How apt that the first course we come to in East Lothian (continuing clockwise round the coast) is Musselburgh Old Links. This 9 hole track, contained inside a race course, is one of the cradles of our game.
They’ve been playing golf at Musselburgh since at least 1672, and maybe even further back than that. This was the second home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers - after they left Leith Links and before they settled on their new home at Muirfield.
Musselburgh was one of the original ‘Open Rota’ courses too. After Young Tom Morris won the Championship belt with 3 consecutive wins at Prestwick (the original home), a rota was established with Prestwick, The Old Course and Musselburgh - with the championship hosted 6 times over this 9 hole links.
The contribution to the game doesn’t end there. Ma Foreman’s, the pub behind the 4th green, is widely regarded as the first ‘halfway house’. Its also where the hole size became standardised. Now the world over, the 4.25 inch hole size came from a piece of Musselburgh drain pipe.
The game has moved on so much that Musselburgh doesn’t provide the test it once did. The green complexes are still wonderful - full of tiers, plateaus and character. I visited back in October with the @cookiejargolf guys, and we played with hickory clubs - and I think that’s definitely the way to best understand it. Undoubtedly one of golf’s great pilgrimages, a rare chance to experience a living piece of history.