Historians uncovered the earliest record of golf being played on any surviving golf course from an account book kept by Sir John Foulis of Ravelston in 1672 "he lost at golfe at Musselburgh." No other course in existence can claim this title.
Following the demise of her unruly husband, Lord Darnley, Mary, Queen of Scots was arrested in 1567 at Seton House, just a few miles along the coast. She had been implicated in plotting with those who lit the fuse that blew up his Edinburgh home, with him still inside! It was noted on the indictment she went to Seton to play golf. This would most probably have been at Musselburgh. King James VI of Scotland, later to be James I of England, was also reported to have played here.
We cannot know how the course was then set out as no records survive. But we do know how the course developed from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Old Links had seven holes, with The 'Home Hole' added in 1832 and the final hole, "Hole Across" created in 1870. Today some changes occurred in 1985 with the shortening of "Barracks Entry" and again in 1996 with a new "Gas" hole being introduced. The course was lengthened slightly at this time.
The first three holes stretched eastward from the racecourse grandstand, which incidently doubled as the former clubhouse of the Honorable Company until 1868. To the right is the main traffic route to which golfers would often slice their shots. They would play back to the links using the new brass-soled clubs designed by Musselburgh club makers for this purpose (commonly known as a "brassie"). At the now, fourth green still stands Mrs. Foreman's Inn. Through a hatch in the wall refreshments were passed to the early golfers. The hatch still exists but legislation prevents its use for the modern golfer.
The course turns northwest with the short hole playing back towards the sea. The next three holes follow the coastline and the last hole returns south towards the grandstand. The "Home Hole" has now become the first after the course alterations in 1996.
A Very Interesting Fact
Why is the size of the hole four and a quarter inches? Prior to 1893 holes on golf courses could vary in size. It all depended upon where you played. The Musselburgh hole had been cut since 1829 with a converted piece of drain pipe and the diameter of the hole cut was four and a quarter inches. This standard was adapted by the Royal & Ancient Golf club in 1893 when they began the business of standardizing the rules of golf. So, next time your putt lips out, you can now blame Musselburgh for not having wider drain pipes!