The history of the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club dates to 1774 at least, as their Old Club Cup has winners listed back to that year. The cup was presented to the club by Mr Thomas McMillan of Shorthope who won it in 1774 and became Captain of the club.
There is however a statement in the 1845 Statistical Account of Scotland by the Rev Leslie Moodie, Minister of the Parish of Inveresk, to the effect that a local golf club was formed in 1760, consisting of the principal gentlemen of the town and vicinity. This is reportedly based on notes from the Rev Moodie’s predecessor, the Rev Alexander Carlyle, who was Minister at Inveresk from 1748 until his death in 1805.
The Reverend ‘Jupiter’ Carlyle was moderator of the Church of Scotland in 1770 and a notable figure in Scottish history. He was a controversial character invoking censure for his behaviour on occasions. He was also a renown golfer and second winner of the Old Club Cup in 1775. In 1758, he also performed the world’s first recorded golf trick shot in London with a club now apparently in the possession the Royal Blackheath Golf Club. He resigned from the Musselburgh club in 1786.
The Old Club Cup -the oldest trophy still competitively played for in the world.
For their first 150 years, the (Royal) Musselburgh club played over the Old Course at Musselburgh and saw it grow to nine holes by 1870. They shared it with other old and prestigious clubs, most notably, for the last years of the 19th Century, the (Royal) Burgess, The Honourable Company of Leith Golfers and Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society.
Musselburgh golf club appears a relaxed and modern club who did not take themselves too seriously. They met in various hostelries round Musselburgh and elsewhere.
Former Royal Musselburgh clubhouse
After years of meeting in various places round Musselburgh, the club built a clubhouse in Links Place, (now 9 Balcarres Road shown above), which was formally opened on 16th October 1873 with a dinner of forty-four people. The Honourable Company from Leith built their clubhouse next door at No 10 Links Place. When the later decamped in 1891 to Muirfield, the Musselburgh club moved into the Honourable’s old clubhouse
Another claim to fame that the Royal Musselburgh have is to be the club who bought an automatic hole cutter in 1829, which subsequently became the standard hole in golf.
In 1830 they played possibly the first two recorded six-a-side club matches. These were against the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, who were on the point of moving to Musselburgh Links themselves. Bruntsfield won the match on October 15th by three holes, but Musselburgh won the replay in November by one hole. On 1st February 1834, the Bruntsfield club minutes record that the match between the two clubs had grown to a ten-a-side match, which the Musselburgh lost by five holes, costing them ‘one dozen of wine’.
On 19th December 1876, HRH Duke of Connaught, Hon President of the Musselburgh club granted permission for it to use the term Royal. He remained patron of the club until his death in 1942, probably the longest royal association with any golf club. His son HRH Prince Arthur was Hon Vice President from 1912 until his death in 1938. Another esteemed Honorary Member was His Imperial Highness, The Grand Duke Michael of Russia who was a committed golfer and attended the ceremony in 1887 where the Connaught Cup was presented to the club.
In 1925, after 150 years of crowded play at Musselburgh Old Course, the Royal Musselburgh moved down the road to Prestongrange House at Prestonpans, which they took on a 25-year lease from the Grant Suttie family. The course was first designed by James Braid, but has been remodeled since.
Unusually for a private club, they still lease their grounds, in this case, since 1958, from the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.