paper
stipulating the rules. Before darkness fell the players had completed three rounds of 12 holes and the winner was Willie Park with a
total of 174. Old Tom Morris was two shots back and Andrew Strath was third. The scoring was so high that it encouraged amateurs to
think they could compete. The following year some amateurs were included so the tournament has remained 'Open' ever since.|
The Caddie Superintendent James Crawford was paid 30/- a week from April to October and 15/- a week from October to April. When
Crawford was appointed Starter, George Thomson became Caddie Master and then followed as Starter for many years. During the 1890s
the caddies were organised by the Green Committee, who applied the rules of employment. The fee for the younger caddies was quite
considerable and encouraged truancy and gambling. When the system of Inspection of Schools was set up in 1840 truancy from school
to caddie became less of a problem. Even though it is recorded in the 1880s when a large golf meeting was held, the neighbouring
schools at Dirleton and Gullane were forced to close due to the level of absentees. At a meeting of the North Berwick School Board
in April 1891 the clerk reported several cases where boys had been suspended from school for acting as golf caddies.
To meet the demand at North Berwick caddies would even walk the 16 miles from Musselburgh to North Berwick for work. The caddies
were given a badge with a number. The badge was owned by the caddie and on arrival it was handed into the caddie master. When work
arrived, they were engaged and their number was announced.
| || || When the golfers emerged from the railway station they were
jostled by a lot of urchins with 'Carry for you Sir' coming from all directions. |
| || ||
Boys attending school who wanted to carry clubs had to apply for permission from the School Board for an exemption from attending
school. The regulations where laid down by an Act of Parliament in respect of the employment of juveniles. Typical was a widow who
applied on behalf of her 13 year old son who had been offered three weeks employment as a caddie for a gentleman visitor. The boys
mother explained that the money would help to buy clothes for the other children in the family. The board refused on the grounds
that rules were rules. In 1909 only one girl applied for an exemption.|
Various misdemeanors were logged in the Caddie Master's book, the most frequent suspension was for 'refusing to carry clubs'. This
occurred when a gentlemen golfer arrived who was deemed to be 'mean' for not offering a tip when the round was complete. The next
caddie to be called and refused to come forward was disciplined.
Other entries included, Dan Kenny suspended for four days for canvassing for work in the car park. (1897); James Souter suspended
for three days after a complaint from George Dalziel who engaged Souter as his caddie, before Souter went off to caddie for Jack
White (professional) (1893); Alex Lountain caught interfering with the rabbit traps. (1899); The Arundel twins were both
suspended in 1904. James for three days after defacing the caddie shelter and John was banned for a month after stealing a golf
An extract from 1892 reads, The greenkeeper reported that Mr.Matthews stated to him that Robert Robertson had stolen an iron club
belonging to him and that Cuthbert the box keeper had informed him that the boy's father had found it hidden in his coal cellar.
This was corroborated by Cuthbert. 10 year old Robert Robertson was suspended by the Caddie Master from 10th October 1891 to 4th
William Merrilees was caught carrying clubs during school hours and when asked by the greenkeeper for his license he stated his
mother had burnt it. The following day he was caught again carrying clubs, and was put off the links and reported to the Clerk
of the School Board (1892). The Merrilees family stayed in Market Place and Willie's younger brother Peter Merrilees is recognised
today as one of the earliest golfing pioneers in Australia.
| || || Rule XL. Caddies are not allowed to come within the chain enclosure of the
Club-House on any pretence whatever. Members will therefore, when it is inconvenient to bring their Clubs into the Club-House
themselves, be careful to instruct their Caddies to hand their Clubs to the servant at the back door of the Club-House. |
North Berwick New Club - Rules and Regulations 1893
| || ||
Many of the caddies were fishermen who turned their hand to carrying clubs during the season, including Robert Millar, Sandy Smith and
Robert Millar was one of the first to be employed as a caddie on the West Links in the days of the gutta-percha ball. By
1893 he had given up the fishing and was employed full time as a licensed professional and caddie. Rev. John Kerr wrote about Millar in
his Golf Book of East Lothian ' Were his wondrous scores authenticated, he might be set down as the record holder of the green!
Alexander 'Sandy' Smith, originally from Musselburgh, was older than the other caddies at North Berwick. He was also a fisherman like
his father John Smith. Sandy was described as a big fat man with a round red face and was always seen wearing a fisherman's blue jersey. Sandy married
Mary Brown from Inveresk in 1861 and they lived in Kay's Wynd (Law Road) in North Berwick. Sandy regularly caddied for Lord Kingsburgh,
Solicitor General for Scotland, Edward Blyth and Amateur Champion Robert Maxwell. Sandy Smith died in 1903.
Robert Johnstone was a master of all trades, primarily a green keeper, sometimes a professional and caddie. His claim to fame was during
the Open Championship at Muirfield in 1906, he had a hole-in-one at the 14th. He played with only one club throughout the championship
- an adjustable head club. His sons John and Robert joined the professionals and took the game to South Africa and California.
As the popularity of golf increased at North Berwick many caddies travelled from Musselburgh for work including such famous characters
as John 'Fiery' Carey, Big Harry Crawford and Jack Campbell.
John 'Fiery' Carey
Fiery got his name because of his ruddy complexion, and he was one of the first to be described as a professional caddie. Always dressed
in a Scotch bonnet with streamers floating behind, he carried the clubs loose, out of the bag, beneath his arm. He was the regular caddie
for Willie Park Jun. at Musselburgh and St Andrews.
Michael Flynn who was granted his caddie badge on 16th August 1893 at North Berwick while living in Forth Street Lane. He was the regular
caddie for Tantallon G.C member Sir Walter Simpson who wrote 'The Art Of Golf' and was a close friend of Robert Louis Stevenson.
'Big Crawford' lived at 9 Market Place, and was a giant of a man who stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Crawford was
described as a forceful character who gave expression to his opinions with a rugged outspokenness that gave him a distinctive place
among his peers.
Harry Crawford commanded considerable respect and was quite at home in the company of many of the distinguished visitors to the West
Links. For many years he acted as caddie to the Right Hon. A.J. Balfour, and Ben Sayers engaged him for most of his big stake
matches. Harry Crawford was born in Musselburgh in 1835 and as the golfers migrated down the coast in the 1870s he moved to North
Berwick where he resided until his death in 1909 aged 73 years. One of the highlights of his career was caddying for A. J. Balfour
when he played himself in at St Andrews as captain of the Royal and Ancient Club. Latterly Crawford was keeper of the ginger beer stand
facing the ninth tee on the West Links. He had no children of his own but acted as a second father to many walf and stray and always
had some young orchin to help at the tent. His parents lived at 23 Wonder Street, Inveresk and Henry Crawford was buried in Inveresk
Churchyard in an unmarked grave beside his parents in lair 397.
John Campbell was a caddie and general labourer in Musselburgh before moving to North Berwick in 1876. The family lived in Park
Place, North Berwick which today is Nos. 17-25 Old Abbey Road. Adjacent was a park which Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple had provided
for playing football (Redcroft). Jack Campbell's eldest son Willie Campbell (b.1862) is the best known of the professional golfers who made
a new life in America. Willie was pro at the Country Club of Brookline in 1895 and his wife Georgina became the first lady golf
professional in the USA.
Jack Campbell's son Benjamin Campbell was a licensed professional at North Berwick and played in the Open
Championship for over a decade from 1883. His highest finish was third at Musselburgh in 1886. Jack Campbell died in 1912 in Inveresk
Poorhouse. In 1910, the caddies on the West Links contributed to a Caddies Provident Fund and in 1913 to a Caddie's Clubmaking Fund. That
year there was an account from clubmaker James Watt for 34 lessons @ 2 shillings each.
'Pop' Edward Samuel a young greenkeeper on the West Links, caddied for Cyril Tolley when he won the Amateur Championship at
the 37th hole at Muirfield in 1920. By 1922 when David Henderson was Caddie Master on the West Links, a first class caddie earned
2/6d per round, and was allowed to work 12 rounds in a week. Three rounds a day were possible in summer which meant 54/- for a
first class man and 27/- for a second class man. Boys over 12 years earned a shilling per round. Casual caddies could earn 2 to 3
pounds a week from June to October. Only 20 caddies were required up to June, but 70 to 110 from September to late October.
Eighteen caddies were retained throughout the winter months.
During the 1930s the system for hiring caddies on the West Links involved the purchase of a ticket from the Caddie Master, a two pence
booking fee, and 2/- payment for the caddie. At the end of the round the caddie would receive the ticket from the player with a gratuity
and then present the ticket to the Caddie Master for payment.
The Caddie Shelter was the low building between the starters box and the professionals shop. The floor was solid concrete and during
the 1930s the caddies made five holes the size of egg cups gouged to a depth of one inch, sufficient for a golf ball to be rolled
and held there providing it was not travelling too quickly. Putting, challenge matches between the caddies took place on this cemented
floor and at times quite a commotion ensued when betting arguments took place against the instructions of Toby Johnstone the Caddie
Master at the time.
the west links ....
| || ||
The West Links golf course is now in the centre of the town, but at one time the
links land marked the town boundary. The North Berwick clubhouse which was opened in 1880 was built on the site of the Abbey Toll
House where travellers entering the town from the west paid road tax, this tax was abolished in 1869. When the Burgh Police Act
of 1892 was passed this gave to places like North Berwick the powers of enlarging their boundaries and purchasing ground for golf
or other recreations. The boundary was extended and the town now surrounds the golf course.|
The West Links was originally six holes, before a seventh was added. Edward L. I. Blyth wrote about the course when he first
played at North Berwick in 1856. At that time the first tee was between 100 to 150 yards east of the present pro's shop which
was then a formidable bunker. The first drive had to land short of a burn crossing the fairway and the first green 'Pointgarry-Out'
was seldom reachable in two, making it a tough opening par four. The second 'Sea Hole', was much like today with the 'horse' a
small mound in the middle of the fairway. The third green lay east of the stone wall known as the March Dyke and the fourth
(present sixteenth) had a table top green surrounded on three sides with a ditch. The fifth (present seventeenth) the golfer had to
negotiate St Ann's Quarry with sheer sides and two feet of water in the base, before reaching the green which was shared with the
first at 'Pointgarry-In'. The sixth, named the 'Gasworks Hole' lay to the right of the present eighteenth fairway and the Home
Hole, a par four with the green near the clubhouse was often reached in three.
There were no tee boxes during this period, the rules simply stated that the ball be teed up on a small mound of sand six-club
lengths from the last hole played. It was not until 1875 that a separate teeing ground was provided. Edward L. I. Blyth (1854-1886) was
a member of Tantallon Golf Club and winner of the Club Medal in 1862 and 1863. Blyth was the uncle of B. Hall Blyth Jun. (mentioned
above) and both were directors in the family engineering business Blyth and Blyth Associates in George Street, Edinburgh.
The course was extended to nine-holes during the winter of 1868, which then included the famous 'Redan' (6th) hole. The old quarry
opposite St Ann's was filled in 1862. The course at that time was described as uncared for with no tins in the holes which looked
like birds nests. They were also deep from the habit of taking sand from the hole to tee up the ball. There were few caddies available
and a party could play all day without any other golfers being visible. Players like Sir Robert Hay, Sir David Baird, Earl of Wemyss
and Sir Hew Hume Campbell had the green to themselves.
Cross bunker at 14th 'Perfection' - 1918 || Ben Sayers on the beach
beyond the 1st green. |
| || || In an article in
Golf Illustrated in 1915, Dorothy Campbell reminisced about the West Links, she said "the 'pins' were simply sticks of wood to
which skins of scarlet worsted were attached. Every Saturday night, my mother told me, the sticks were collected and brought in,
so that the townspeople might not see them and thus be distracted from the sanctity of their Sabbath thinking. There were no tees,
no markers, no putting greens as we know them today, no tins for holes. Fresh holes had to be cut in the 'greens' every Monday
morning. Each golfer as he came along took sand from each hole in order to tee up his ball preparatory to driving down the next
fairway. Thus, by Saturday night all the holes were as big as wash-tubs."|
EXTENDED COURSE The Scotsman 19th December 1876.
North Berwick - The committee of the North Berwick Golf Club obtained permission from the Right Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Mary Nisbet
Hamilton to play golf over new ground to the west of the present Links - making ten additional holes, thus increasing the round
to nineteen holes in all. By the terms of agreement the committee are to pay to the tenant of the farm £45 a-year and are bound
to have a man on the new green for the purpose of keeping it in order, and excluding all who have admission tickets, which will
be supplied to golfers by D. Strath, who is appointed to take charge. The course will be laid out by Tom Morris and D. Strath,
and no expense will be spared to make it thoroughly efficient.
Old Tom returned in January 1877 to give some more pointers to the design and on Saturday 23rd April 1877 the extended course was
officially opened when Davie Strath was given the honour of teeing the ball for Sir Hew Dalrymple who played the first stroke. His
driving club was specially made for that occasion by Messrs Strath and Beveridge. A new rule was adopted that if a ball was driven
into the grounds or plantation on the south of the course, it should be held as lost - although at the same time recoverable - the
player also losing a stroke and distance and having to tee another ball. A new feature on the teeing ground was the provision of a
box where the caddie could retrieve the necessary sand.
The game which attracted the greatest number of spectators on the opening day was a match between Captain Kinloch and Davie Strath
and D. Brown and Tom Morris. After two rounds honours were even. A professional match was also played between Ben Sayers and
Willie Fernie played a match against Jack Simpson and Andrew Kirkaldy. Although the course was short, it was practically all hazards
with a sandy lie in the bents preferable to being wedged under the numerous walls around the 'Shipka Pass'. Many of the small
putting greens were within reach from the tee so the condition of the fairways was not as important. Twenty workmen were employed
on the extension which cost £200 and the tenant of Abbey Farm was paid £15 as compensation for lose of the land.
The new holes started at the present 4th and stretched out over the quarry to the Eil Burn where the course turned for the back
nine. The 14th a par 3, was described by Horace Hutchinson as one of the most sensational shots in golf with the high sandhills
in front of the teeing ground curtailing the horizon and the putting green in front of the existing ridge and bunker crossing
the fairway. He said you have to harden your heart to drive as it seems, into the midst of the German Ocean; but instead if you
have played on the line laid down for you, you will find that you have carried a little corner of the beach, which bays in, and
are lying on the putting green of a hole protected by sandhills from the waves which were splashing on the other side of them.
If your heart fails and you drive to what looks something more like terra firma, to the right, you will find yourself wedged up
against the stone wall of Carlekemp wood. The 15th tee close to the previous green required a cleek or iron shot which must pitch
over another wall, so far and no further - and then a full drive or brassy shot to carry just over a bunker escarpment not inaptly
The remaining holes were as before with crowds of children and nursemaids to contend with during the summer season. The shortness
of the holes and the little pitch shots required over walls gave the course its beauty as well as its weakness with congestion and
long waiting between shots.
At the Autumn Meeting on Wednesday and Thursday 5th and 6th September 1877 the members played their new 18 hole course for the
first time. The minutes noted 'The round gave great satisfaction, infact nothing could surpass the putting greens which were
simply perfection'. Fourteen couples competed for the gold medal and the winner was Gilbert Mitchell Innes with a score of 80.
Following the luncheon prepared in the marquee by Mr Johnston from the Royal Hotel the members played their foursome matches.
Some of the golfing families who played the course were the Blyth's, the Bloxsom's, the Chamber's, the Stevenson's, the Lyall's
and the Dunn's, particularly Willie Dunn, US champion and John D Dunn the well known golf coach both learned to play the game at
The seemingly random size for the four and a quarter inch diameter hole was just that, it happened to be the width of the
implement invented by Robert Gray in 1829 and first used to cut the holes at Musselburgh. In 1893 the R&A made the size mandatory.
Rule VI - LIFTING OF BREAK CLUBS, ETC. |
All loose impediments within twelve inches of the ball may be
removed when the ball lies on turf. When a ball lies in a bunker, quarry or rocks, sand or the road, nothing whatever can be
touched, and the player must take care in aiming at it that he do not alter or improve its position; if he do so he losses the
hole. When a ball lies on clothes, or within a club length of a washing tub, the clothes may be drawn from under the ball, and the
tub may be removed. A ball struck fast in wet ground or sand may be taken out and replaced loosely in the hole it has
Rule VII - BALL IN WATER, OR IN A HOLE, ETC.
If the ball be half covered or more with water, or lies in a
hole where a club cannot reach it, or in a rabbit scrape, or in an old or supernumerary hole made for the purpose of golfing, the
player may take it out, drop it behind the hazard, play with an iron and lose a stroke. If the ball be driven into the sea, it
shall be taken out by the party and placed a club length in front thereof, he playing with an Iron and losing a stroke; if the
ball be not recovered by the party, he shall lose the hole.
Rules of Tantallon Golf Club - 1853. (Thomas Dall,
| || ||
In 1895, the course was lengthened west of the Eil Burn over Ferrygate and Linkhouse farmland, under the
supervision of head greenkeeper Tom Anderson. He was instructed by the Green Committee to obtain as much turf as was required
from Mr. Thomson at Muirfield costing 8d a yard. Many of the new holes required a long driver off the tee, rather than an iron or
cleek as before and often a wooden club was required for the second shot. The course was widened at it's narrowest part the
'Shipka Pass' and was now three times as broad. For the first time 'Perfection' came into play. Like the old links, accurate
approach play was still the outstanding feature of the course which measured three and-a-half miles.|
Several of the former North Berwick professionals returned to the West Links in June 1895 to play in the tournament at the opening
of the extended course. They included Richard Kelly (Norwich), Richard Collins Jnr. (Ryton-on-Tyne) George Douglas (Hessle) Robert
Millar (North Berwick), Jimmy Dalgleish (Nairn), Davie Brown (Musselburgh) and Willie Thomson (North Berwick). Alex Herd won, and
following the tournament the Green Committee laid on a dinner for the professionals and caddies in the Masonic Hall in Forth Street.
In 1895 a tent was erected beside the eighth green for a ginger beer stall where Neil McLeod was appointed to organised the refreshments.
His youngest son Fred McLeod won the US Open in 1908, but sadly Neil McLeod died in 1897 and did not share in his son's success. Harry
Crawford took over the ginger beer tent before it became a more permanent feature constructed of timber, selling sweets, aerated water
and golf balls. Crawford's requested to sell golf clubs was turned down.
In November 1906, as a reaction to the new golf balls and equipment, nine new bunkers were constructed including one to the north of the
5th, two placed to the right of the 9th fairway and one before the 'Pit' where a cist had been unearthed. The 4th green was relaid
and enlarged while the 10th tee was moved back some twenty yards. The work was carried out by head greenkeeper Alex Wright.
In September 1907, his Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michael of Russia, paid for Alex Wright to travel to Cannes in the south of
France and give His Imperial Highness advice on how to improve his private golf course at La Napoule.
In 1908 Alex Wright and David Hutton, both greenkeepers at North Berwick applied for the position at the newly opened course at Stoke
Poges in Buckinghamshire. In October Alex Wright was appointed the first head greenkeeper at Stoke Poges now Stoke Park Golf Club with
a salary of £2 per week and the use of a cottage. Alex Wright was replaced at North Berwick by James Preston from West Herts Golf Club
and then by Alex Gow who was head greenkeeper at North Berwick for over 23 years before he retired in 1934.
In 1932, additional ground was leased in the area known as 'The Bents' which extended along the seashore to the north of the old
10th and 11th holes. The new alterations were carried out under the supervision of Ben Sayers Jnr. and Major Cecil K.Hutchison.
In February 1933 The Scotsman gave an update on the alterations being carried out to the West Links. 'The first three holes remain as
before but the fourth has been shortened, and the green has been made longer and narrower. The fifth has been entirely reconstructed and
from April will function as an entirely new hole. Part of the sixth has been taken in, but instead of playing over the 'quarry' bunker
on to the double green at the back, players will use a new green formed just short of that hazard. Three bunkers have been placed
around this green. The old double green has been converted into a single one, and the sixth will be a short hole from the turnpike
road to this single green beyond the 'quarry' A new tee has been laid down at the sixth. The new greens at the ninth and tenth have
been played on since the autumn. Owing to the introduction of the new fifth, the present ninth and tenth will become the tenth and
eleventh. The present eleventh will cease to function. A new green, close to the shore has been made as the twelfth and the thirteenth
tee has been brought back thirty yards, making that hole so much longer. Two bunkers on the thirteenth fairway have been filled in,
and new ones made near the green. The teeing ground at the fourteenth will be on top of a neighbouring hillock, which the workmen have
reduced by several feet. No alterations have been made to the remaining holes.'
Major Cecil K.Hutchison assisted James Braid to design and layout Gleneagles Kings and Queens courses and Carnoustie. He served in the
Coldstream Guards and was a reserve in the Royal Scots during WW1. Hutchison was a talented golfer and finalist in the Amateur Championship
in 1909, while a member of Tantallon Golf Club. In the 1920s Major Hutchison established a firm of Course Architect's in partnership
with Sir Guy Campbell and Colonel S.V.Hotchkin. They designed many courses including Tadmarton Heath (1922), Kington (1925), Woodhall Spa
(1925) Ashridge (1932) and they remodeled Ganton, West Sussex, Killarney and also worked on the Prince's and Rye courses.
| || ||
In 1953, the proprietor of the Westerdunes Hotel offered to purchase the ground west of the March Dyke from the landowner Biel
Estates. The Hotel proposed to alter the layout with the present 8th tee becoming the first and extending the course west over the
former Fidra golf course at Yellowcraig. These discussions were at an advanced stage before the Town Council intervened and
purchased the land in January 1954 for £9,700, safeguarding the rights of the local Golf Clubs and community. In April 1958
Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple handed over the land east of the wall to the North Berwick Town Council. Today the golf course is own by
East Lothian Council and measures 6458 yards with a par of 71.|
Charles Stevenson the cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about the holidays they shared at North Berwick. The Longskelly beach
and Eil Burn (called the Cressy Burn in RLS's novel Catriona) was a favourite play area. In the 1860s the burn lay a mile west of
the end of the golf course but today the Eil Burn cuts through the 7th and 12th fairways and is an integral part of the
the professional .....
| || ||
The professional hierarchy could be divided into three sections, the keeper of
the green; the professional club-maker; the professional player who would eke a living in the club-makers' shop and play during
the season in foursomes with amateurs; the professional caddie who would be a professional player if they played well enough.|
The Keeper of the Green was engaged by North Berwick and Tantallon Golf Clubs with an annual salary to look after the ground,
supervise a number of men to roll, sweep and mow the greens and fill up iron-divot marks. He collected the visitors green fees
and was available to play the links at a set fee whether with skilled players or in the instruction of the game. He was supplied
with a building or outhouse for a club-makers' shop where he would employ several men and work himself at spare times.
He organised the 'professional players' to play with members, their guests and visitors or carrying their bags. In 1894 a first
class caddie received 1/7d and a second class caddie received 1/1d, with a penny being retained for club funds. A professional was
paid 3/6d a round while a teaching professional got 2/6d per hour. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were ten
licensed golf professionals working on the West Links at North Berwick. Six were engaged in giving lessons while the remainder
were available to play with the members and visitors. Many visiting familes would hired the pro for several days during their holiday.
The Green Committee which approved the licenses was made up from representatives of the four golf clubs playing the West Links.
The license was in fact a metal badge with a number attached to identify the individual who was sanctioned to act as a
professional or caddie and to charge the appropriate fee. If the professional had no engagements he was allowed to work as a
Although the Greens Committee had the final decision, it was the Starter who was the power behind the throne. He had the authority
to recommend that an individual be awarded a license as a caddie or professional. He also had the ability to remove the license
from anyone displaying bad behaviour. He was also known to have given the poorest caddie a shilling when times were hard.
The first recorded 'challenge' match at North Berwick was in 1844 between Willie Dunn and Allan Robertson, played over three courses,
St Andrews, Musselburgh and North Berwick. The earliest foursome match on the West Links was played between Allan Robertson and Tom
Morris from St Andrews against the Dunn brothers Willie and Jamie from Musselburgh. The matches were played each year from 1847 to 1850
but the only match to be documented was in 1849 which consisted of three games, 36 holes each, played over Musselburgh, St Andrews and
North Berwick for a purse of £400. Following the matches at Musselburgh and St Andrews the game was all-square leaving the final
result to be decided at North Berwick.
Each side had it's own band of supporters, but with Musselburgh being closer to the links at North Berwick they had a larger following,
lead by Douglas Gourlay the well known ball maker. The crowd were so anxious to see where the balls had landed, no sooner were the shots
played, the whole crowd ran forward in a wild dash to see who had the best lie, shouting and waving vigorously in support of their side.
They played six rounds of the six hole course at North Berwick, later a seventh hole was added named 'Gasworks' on the site of Duneaton
House. The Dunn's were favourites with the backers as they held the lead four up and eight to play. Robertson and Morris fought back winning
four the next six holes. At the penultimate hole (the present 17th) Allan drove the ball 130 yards, landing in a thick clump of grass. Tom
hacked it out, but two shots later he and Allan lay four in the bunker in front of the green. The Dunns lay twenty yards away for two, but
their ball came to rest on the cart track to the right of the fairway. The Dunn's took three shots to get out of the cart track, eventually
using the back of the club to move the ball. Robertson and Morris won the hole and when Robertson sunk his putt at the last for a win,
the tall figure of Sir David Baird, umpire for the day, then declared the St Andrews men winners by two holes.
Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple owner of the North Berwick estate said that although there was bad feeling between each section of
supporters, Tom Morris and Willie Park had great respect for each other and they enjoyed each others company particularily in
The North Berwick Town Council realised how important golf was to the local economy and encouraged the 'challenge' matches played
between the leading professionals. They attracted thousands of spectators to the town and the newspaper's dispatched their reporters
to cover the story which increased the public interest. In 1872 the Town Council offered Young Tom Morris and Davie Strath, twenty-five
pounds each to play a match at North Berwick. This was in effect appearance money which would have been frowned upon had the Council not
kept the matter quiet. In 1888, when the amateur matches became more popular the Town Council organised a scratch golf tournament, open
to amateurs, and Johnny Laidlay beat Horice Hutchinson in the final in front of a huge gallery.
In 1875, Willie Park and his brother Mungo challenged Old Tom Morris and his son to a match over North Berwick links which was
a repeat of the match from the previous year. They had arranged to take part in an Open tournament at North Berwick on Thursday
3rd September and agreed to play the foursome match on Saturday for twenty-five pounds.
The Morrises travelled by train from St Andrews to Leuchars, then changed trains for Burntisland where they boarded a ferry
crossing the Firth of Forth to Granton. A short train journey to Edinburgh Waverley Station and another down the coast to North
Berwick. The journey took over six hours to complete.
(Left) The Scotsman 13th January 1870.
The Open tournament played on the Thursday was backed by several gentlemen visitors who subscribed to the purse which attracted twenty
professionals. At the end of the third round of nine holes each, Young Tom Morris won the first prize of £7, Willie Park was
second and received £3, while Davie Strath was third and pocketed £2. Late in the day Robert Cosgrove entered a scorecard
one stroke better, but John Home W.S, 19 Castle Street, Edinburgh who was umpire for the day, disqualified him for 'marking his card
incorrectly'. Willie Dunn the local pro was also disqualified for the same reason. Bob Cosgrove protested but to no avail, and a few
years later Cosgrove married a North Berwick girl and they lived in Melbourne Place where he worked as a golf ball maker.
Old Tom and his son took lodgings in the Dalrymple Arms Hotel in Quality Street, and it was reported on the Saturday morning that
Old Tom enjoyed a swim in the West Bay before walking to the West Links where the match started at 11 am. The Morris's took an early
lead and were four-up but with three holes remaining of the final round, the Park's brought the match back to all square. The Morris's
won the penultimate hole and the last was halved giving the St Andrews men victory by one hole. Immediately on the conclusion of the
match, Young Tom received a telegram with the news that his wife was seriously ill in St. Andrews following the birth of their child.
Over the years various authors have written and embellished the story of the tragedy surrounding the death of Young Tom's wife and child.
This is a copy of the most accurate account published in The Scotsman on Monday 6th September 1875. 'Just as the balls were holed out on
the last putting green of the concluding round and the match declared won by the Morrises, a telegram was put into the hands of Young Tom
announcing that his wife was dangerously ill and requesting that he should get back to St Andrews with all possible haste. No train being
available till seven o'clock in the evening, the Morrises were about to start for Edinburgh by road in order to catch the last train for
Fife, when Mr. Lewis, one of the summer residents in the town, hearing of the news that had been received, suggested that they should sail
across in his yacht, which was lying in the harbour. Accordingly Tom and his father without a moment’s delay got on board of this craft,
and they had just cleared the harbour and were hoisting sail, when a messenger reached the pier bearing another telegram stating that Mrs.
Morris had given birth to a son, but that both mother and child were dead. The purport of the message being made known to a number of Tom's
friends who had been seeing him off, they agreed although the yacht was within easy hailing distance to allow it to sail without acquainting
those on board with the distressing news, fearing that the shock to the unhappy husband would be too great. Meanwhile rumours of what had
taken place found their way to the green, where another match between Park and Strath was in progress, and spreading among the groups on
the Links, cast a gloom over the remainder of the play, much sympathy being everywhere expressed for Morris who has been married scarcely
The health of Young Tom Morris deteriorated over the next three months and he died of an internal haemorrhage on Christmas morning, at the
age of 25 years. John Lewis who owned the yacht and his sister Isabella continued to live in Duneaton House in West Bay Road. When Isabella
died in 1939 she left instructions for the North Berwick Town Council to erect a drinking fountain at the top of the Quadrant which can still
be seen today.
Following the Park and Morris match there was another foursome played between Pringle and Paxton of Musselburgh against Martin of St Andrews
and Lowe of Leven, over two rounds of the links. The result was in favour of the former couple by 6 up and 5 to play. Willie Park and Davie
Strath played another match on Monday over four rounds with a purse of £10 which Strath won by two holes. Three days later Willie Park
won the Open Championship at Prestwick for the fourth time.
The earliest recorded greenkeeper on the West Links was local gardener Nicol Wright. He was employed by Tantallon Golf Club in 1855
to maintain the links and repair the flags with a wage of 30 shillings per annum. Nicol Wright, born 1813 in North Berwick, lived at
88 Westgate (now the site of Boots Pharmacy in the High Street). During the Summer and Autumn meetings Wright was assisted by Bernard Dall,
Davie Miller and Robert Dobie. There was also reference in the Tantallon accounts to paying a man to clean out the ditches (present burn),
carting turf, making holes, laying mole traps and the purchase of a cutter costing 5/- in 1858. North Berwick Golf Club employed George
Todd from Dirleton to tidy-up the links before their club meetings.
Tantallon employed Tom Dunn in 1869 at a salary of £3-2s to improve the course but he left the following year and joined his
father Willie Dunn Snr at Leith Links. Tantallon relinquished the maintenance of the links when a Green Committee was formed with
John Whitecross as chairman and Peter Brodie as secretary.
Davie Strath was appointed the first 'Keeper of the Green' in 1876, then James Beveridge (1880), before Tom Dunn returned in
November 1881 and remained for eight years. In 1869, Tom Dunn was the first professional to enter the Open Championship from North
Berwick. He entered the championship again from the town in 1886. Strath, Dunn and Beveridge were all talented golfers, and fine
| Jack White presented
the driver he used to win the 1904 Open Championship to his Sunday School teacher at Dirleton. |
| || || Davie Strath regularly
played the West Links partnering local golfers Peter Brodie John Whitecross. When the position of Keeper Of The Green was created Strath
was the natural choice. Although it has been suggested that Young Tom Morris was also offered the position in 1873. Davie Strath was
appointed Custodian of the Green on 5th September 1876. Tantallon Golf Club agreed to pay twenty-five pounds as their share of his
salary and North Berwick Golf Club paid ten pounds. Strath was a keen sportsman and was often found in the evening lying out at the
Eil Burn shooting wild ducks. Davie Strath and his wife Ann (Agnes) lived in the High Street before they purchased Point Garry Cottage,
(now Tantallon Golf Club Clubhouse) in May 1877.|
Strath was runner-up in the Open to Young Tom Morris in 1870 and 1872 and in 1876 he tied for the Championship at St Andrews with Bob
Martin but refused to play off because of a rules dispute. This was one of the most controversial Opens of all time as someone had
forgotten to book the golf course and players were competing amongst the regular public players. The St Andrews Citizen reported
competitors went out in 'a very straggling manner'. A protest was lodged against Strath alleging he played his approach to the 17th
green and struck a spectator. The Royal & Ancient ordered the replay but Strath demurred and said if a decision wasn't taken forthwith,
he wouldn't return. Martin walked the course alone and was hailed as the victor. After this debakle, Strath never played St Andrews again.
The following year he entered the Open at Musselburgh and finished 4th in a small field of players.
On the West Links at North Berwick the clubmakers workshop was situated in the quarry below the first green, where Davie Strath and
James Beveridge made clubs and balls. Strath suffered from consumption and facing another Scottish winter was advised to travel to
Australia where the climate would alleviate an illness which also claimed the lives of his four brothers. It is thought unlikely that
such advice would have been given by Dr. Hugh MacBain the Surgeon and Druggist in North Berwick, when alternative treatments were
available in Europe. On 14th October 1878 Strath sailed from Liverpool with a first class ticket on the S. S. Eurynome, the fastest
vessel of the time. During the 84-day voyage he contracted acute bronchial laryngitis and arrived in Melbourne in a poor state of
health. He died 20 days later on 28th January 1879 aged 29 years.
Strath died in a house on Royal Terrace, Fitzroy in the Carlton district of Melbourne, but due to a clerical error his death was
recorded as 'David Struth' and his remains buried in an unmarked grave in the Presbyterian section of the Melbourne General
Cemetery. It was not until 2005 that two golf historians discovered the truth and were able to erect a headstone over his grave.
Davie Strath's wife Agnes and their two children Ronald (2 years) and Daisy (1 year) remained in North Berwick. Agnes died less
than a year later on 8 January 1880. The official cause of her death was peritonitis but she probably died of a broken heart,
aged 36 years. Her orphaned children were taken to Dundee to be looked after by relatives. In May 1880 the Trustee's of
Agnes Strath's estate sold Point Garry Cottage to Archibald Smith, a Coal Merchant in Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Point Garry Cottage,
was convereted into a clubhouse for Tantallon Golf Club in 1896.
James Beveridge was appointed clubmaster when the North Berwick New Clubhouse was completed in June 1880. His mother was the cook
and along with his younger brother Daniel they resided in the staff quarters in the clubhouse. James Beveridge came from St
Andrews and was working in North Berwick as a club maker. He joined the Bass Rock Golf Club and won their scratch medal in 1877.
Left: James Beveridge circa 1896. |
Above: Advert from
'Golf' magazine, January 1898.
Right: William Kelly, Greenkeeper and Starter on the West Links.
| || ||
In August 1879, 28 year old Beveridge organised one of the most successful
tournaments to be held on the West Links. Twenty eight professionals took part including the top ten golfers in Scotland. The
first pairing of Jamie Anderson (St Andrews) and Bob Ferguson (Musselburgh) played the best golf, but the largest gallery
followed the old-timers Tom Morris and Willie Park. Bob Ferguson an expert with an iron to hold the plateau greens at North
Berwick won the tournament. The following year he won the first of his three Open championships in succession|
In 1882, James Beveridge, moved to the Royal Isle of Wight Club and in 1894 he was persuaded by Judge Horace Russell to emigrate
to America where he was appointed club maker and instructor to the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island. It had been arranged
for Andrew Kirkaldy to take over the position of head professional at Shinnecock following a recommendation by Tom Morris but Kirkaldy
failed to turn up. In 1898, the club advertised in the British press for a 'first class man' to give lessons during the summer and
James Beveridge was asked to assist with the selection. Following dozens of applications Willie Smith from Carnoustie was chosen.
Beveridge worked from a shop in Southampton (NY) where he died on 25th June 1899. When he arrived in the United States there were
only twenty five professionals and he is recognised today as one of America's golfing pioneers.
Tom Dunn returned to North Berwick in 1881 and was living with his family in Dunedin Lodge, 60 Forth Street where his daughter was
born. His second son Seymour according to the registrar was born on the West Links. Tom's children attended North Berwick Public
School until the age of twelve when John and Seymour were sent to Clydesdale College in Hamilton to continue their private
education. John studied up to the age of 15 years with a view to becoming a doctor and sat the entrance examine for Edinburgh
Every professional made his own brand of gutta balls and there was a lucrative trade in remaking old balls. On a Saturday morning
Tom Dunn stood at the first tee where he would dispose of two big sacks of remade 'six pennies' to trainloads of golfing youth out
for a day from Edinburgh. Tom's younger brother Willie Dunn Jnr. described as a slim boyish looking fellow, moved to North Berwick
where he apprenticed as a clubmaker. Willie was 15 years old when he played his first match against Ben Sayers at North Berwick and
won. In 1882, Willie partnered Sayers in a money match against the two Fernies at St Andrews. The first day was halved but the second
day Dunn and Sayers won the match by five holes. Willie entered the Open Championship for the first time from North Berwick in 1883
and again in 1884, and 1886.
In 1886, Willie Dunn Jnr defeated Willie Park at North Berwick going the first round in 70 to Park's 71 and established a new
record for eight holes in 28 strokes. When news of his brilliant play reached the town the shopkeepers closed their shops and made
for the links to watch the second round which resulted in a win for Dunn at the thirteen hole. Willie Dunn Jnr. immigrated to the
USA in 1891 and most historians now recognise the outstanding influence he had on American golf during the early years of the
In 1889, Tom Dunn left for France without informing the Green Committee of his absence as his son John Dunn had taken over his
father's duties at the Club. The committee also received complaints that Tom Dunn in his capacity as club master at North Berwick
was failing to attend to his duties. Dunn returned in October and was in his customary position on the first tee to see off the
Tantallon members for their Autumn Meeting. Tom Dunn replied to the complaints on 8th November 1889, " I understand my services
as custodian of the private green are no longer required. I accept my departure from North Berwick could have been misunderstood
as an abandonment of my position as green keeper, but my doctor insisted".
The challenge match between Harry Vardon and Willie Park at North
Berwick in 1899. |
(The photo was taken from Willie Park's house at 15, Beach Road.)
In 1887, the old timber workshop beside the first tee was taken down and a new club-makers workshop constructed, which is the
present professionals shop. Built by Peter Whitecross to plans drawn up by Tom Dunn and paid for by the landowner Sir Hew
Dalrymple. There is an outstanding example of a 1885 mid-spoon made by Tom Dunn at North Berwick in the British Golf Museum.
Ben Sayers took over as clubmaster for two years and was in attendance at all the North Berwick New Club meetings. In 1889,
Dunn was appointed to Tooting Bec G.C. where he laid out the Furzedown course. |
In 1889, Tom Anderson was second assistant greenkeeper to Tom Dunn on the West Links, before Dunn left and Davie Plenderleith
took over. Plenderleith resigned after a few months and was appointed to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at their
new venue of Muirfield where he followed the design staked out by Tom Morris. When Plenderleith resigned as head
greenkeeper the secretary of the Green Committee was instructed to telegram Tom Anderson, his former assistant now at Aberlady
to 'Come to North Berwick tomorrow at 11 o'clock'. In February 1890 Anderson was offered the job with a salary of £70 per
annum which was increased the following year to 30/- a week. He joined George Hunter (1892-1894) and Bob Dickson as
In 1895, Tom Anderson carried out the work to extend the course beyond the Eil Burn and create many new holes including the 14th
named 'Perfection'. According to Rev.John Kerr, credit for the layout of the 14th hole was due to 'the fertile imagination of the
energetic young secretary of the Green Committee', John McCulloch. Jack and his brother Sydney were members of Tantallon Golf Club,
both wining the Club Medal, Jack in 1889, 1897 and Sydney in 1892. The final of the Tantallon Club Medal in 1894 finished in a tie
between Jack McCulloch and A.M. (Sandy) Ross. In those days the crowd watching the play-off was so large it had to be kept in order
with a rope.
At the age of 25 years Jack was appointed secretary of the Green Committee, supervising the extension of the West Links golf course
in 1895. The majority of the old course remained as before with the new holes laid out beyond the Eil Burn, but it was the 14th
'Perfection' which gained the most praise. Apart for the railway sleepers (ties) being removed from the back of the cross bunker on
the 14th, the hole remains to this day as Jack McCulloch's 'fertile imagination' designed it.
When the new course was complete, Tom Anderson was given five guineas and his assistant Jimmy Litster from Dirleton a pound for laying
out the extension to the committee's instructions. Among his duties was to see the players off the first tee during the Club
competitions. In 1899, Tom Anderson took half-a-crown off each competitor for the sweepstake which that year amounted to £8-2-6d.Tom
Anderson resigned on 17th February 1900 and Bob Dickson was appointed head greenkeeper with Robert Johnstone Snr. and Robert Kelly as
Hugh Hamilton born 1870 in Norton Caves, Staffordshire was a member of Anderson's greenkeeping staff, his father also called Hugh
was born in North Berwick. The family lived in the Well Tower off Kirk Ports. Hugh Hamilton was appointed head gardener for Andrew
Carnegie the industrialist and philanthropist at Skibo Castle in Dornoch (1898-1899). In 1900, Hamilton returned to North Berwick
working under his former apprentice Bob Dickson who was by then head greenkeeper. When Dickson left in June 1902 Hamilton was
appointed head greenkeeper. In April 1903 Hamilton moved to Royal Portmarnock Golf Club in Ireland and in October that year Hamilton
was appointed custodian of the links at St Andrews. He took over from Tom Morris in 1904, with a wage of £3 per week, on condition
that he did not keep a shop, carry on the business of clubmaking or undertake work on other courses. 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. At Tom Morris's funeral, Hamilton as Links Superintendent followed the hearse carrying the Royal and Ancient
Golf Club silver club and balls draped in black velvet.
Hugh Hamilton wrote a chapter in the book 'Golf Greens and Green Keeping' entitled 'Treatment and Upkeep of Seaside Links'. The book
edited by Horace G. Hutchinson in 1906 included a series of articles written by among others James Braid and Harold Hilton. The book
continues to be used by golf course superintendents and has become a collectors item selling for over $15000 a copy. Hamilton who
latterly lived at 12 Forth Street, North Berwick parted company with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in September 1911, after being
warned by the committee about his excessive drinking.
Bob Dickson moved to Dollar Golf Club before being appointed head greenkeeper at Dunbar Golf Club in 1906. His wife was the stewardess
in the new clubhouse. Dickson moved to Headingley Golf Club in Leeds in 1909. His reference for the position of head greenkeeper was
Jack White from North Berwick, the pro at Sunningdale and Hugh Hamilton who Dickson had worked with for eight years at North Berwick.
Completing the Sunningdale connection, Harry S. Colt was re-designing the bunkers at Headingley when Dickson arrived. The following
year Jock L. Hutchison from North Berwick was appointed head professional at Headingley which must have been more than just a coincidence.
| Alex Denholm won the
Queensland Professional Golfers Championship in 1928. His older brother, Bob Denholm played golf for Scotland on 13 occassions,
and Duncan Denholm was pro at the Australian G.C in Sydney. Their younger brother, Jock Denholm was the town undertaker.
| || ||
Ben Sayers was primarily a ball maker until 1895 when he began to employ clubmakers in his workshop at 14, Quality Street (on the
site of the present Tourist Information Centre). Sayers had a reputation for making good quality gutta percha golf balls which he
supplied to Thornton & Co. a sports equipment store in Edinburgh. Clubmakers were associated with the professional ranks and were
often refused membership of a golf club. When Ben Sayers began to employ men solely as clubmakers the golf Clubs relented and
allowed them membership but they could not enter any Club competitions.|
In 1894, Sayers constructed a timber workshop on the garden wall of Inchgarry House adjacent to the 18th tee on the West Links.
This was extended in 1896 where he sold golf clubs and balls until 1918 when it was taken down. In 1912, Sayers opened a
retail outlet at 21, Station Hill. As the hardship of WW1 began to bite and the clubmakers were conscripted into the armed forces,
the shop in Station Hill was closed and Sayers business moved to the vacant workshop on the West Links.
When Ben Sayers was invited to layout a new golf course it was the practise to take with him an assistant to hold the yardage
marker. Sayers would then recommend that his young assistant be employed by the Club as their green keeper and professional
to supervise the new course as it matured. The assistant would have been just the latest to show promise as a golfer or clubmaker
at North Berwick. The town was small and Sayers knew all the families.
Over the years the licensed professionals on the West Links included Willie Dunn Snr., Willie Park, George Kay, Ben Sayers, Bob
Ferguson, Davie Grant Snr, John Arundel (Meadowbrook C.C. MI), Willie Auchterlonie (Glen View IL), James Braid (Walton Heath),
Alan Brodie (Lakeside VA), Benjamin N Campbell (Musselburgh) David Grant Jnr. (Dinard Club), Harry Gullane (Philadelphia
C.C-1899), Peter Hendrie (Ulen C.C Indiana), James L. Hutchison (Philadelphia C.C-1900), John Johnstone (Port Elizabeth SA), Robert
Johnstone (Seattle G.C. WA), Dan Kenny (North Toronto), Harry Logan (North Berwick), Arnaud Massy (La Nivelle), Robert Millar
(Kalamazoo MI), James Milligan (Wyoming Valley C.C. PA), Robert Murray (Dresden), R.G.MacDonald (Indian Hill, Winnetka IL), Ben
Sayers Jnr. (Wimbledon), James Souter (Tuxedo Park NY), William Stuart (Elderslie G.C. and Ralston G.C UK), George Thomson (Lenox MA),
Robert Thomson (Romford), Willie Thomson (Riverton NJ), Philip Wynne (Tooting Bec), John Morton (Freeport C.C IL), Peter Purves
(Essex Fells NJ), Thomas Stevenson, George Turnbull (Midlothian C.C. IL), Mungo Park Jnr. (Buenos Aires); Harry Turpie (Glenview IL),
Jack White (Sunningdale), Alex Lumsden (Bristol and Clifton G.C), Richard Kelly (Royal Norwich G.C), Alex Stuart (Caernarvonshire G.C),
Alex Marr (Wearside), John Thorburn (Kilmacolm G.C), James Kelly (Bramhall G.C), Alex Wilson (Lucerne C.C).
Access more detailed information on the Golf
Professionals and Club Makers listed above
Outside Hutchison's workshop circa 1894.
Standing (Left): Tom Anderson greenkeeper, Standing (Right):
James Crawford starter.
Seated (Left to Right) Willie Parker, James H Hutchison clubmaker and George Thomson caddie
| || |
| || ||
Park v Vardon Challenge Match (North Berwick) 1899|
In an article in Golf Magazine in 1898, Willie Park Jnr. challenged Harry Vardon to a 72 hole match; two rounds at North Berwick (West
Links) followed by two rounds at Vardon's home course at Ganton. The following year Vardon eventually accepted the challenge and each
man deposited twenty pounds of their own money into the hands of the editor of Golf Magazine. The first round was played at North Berwick
in July when over 7,000 spectators arrived by special trains to watch the match and it was reported that the local shopkeepers closed
their premises to follow the afternoon round. The size of the gallery surprised the organisers as the Prince of Wales was visiting
Edinburgh on the same day.
Harry Vardon travelled to North Berwick with his brother Tom as his caddie, carrying the clubs in a new canvas bag that had recently
come onto the market. Willie Park's caddied named 'Fiery' was of the old school and bunched the clubs under his arm. The links were
so crowded that many could not see the green, and a white flag with a red letter P for Park, and a red flag with a white letter V
for Vardon, was lifted in the air to inform the crowd which player won the hole. The referee for Park was Amateur Champion Freddie
Tait and the forecaddie was Norman Hunter, the Cambridge University amateur golfer, while the umpire was Edward L.I.Blyth a member
of Tantallon G.C. at North Berwick. Park played poorly throughout and over the double Vardon was the clear winner of what
has now been recognised as the last true challenge match ever to take place.
According to the report in The Scotsman on Friday 7th July 1899, the links were favoured with brilliant sunshine, while the heat was
so great as to be oppressive there being but a very light easterly breeze. Play commenced at 11 o'clock and Park being the challenger
had the 'honour' of teeing off first. Both used their driving mashie, and both balls landed short of the road crossing the first
fairway. Vardon's second was a high shot which reached the green. Park's shot landed on top of the hill a few yards from the edge
of the green. His run up to the pin was well played and though Vardon got within his ball, Park holed a six foot putt to open the
match with a half in four. Remarkably the first ten holes were halved in par. Vardon won the 10th and Park won the next two. At the
13th hole Park failed to clear the dyke giving Vardon the hole. Park won the 14th, Vardon took the next and the Englishman extended
his lead at the 16th when Park was unable to clear the dry ditch in two. The final holes of the morning round were halved and Park
was up by one hole.
During the tournament at North Berwick twenty policemen and twenty rope men were required and the members of Bass Rock and Tantallon
Golf Clubs acted as stewards. Seventeen year old, Dorothy Campbell was among the crowd watching the match between Vardon and Park and
was taken by the size of the gallery and how well the enormous crowd behaved. Not realising that within a few years Campbell herself
would play in front of 6,000 spectators, mostly dock labourers and miners, at Troon in the final of the 1907 Scottish Championship,
in which Frances Teacher from North Berwick defeated Campbell at the twenty-first hole. Also among the spectators was 22 year old
Frenchman Arnaud Massy who was enormously impressed with Harry Vardon during the challenge match against Willie Park Jnr.
The second round commenced at half-past three o'clock and Vardon won the first hole (Pointgarry-Out) to square the match. Park won
the second and third holes followed by a string of halves up to the ninth which Vardon won in four to go one up. The Englishman hit
a majestic approach at the tenth which laid him four yards from the pin. Down in four Vardon was two-up with eight holes to play. At
the eleventh Park won back a hole and when Vardon missed a two yard putt at the 12th (Quarry-In), Park squared the match.
The 1st and 17th greens were shared, and the 5th green (Hole Across) was situated south of the present fifth fairway close to the left
bunker. The 6th (Quarry-Out) was a par 4. The ninth hole was shorter than at present with the green situated adjacent to the end of
the wall. The course then turned eastwards and the 10th and 11th holes were laid out where the practice area is now. The 12th tee
(Quarry-In) was forward towards the Eel Burn and shared the green with the 6th (Quarry-Out).
The Scotsman report continued. "At the 13th (The Pit) Park took a dangerous line to the left and lay to all intents hard up
against the dyke. Vardon lying nicely on the course for the pitch across. For the second time in the round, Park had to have recourse
to his left-handed iron. He was not very successful in his effort. He struck the dyke and rebounded and with his next again fell foul
of the obstruction taking in all five to get over. To the general astonishment, Vardon failed to get across in two. He pitched a high
ball but without sufficient distance and dropped on the near side of the dyke all but hard up. He played a straight forward stroke
scrambled over and reached the green in three which practically settled the hole in his favour and made him one in hand with five to
Vardon was fortunate at 'Perfection' when his second shot hit a spectator and was diverted from reaching the beach. The hole was
halved and when the players reached 'Redan', Park's tee short was trapped in a bunker beyond the green. Vardon got down in three and
was one up with three to play. At the 'Gate' both players attempted to carry over the bunker with their second and both were trapped.
Park was so far favoured that his ball lay in grass and he could sole his club. Unfortunately he topped the ball and was still in the
hazard. Vardon got down in five which gave him the hole and was dormy two on the first half of the match.
At the second last hole Vardon was too strong with his approach and the ball rolled over the green on to the beach. Park was short
but his pitch recovered with such great style that he earned a hearty round of applause, and the hole was halved. Still two up Vardon
led the way to the last hole and struck a long ball about twenty yards beyond his opponent. Park judged his pitch shot well finishing
ten yards from the pin, but missed his putt for a three and the hole was halved in four.
Vardon v Park Challenge Match (Ganton) 1899
Two weeks later Park and twenty of his supporters travelled to Ganton. At the request of Vardon, Charles G. Broadwood the captain of
Ganton Golf Club acted as referee on his behalf. Ganton was a short parkland course with no fewer than seven out of the eighteen holes
reached from the tee and the remaining holes were the distance of a driver and an iron approach. The match was played on Saturday 22nd
July and attracted over 1500 spectators and wet weather prevailed throughout the day.
The result of the challenge match was reported in The Scotsman on Monday 24th July. Vardon struck his first drive down the fairway
while Park found the bunker and that mistake cost him the hole. Vardon was quickly up by two. He won the 3rd but Park turned the
tables on his opponent at the 4th hole by sinking a two-yard putt to reduce Vardon's lead to one.
At the fifth Park pulled his tee shot after being distracted with a disturbance in the crowd and his ball landed in a hollow which
was almost unplayable. Vardon won the hole in four and again stood two up. Park lost the 6th and at the 7th a driver, a brassie and
an approach iron were needed in order to reach the green. Park had a two-yard putt for a half in four but it lipped out. The
Englishman played the hole perfectly going down in four to increased his majority to four holes.
By the 11th hole Vardon was five up on the day's play. At the 16th Vardon won the hole in four to go six up. Park was short with his
pitch in playing the putt he laid the Englishman a stymie. Vardon tried to negotiate it with his lofter, although a good yard form
his opponent, it put him out of holing distance. Park lost the next two to finish the first round down by eight.
Of the eighteen holes, Vardon won eight, park won two and eight were halved. Adding the two holes by which Vardon won the first
half of the match at North Berwick to his majority of six holes on Saturday left the Englishman eight holes up, with eighteen to
The first three holes of the second round were halved and at the 4th, Park's second shot found a nasty ditch running along the
right edge of the green. The forecaddie had marked the spot were the ball landed but so thick were the reeds that a brief search
made it apparent that the ball was lost and Park accepting the inevitable gave up the hole. The next two holes were halved and
Vardon won the 7th hole with a four to go dormy up, and won the eighth and won the match by eleven up and ten to play. A hearty
cheer by the crowd greeted Vardon’s decisive victory and on all hands he received congratulations. Vardon was declared the winner
and presented with the £200 prize money.
Willie Park Jnr. wrote to North Berwick Golf Club thanking them for the way the tournament was organised and a letter was received
from Charles Broadwood, Captain of Ganton Golf Club where Harry Vardon was the professional in Scarborough. The clubmaster at North
Berwick complained that nobody requested a meal during the tournament and asked for compensation from the club for the provisions
he had purchased.
In March 1899 a boy with a red flag was stationed at Pointgarry in July, August and September to signal the Starter when each group
leaves. Throughout WW1 the professionals who remained in North Berwick had to make their wages during the summer months. Starting at
7 am, they could give as many as 12 lesson before dusk and earn 2/6 per hour.
In 1923 the Town Council appointed Robert Thomson as golf professional on the Burgh course. Thomson was born in North Berwick in
1876 and was a licenced professional on the West Links. In 1903 and 1905 he finished in the top six in the Open Championship. In
1904, he replaced James Braid at Romford Golf Club. Five years later he returned to North Berwick and in 1909 won the Scottish
Professional Championship. Robert 'Bob' Thomson (below) represented Scotland in the Home Internationals from 1903-1912 and that year he
was assistant to the International team captain James Hepburn from Carnoustie. The picture below of the 1909 Scottish Team at
Deal, includes Robert Thomson and Ben Sayers's son who played from 1906 -1909.
Scottish Team 1909
Charlie Smith, Jimmy Braid, Jack White, Robert Thomson, Ben Sayers Jnr.
Ben Sayers Sen. Sandy Herd, George
Duncan, Frank Coltart, Andrew Kirkaldy
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the clubmaker ......
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The original clubmakers workshop was situated in the quarry below the first
green where James Beveridge and Davie Strath made clubs and balls. A metal lamp-post dated 1877 is all that remains of the oil
lamp used by the club makers. Willie Dunn's 'box' was situated on the garden wall of Inchgarry House adjacent to the 18th tee
before it was moved beside the first tee in 1882. Willie Dunn Snr. was one of the first professionals to teach the game at
North Berwick during the 1850s. He was greenkeeper at Blackheath before being dismissed in 1864 for inappropriate behaviour
and he returned to the Thistle Golf Club at Leith Links. The Thistle Club leased No.8 Vanburgh Place as their clubhouse where
Willie Dunn Snr resided with his workshop situated in Vanburgh Place Lane. In 1869 he was joined by his son Tom Dunn and they
lived at No.7 Vanburgh Place. Willie Dunn Snr remained at Leith Links for ten years before settling at North Berwick. He died
at Millhill, Inveresk in 1878 at the age of 59 years.|
Tantallon Golf Club employed Tom Dunn in 1869 at a salary of £3-2s to improve the course but he left the following year and joined his father
Willie Dunn Snr at Leith Links. When Tom Dunn returned to North Berwick in 1881 he was joined by his younger brother Willie Dunn Jnr. a professional
at Chingford and Charlie Gibson a 22 year old clubmaker from Musselburgh. Gibson rented a room from Ann Denholm at 42, Westgate and among
the other boarders was North Berwick girl Helen Ramage who Gibson later married and they lived at 27 Westgate in 1889.
Gibson apprenticed as a cabinetmaker and joiner in the business run by his father and uncle, Charles and John Gibson at 8 Millhill, Inveresk
since 1868. When they retired in 1880 Charlie Gibson began clubmaking with Tom Dunn and moved to North Berwick when Dunn was appointed Keeper
of the Green in 1882. Tom Dunn was the first to occupy the timber workshop constructed in the hollow where the present professional's shop is
situated. This was demolished in 1889 when the present building was erected to Tom Dunn's design. Charlie Gibson and Tom Dunn trained many fine
clubmakers at North Berwick including Jack White in 1885.
Willie Park Snr. spent two years as a club and ball maker in the town (1873-75) before returning to Musselburgh. Ben Sayers, Robert Cosgrove
and Davie Grant Snr. were the only other ball makers in North Berwick. Prior to 1872 the golf balls were supplied by A & M Edington from their
general store at 89-91 High Street. Displayed in the British Golf Museum is a Ball-Marker Press (circa 1890), manufactured by J. & A. Bridges
at their North Berwick foundry. The other clubmakers were William Sutherland in Market Place, William S. Storie at the Marine Hotel and Henry
Wilson at 6 Shore Street (Victoria Road). Wilson entered the Open Championship from North Berwick in 1884.
Willie Dunn Jnr. was asked by Horace Hutchinson in 1886 to take charge of the historic links of the Royal North Devon Golf Club at
Westward Ho!. Willie was a popular figure in North Berwick and when he left for Devon in 1887 he was presented with a gold watch and
chain, subscribed to by over a hundred North Berwick golfers. Two years later when Dunn left the North Devon club he recommended
Charlie Gibson from North Berwick as his replacement. Bert Way was Dunn's apprentice at North Devon and when Dunn left Shinnecock
Hills on Long Island, he recommended W.H. 'Bert' Way as his replacement. Jack White continued his friendship with Charlie Gibson
and visited Westward Ho! on many occasions.
In 1899, Willie Park Jnr. bought the property at 15 Beach Road, North Berwick for the staggering sum of £3,000 at the time, which
he converted into an elegant shop on the ground floor and clubmakers workshop to the rear with the upper floor as his residence. He
brought Robert Sullivan a club maker for Musselburgh to manage the business. Willie Park Jnr. was the first to patent a golf club, it had
a concave face and the Patent No. 5042-1889. The idea was not new but Park monopolized the design for a considerable period. Park
entered the Open Championship from North Berwick in 1899.
When Willie Park Jnr. was asked to layout the course at Sunningdale he took with him Hugh MacLean from North Berwick. MacLean
originally from Inverness was employed by Willie Park to supervise the construction of the course which was opened in 1901. Jack
White was appointed professional at Sunningdale and in 1910 White recommended James Sheridan from Ferrygate Cottages, Dirleton for
the position of caddie-master. Sheridan was granted a caddie license on the West Links on 15th July 1899 while living at 11 Victoria
Road. As boys at North Berwick Jack White and Jimmy Sheridan caddied for amateur champion Johnny Laidlay who retired to a house he
called 'Auldhame' beside the Sunningdale course. MacLean stayed on as greenkeeper and Jimmy Sheridan was caddie-master at Sunningdale
for over 56 years and elected an Honorary Member.
Thomas Arundel a gardener, born in North Berwick in 1858 was the first local to enter the Open Championship in 1883. He was
followed by Henry Wilson (Prestwick 1884); Andrew Anderson (Muirfield 1892); Alexander Stuart (Muirfield 1892); Alexander
Lumsden (Prestwick 1893); Stuart L. Anderson (Prestwick 1893); Willie Thomson (Muirfield 1896); Harry Gullane (Muirfield 1896)
Alex Marr (Muirfield 1901); John Johnstone (St Andrews 1905) and James Souter (Deal 1909).
A significant improvement in clubmaking came about with the introduction of the gutty ball, when instead of splicing the end, the
hickory shaft was fitted into a hole in the club head made of a harder wood such as beech. With the increase in the popularity of
iron heads many Scottish blacksmiths abandoned their other areas of trade for clubmaking full time, calling themselves Cleek
A set of clubs around 1900 might consist of a driver, long spoon, a brassie, short spoon, cleek, mashie, iron, iron niblick for
bunkers and putter, although most golfers of the time usually played with five or six clubs. Some golfers even had baffies and
bulgers. The bulger was invented by Willie Park Jnr. and sold for five shillings.
| J. H. Hutchison - Long Nosed Spoon || || || || |
| J. H. Hutchison 1890s Cleek Mark |
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Many of the former North Berwick professionals returned to the town in June 1896 to play in the Open Championship at Muirfield.
They included Charlie Gibson (Westward Ho), Jack White (Mitcham), Andrew Denholm (Brighton) and the local pros Jack Ross, Willie
Thomson, Philip Wynne, Alex Marr and Harry Gullane. Ben Sayers Snr was the best placed, local tieing for eighth.|
Harry Vardon tied with J.H. Taylor for the Open Championship that year. The following day, not expecting to be involved in 36 hole
play-off, the two players were committed to a pre-arranged tournament at North Berwick. Vardon with one eye on the Open play-off
reserved his energies, and strolled round, finishing ninth. While Taylor's competitive spirit forced him into joint first place,
with Ben Sayers Snr and they shared the wining prize money of £8 each. While in the town Harry Vardon visited Ben Sayers timber
workshop beside the eighteenth tee, and his eye was caught by an old cleek discarded in the corner. He thought it would make an
excellent putter with a new, shorter shaft. The clubmaker obliged, and Vardon used it to great effect in the play-off, winning
his first Open Championship. Harry kept the cleek as a memento, and never used it again.
D & W Auchterlonie, from the famous St Andrews clubmaking family opened a workshop at the Glen course in 1907. David was the
clubmaker while Willie Auchterlonie, the 1893 Open Champion gave lessons. Clubs stamped with Auchterlonie - North Berwick are
highly collectable. 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 (mentioned above) and Peter Fernie. Alex Marshall, the club maker at 27 Station
Hill took over the workshop at the Glen course in 1911 where he repaired clubs. He was followed in 1919 by Robert Thomson who was
appointed Burgh golf professional from 1923-1938.
Following WW2 the Town Council appointed Arthur Fennell (1910-1974) as professional. He rented 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.
In 1889, James H. Hutchison took over the club-makers workshop beside the first tee on the West Links. The workshop was extended
in 1896 when a Caddie Shelter was built. Hutchison was club-maker on that site for twenty one years. He was the nephew of Peter
McEwan from the famous Musselburgh club-making dynasty. Hutchison was also the club-maker for the Hon. Company of Edinburgh Golfers
at Muirfield and was granted several patents. He produced the Dalrymple hammerhead clubs designed by Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple.
Hutichison's workshop also had lockers for rent and in 1891 Willie Cuthbert was the 'Box Keeper'. In 1895 James Hutchison employed
five club-makers including Tom Williamson from Grantham who was appointed professional at Notts Golf Club in 1896. Williamson was
Midland Stroke Play Champion on several occasions and played for England against Scotland nine times (1904-07, 1909-1913).
In 1909 Hutchison's son-in-law Andrew Bissett took over the business and his apprentice David Watt, the bother of James Watt
mentioned below was Scottish Professional Champion in 1914. David Watt was killed in WW1 serving with the Gordon Highlanders.
Ben Sayers continued the club making tradition on the site at the first tee from 1917.
James Watt from Dirleton served his apprenticeship as a clubmaker with William Park & Son in their workshop at 15, Beach Road,
North Berwick. Although Park's main clubmaking business was situated at Newbigging in Musselburgh, he opened a retail shop in London where Jim
Watt worked for a short period. In 1904, Donald MacKay, a clubmaker from Dornoch arrived in North Berwick and he started a
clubmaking business with Jim Watt at 1 Station Hill. In 1907 they were joined by Robert G. MacDonald, Dan MacKay's brother-in-law
also a clubmaker from Dornoch. Park's workshop at 15 Beach Road remained empty until 1910. MacDonald was granted a professional
license on the West Links while MacKay remained an amateur and joined the Rhodes Golf Club. Mackay emigrated to America in 1909
and MacDonald followed a year later, while Jim Watt continued the clubmaking business until he retired in the 1960s. In 1919, the
New York Times listed Robert G. MacDonald as the fourth best tour pro in the USA.
| Seymour Dunn wrote a monthly
article in the American 'Golf' magazine under the pseudonym 'Tantallon'.
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Club-making dates back to when the Dutch played their golf from 1300-1700. The game died out after that date because they did
not have the correct wood to make the clubs. The shaft on the early Dutch clubs was made from hazel and the head was lead. The
size of the head did not matter as distance was not important, they just scuffed the ball along the ice towards a stake in the
frozen canal. Golf was brought to the east coast of Scotland by the wool merchants who travelled to Holland to sell their wool
in the markets. The merchants played the Dutch form of golf and brought the game back to Scotland.|
The feathery ball also originally made in Holland was copied by ballmakers in Scotland. A man could produce two feathery balls
in a day making them very expensive and only the wealthy could play the game.
During this period the Scots made the best clubs because the bow-makers had turned their skills to clubmaking as the invention
of fire arms had put them out of business. The clubs had beech heads and ash shafts, spliced together and bound with twine, with
the grip made of sheepskin.
The use of gutta-percha in the manufacture of golf balls was a major influence on the game. Gutta-percha was a gum like rubber
and when placed in boiling water it softened and became malleable like putty that retained whatever shape it was moulded into
when cooled. Gutta-percha was also completely waterproof and became a vital application in the insulation of underwater cables
which connected the first telephone lines between the UK and Europe.
The ball was orginally smooth, but was found to fly better when the surface was hacked with a knife or hammer. Later the ball
was made in a mould when a regular pattern could be applied to the outer surface. The clubs used with the gutta-percha balls
were heavier, had a bigger splice, lots of lead on the back and a brass plate screwed to the bottom to protect the club from
damage. In 1850 there were only 15 golf courses and by 1900 this had increased to 2,300 in the world. This was due to the
gutta-percha ball which was cheap and durable.
The iron headed clubs before 1900 had a smooth face. When the Haskell ball was invented, which was made with a centre core,
bound with rubber thread then surrounded with an outer skin, the club heads were marked with grooves or dots which made the
ball fly better and further.
With the introduction of the more lively Haskell ball other woods were discovered for the shaft such as hickory and instead
of beech for the head they used persimmon with inserts of various materials adding the smack. Persimmon was a very hard wood
which could be bored to allow the shaft to be secured in the clubhead socket. When the supply of hickory and persimmon began
to run out other materials were tried and steel became the preferred option. Steel shaft suppliers in the UK were Accles and
Pollock with the 'Appollo' shaft and British Steel Golf Shafts Ltd. with the 'True Temper' shaft.
In 1912, a good driver cost five or six shillings with the top of the range costing ten shillings and after WW1 the price doubled.
Hickory shafts without the head cost sixpence to ninepence and in 1920 the same item cost seven shillings and sixpence.
The wooden head clubs were coloured with a natural stain known as 'Keel'. It was nothing more than coloured water collected from
the Glen or Eil Burns and used by Park and Sayers, which produced a light to dark tan. The rainfall determined how much sediment was moved
which effected the colour. Water from the area further inland to Port Seton gave keel a much darker colour as it was in a mining
region which produced a black dust. The rainwater which flowed into the river Tyne from the Lammermuir Hills gave a reddish brown
water which when soot was added was reputed to 'give a handsome colouring effect'. A number of fine examples of the club-making
skills from Hutchison, Bissett, Sayers and Watt, can be seen in the North Berwick Museum.
| Willie Dunn Jnr. worked with his brother Tom Dunn at North Berwick, before moving to France for five
years. He sailed to the USA in 1894 and won the Championship of America. His outstanding influence on the early game in America is
now being recognised.
John Dunn grew up in North Berwick and trained as a club maker under his father Tom Dunn. He
followed his uncle Willie Dunn to America and became a respected golf instructor.
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Read an article written by John D Dunn on the technique of Remaking Golf Balls in
Alex Denholm pro at Royal Queensland GC in Australia, could remember many of the early golfers making their own golf balls. It was
not uncommon to see a line of dark brown gutties, like walnut shells drying out on the window ledge before they were painted white.
Alex could remember Henry Gullane causing quite a stir when he hit a drive of 400 yards with a guttie into a strong wind at North
Berwick in 1895.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the guttie ball was well and truly gone and the rubber-core ball encased in gutta-percha was
in general use. This design improvement added about twenty-five to fifty yards to drives and immeasurably changed the game. Harry
Vardon was given his first Haskell ball at North Berwick by Henry Gullane a local professional just returned from America.
First Black African American golfer and the North Berwick Pros
The early Scottish pros in America played regularly with the black golfer John Shippen, he was the first African American to play
in the U.S. Open. In those days racism was a very significant issue within all levels of American sporting events and golf was no
exception. George Douglas from North Berwick was among the favourites at the start of the 1896 US Open Championship. Shippen shot
a 78 in the first round and shared the lead with five other golfers. He remained in contention until he drove his ball onto a sandy
road at the par 4, 13th hole and scored an eleven, carding 81 on the day. His two-day total of 159 placed him fifth in a field of 32,
wining $10 dollars. George Douglas representing the Brookline Country Club finished fourth equal on 158. Also in the field was Tom
Warrender from North Berwick who escorted sixteen year old Willie Anderson to America earlier that year.
Despite Shippen's talent for the game, many American golf clubs continued to refused him access, but he was welcomed by
the Scottish golfers. Headlines appeared in the New York Times such as 'Fourteen Scotch golfers and one negro took part in the
professional tournament at Knollwood.' On New Years Day 1898 a tournament was organised at Ocean County and Country Club, Lakewood,
New Jersey when John Shippen joined the largest gathering of North Berwick golf pro's outside Scotland. The pioneers included James
Campbell (Torresdale, PA); Tom Harley from Aberlady (North Jersey C.C); Robert M. Thomson (Merion Cricket Club); Harry Gullane
(Philadelphia C.C, PA); Harry Reddie (Saint Andrews G.C. NY); John Forman from Musselburgh and North Berwick (Dutchess C.C) and Willie
Anderson the winter pro at Lakewood. The competition was played on New Years Day 1898, with the ground being frostbound and the keen
wind made scoring difficult. The Fitzjohn brothers from Muirfield contested the play-off which Val Fitzjohn won and received $75
In January 1896 there were only 6 courses with 18-holes in the USA. In 1898, the salary for a golf professional in America was
between $10 and $20 per week, almost twice as much as a tradesman's wage in Scotland. Added to that was teaching fees of 50
cents to 1 dollar each lesson. In 1899, Shinnecock Hills refused to pay their pro a retaining salary and instead his salary was
made up from the sale of goods and from the fees for golf lessons. In 1902, the pros could earn $3000 during the winter in
Florida alone, lessons were $2 per hour and some of the New York clubs were paying $75 per month.
Jack Hobens and James R. Thomson were founder members of the PGA of America, and Hobens helped to draft the constitution. Many
secured work in New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania, moving south during the winter months to open up Florida where there were
only four golf courses in 1897. Others would return home on vacation, sailing on the RMS Lusitania to impress their family and
friends. Built in 1906 the Lusitania sailed from Liverpool and was the fastest liner in the world, taking five days to complete
One of the most famous amateur players in America was Walter J. Travis, who was born in Australia and became a citizen of the
United States. In 1908, he established the American Golf magazine which carried regular articles on many North Berwick golf
professionals in the USA, as well as the monthly medal results from Tantallon G.C and North Berwick New Club.
Travis won four US Amateurs and a US Open between 1907-1915. He visited North Berwick in 1901 and played Muirfield with Ben
Sayers. Travis was the first foreign winner of the British Amateur Championship at Sandwich in 1904. That year he practiced at
North Berwick in preparation for the championship. Travis played in many exhibition matches with Dorothy Campbell in the USA, he
wrote an instruction book with Jack White and invited Ben Sayers to his home in 1914, during Sayers first visit to America. Walter
J. Travis was North Berwick's golfing ambassador in the USA, promoting the town's golfers at every opportunity.
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Ellis Island Passenger List: SS Celtic, 18th March 1903 |
Frederick McLeod 20 years, James Hutchison 24 years, William Hobens 20 years, George Thomson 21 years. Copyright © Ellis Island.
The 1911 Open Championship at Royal St George's Golf Club, Sandwich in Kent was the end of an era for the North Berwick golfers. Never again
would so many men from the West Links qualify for the Championship. The field included, John Johnstone, James Souter, Robert Thomson, David
Stephenson, Andrew Grant, and Willie Watt. North Berwick's adopted son, Frenchman Arnaud Massy came so close to winning his second Open that
year but was defeated in a play-off by Harry Vardon.
At the 1913 US Open Championship at the Country Club of Brookline eight former North Berwick men entered the tournament. This was the
championship featured in the book 'The Greatest Game Ever Played' by Mark Frost. When Harry Vardon and Ted Ray where beaten in a play-off
by the American amateur Francis Ouimet.
In the first qualifying round Fred McLeod partnered Harry Vardon and on the second day of qualifying Jack Hobens played with Ted Ray.
Hobens described as a small stocky man with pop-eye fore-arms, was a long hitter like Ray. They both launched the ball off the first
tee amidst shouts from the gallery and they took over a thousand spectators with them. Tom Anderson Jnr wore flamboyant clothes and
enjoyed the press attention. A young Walter Hagen was so impressed with him that he copied Anderson's entire wardrobe. James Milligan
and Jimmy Campbell failed to qualify but the Thomson brothers James and Robert played all four rounds. Their older brother Alex Thomson
was personal golf instructor to Lord Northcliffe who sponsored Vardon and Ray's trip to America. Northcliffe sailed to Boston to watch the
championship and followed the Ray, Hobens match. Bob MacDonald, the club-maker with James Watt also qualified and finished twenty-eighth.
The majority of the North Berwick golfers stayed in the Copley Square Hotel in Boston.
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Scottish Team in 1903 (Prestwick)
(standing) R. Smith, G. Coburn, J. Braid, R.Thomson, W. Park, W. Fernie.
(seated) J. Kinnell, J. Kay, A. Herd, J. White, B. Sayers, J. Hepburn, The team included five Open champions.
On 5th August 1933, the US Open Champion Walter Hagen and Denny Shute played an exhibition match on the West Links against Robert B.
Denholm and William B. Torrance. The Americans were in Britain as part of the US Ryder Cup team which was defeated that year by Great
Britain and Ireland at Southport in Lancashire. The New York Times reported that over 3,000 spectators swarmed over the West
Links, North Berwick causing long delays. This was Shute's first visit to Britain and the American duo beat the famous
International amateurs Denholm and Torrance 3 and 2. Three years later Denny Shute defeated North Berwick's Jimmy Thomson in the
final of the US PGA Championship.
In the 1950s TV stations were delivering live sports on a Saturday afternoon directly into every living room and the number of
members joining a golf club fell dramatically. It was another two decades before the TV images of the swashbuckling Arnold Palmer
was the saviour of the sport and interest began to slowly return to the Royal and Ancient game.
| Copyright © Douglas C. Seaton, 2014, All Rights