Hickory golfers all over the world are familiar with the Musselburgh Links, a historic 9-hole track in Musselburgh, Scotland which holds the distinction of the being the world’s oldest golf course and the oldest on which play has been continuous. According to a recent story in the East Lothian Courier, an investment group called Blue Thistle Ltd. is making a $10 million bid which would see the nine-hole course, par-34 course “regenerated, restored and recreated to the style and reputation of its former glory.”
The bid is not being well-received by many of the Musselburgh Council members and local play groups. It seems they like their course just as it is. The story explains all.
BTW – some interesting footnotes about this course. The Musselburgh Links is one of those classic courses that every hickory golfer from the US tries to play. I first teed it up there in 2007 when my son played the USKids European Championship in nearby Gullane. At that time, Musselburgh was a neglected mess. We stayed at a B&B across the street and our hosts chuckled when we said we wanted to play the Musselburgh Links. There were many better courses in the area, they promised. The Links were a dump.
We still played it and enjoyed it immensely, but I understood their point. The clubhouse was a wreck and the course was shaggy and poorly maintained. I heard a lot about an ongoing battle between people who preferred the centuries-old horserace track surrounding the course and wished the Links would vanish (the way they fight about anything historical in Scotland is a sight to behold). The course was seen as some old hag from the past that a significant portion of the local population didn’t care about or enjoy.
A few years later, I returned to Scotland with some American hickory friends and the vibe at Musselburgh Links was totally different. Money had been invested in the facilities and course and it showed. It wasn’t over-the-top, but they seemed to understand the historical jewel they had in their hands and were striving to maintain it. I even heard comments about cleaning up Mrs. Forman’s Public House, the bar next to the 4th green at Musselburgh, was believed to be the only place in the world where you could order and enjoy a drink on the green during a match. According to locals,Mrs. Forman’s had turned into an unsavory biker bar (apparently, the cleaning went further than anticipated and Mrs. Forman’s is now closed to make way for housing).
My point is this – the course was recently brought up to a well-maintained historical spec. The desire of this group to drop $10 million would change the character of the place considerably. I hope they never get a chance to mess up the property, which belongs to the town and, more importantly, to golfers everywhere who care about history.