Discover the 10 Oldest Golf Clubs in the World: A Journey Through Golf History

Colin McCarthy

Oldest Golf Clubs In The World

Golf, a sport steeped in tradition and history, boasts some of the world’s oldest clubs that have stood the test of time. If you’re a golf enthusiast, exploring these historic courses offers a unique glimpse into the game’s rich heritage.

From the Royal Burgess Golf Society founded in 1735 to the Burntisland Golf Club established in 1791, each course tells a story of centuries-old passion and dedication to the sport.

Playing at these venerable clubs isn’t just about the game; it’s about walking the same fairways as some of golf’s legends.

Imagine teeing off at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, established in 1754, or navigating the challenging greens of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, formed in 1744.

These courses not only offer a test of skill but also a journey through the annals of golfing history.

1. The Royal Burgess Golfing Society (1735)

Steeped in history, The Royal Burgess Golfing Society in Edinburgh, Scotland, is recognized as the oldest golf society in the world. Its roots trace back to the early 18th century.

Founding and Historical Background

Founded in 1735, The Royal Burgess Golfing Society initially gathered at Bruntsfield Links. Officially recognized by the City of Edinburgh, the society quickly became a prestigious institution.

The club’s early records include prestigious names and significant events, such as formal matches and competitions that were meticulously documented, adding to its esteemed reputation.

Notable Moments in the Club’s History

The club has seen many historically significant events. In the mid-18th century, the society adopted formal rules and regulations, setting a standard for golf clubs worldwide.

Among its distinguished members was John Rattray, a known champion who won several matches in the 1740s.

More recently, the course has evolved to meet modern standards while preserving its classic charm, earning praise from both historical enthusiasts and contemporary golfers.

2. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (1744)

Founded in 1744, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is famously recognized as the world’s oldest golf club.

Origin and Evolution Over the Years

Edinburgh City Council approved the establishment of the club on March 7th, 1744. The first competition took place on the Links of Leith, with the winner receiving a silver club and the title “Captain of the Golf” for the following year.

The original competition rules, 13 articles in total, were signed by John Rattray, who won the initial event. Over the years, the club relocated to Musselburgh Links before finally settling in Gullane in 1890.

Today, Muirfield, the club’s current location, is revered globally as a premier Open Championship venue, known for its elaborate bunkering and stunning greens.

Key Figures and Historic Tournaments

John Rattray, a skilled surgeon and golfer, took home the first prize and subsequently became The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ first captain.

He signed the first official set of golfing rules, which became the foundation for future codes of the game. Rattray continued his success, winning again in 1745.

However, he was later caught up in the Jacobite rising, ultimately avoiding execution thanks to the intervention of his golfing partner, Lord Duncan Forbes.

The club’s significance continued with notable captains like Sir William St Clair of Rosslyn, who served three terms in the 18th century. These early competitions set the stage for the club’s rich legacy in the golf community.

3. The Royal And Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (1754)

Established in 1754, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews holds a special place in the heart of golf enthusiasts worldwide.

Overview and Impact on Modern Golf

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, founded in 1754, is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the world.

Established as the Gentlemen of Fife, it quickly became a central institution for the sport. This club played a critical role in standardizing the rules of golf, which have influenced the modern game as we know it.

The St Andrews Links, often referred to as the “Home of Golf,” are held in high esteem globally, drawing golfers from all over to experience their historical significance and challenging courses.

The club’s commitment to fostering the sport’s growth and maintaining its traditions has left an indelible mark on the golfing community.

Memorable Championships and Events

St Andrews has hosted numerous memorable championships and events that have shaped golf’s history. The first Open Championship held in St Andrews took place in 1873, firmly establishing the Old Course as a premier venue.

It has since hosted the Open Championship 29 times, more than any other course. Legendary players like Jack Nicklaus, who won in 1970 and 1978, and Tiger Woods, who claimed victory in 2000 and 2005, have graced its greens.

The course is also known for pivotal moments, such as the dramatic playoff between Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros in 1984.

These events have cemented the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews as a cornerstone of golfing history.

Established in 1761, the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society holds a significant place in the history of golf, particularly in Scotland.

Beginnings and Development

Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, established in 1761, holds a significant place in golf history. Located in Edinburgh, this club was initially based at Bruntsfield Links before moving to Barnton in 1898.

Its early days saw local golfers practicing on a course known for its challenging design and picturesque landscape. The society expanded its membership over the years, attracting many dedicated golf enthusiasts.

Contributions to Golf Rules and Equipment

Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society contributed notably to the evolution of golf rules and equipment. Early members played a vital role in refining golfing techniques and fostering advancements in club and ball design.

Their efforts influenced the broader golfing community, helping standardize key aspects of the sport that are still in practice today.

5. Royal Blackheath (1766)

Established in 1766, Royal Blackheath Golf Club holds the distinction of being one of the oldest golf clubs in England, adding to the rich tapestry of golf’s history.

Early History and Legendary Figures

Royal Blackheath, established in 1766, boasts a rich history and has produced many legendary figures in golf. Located in London, it’s one of the oldest golf clubs outside Scotland.

The club’s early members were instrumental in laying the groundwork for organized golf in England. Players like John Rattray, known for his victory at Leith in 1745, often visited and played at Royal Blackheath, contributing to its storied past.

Significant Contributions to Golf

Royal Blackheath has significantly contributed to the sport’s development. It played a key role in popularizing golf in England and beyond. The club’s early adoption of formalized golf rules helped standardize play across different regions.

Its members have been active in fostering golf’s growth, participating in the creation of various competitions and tournaments, which have become staples in the golfing calendar.

6. Royal Musselburgh (1774)

Established in 1774, Royal Musselburgh Golf Club holds a prestigious position in the history of golf, particularly in Scotland.

Establishment and Key Achievements

Founded in 1774, Royal Musselburgh Golf Club boasts a rich history. Initially located at Musselburgh Links, the club moved to its current site in 1925.

Established as one of the premier golf clubs, it’s recognized for its deep-rooted traditions and competitive spirit. The Old Club Cup, an annual tournament held since 1774, is one of the world’s oldest golfing competitions.

Another historic gem is Muirfield, home to The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, founded in 1744.

Known for hosting several Open Championships, Muirfield remains an iconic venue. Its challenging layout and strategic design have made it a favorite among professionals and amateurs alike.

Historic Events and Legacy

Royal Musselburgh has witnessed significant historical moments. The original 9-hole course, situated inside Musselburgh Racecourse, hosted early Scottish golf societies like Burgess, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, and Bruntsfield.

The club’s relocation did not sever its ties to its historic legacy. As you walk these fairways, you’re treading paths once frequented by golfing pioneers who helped shape the sport into what it is today.

7. Crail Golfing Society (1786)

Established in 1786, Crail Golfing Society stands as one of Scotland’s oldest golf clubs, enriching the sport’s rich heritage.

Foundation and Early Challenges

Crail Golfing Society, founded in 1786, is the seventh oldest golfing society in the world. The society’s early years weren’t smooth sailing.

Members often faced challenges like maintaining the course and navigating the evolving rules of golf. The dedication of its early members was crucial in overcoming these obstacles, ensuring the society’s longevity.

Courses and Landmark Events

The original course was designed on land overlooking the Firth of Forth, offering scenic views that remain a highlight today. Throughout the centuries, Crail expanded its facilities and now boasts multiple courses, including the renowned Balcomie Links.

Landmark events like the introduction of the Crail Golfing Society’s annual medal competition have cemented its status in golfing history. These events attract golf enthusiasts from around the world, contributing to the society’s rich legacy.

8. The Old Course at St. Andrews (1552)

The Old Course at St. Andrews is not just a golf course; it’s a legendary site where the game as we know it was born.

Significance as the World’s Oldest Golf Course

Being the world’s oldest golf course, The Old Course at St. Andrews has an unmatched historical significance. Dating back to 1552, this iconic venue is where golf’s 18-hole format originated.

Walking these ancient fairways, you’re literally following in the footsteps of golfing greats. The St. Andrews Links Trust meticulously preserves its heritage while ensuring modern enthusiasts can experience the rich tradition.

Major Championships and Influence

The Old Course at St. Andrews has hosted numerous major championships, cementing its influence on the sport.

Over the years, it has been the stage for some of golf’s most memorable moments, including victories by legends like Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, and Tiger Woods.

Its challenging layout continues to test the skills of top golfers, contributing to its reputation as a premier championship venue.

The course’s design and traditions have also influenced numerous other golf courses worldwide, shaping the way the game is played and perceived across continents.

Montrose Links holds a unique position as one of the oldest golf courses in the world, with a rich history dating back to 1562.

Discovery and Development

Montrose Links, founded in 1562, stands as one of golf’s oldest treasures. Situated along the scenic Scottish coastline, this remarkable course offers an authentic slice of golfing history.

Originally constructed as a modest nine-hole course, it was later expanded to 18 holes. The revered golf architect Harry Colt redesigned the course in the early 1900s, adding strategic elements that continue to challenge players.

Playing at Montrose Links means walking in the footsteps of golfing greats and experiencing a layout that has evolved yet retained its historical essence.

Notable Players and Competitions

Montrose Links has hosted numerous significant competitions and celebrated many notable players. The course has seen local legends and international champions grace its greens, each adding to its rich history.

The 1562 Championship Course is renowned for its challenging features, drawing professionals and amateurs alike for training and tournaments.

The course’s enduring appeal lies in its blend of history and challenge, making it a staple in the golfing community both in Scotland and worldwide.

Musselburgh Links, established in 1672, holds the distinction of being one of the oldest golf courses in the world, contributing significantly to the rich history of the sport.

Origin and Evolution

Musselburgh Links, dating back to 1672, is steeped in centuries of golf history. Originally only seven holes, Musselburgh Links expanded to eight in 1838 and reached its current nine-hole format in 1870.

The course stands as a testament to golf’s evolution, showcasing how the sport has grown from its early days to the globally loved game it is today.

Guinness World Records once recognized Musselburgh Links as the world’s oldest golf course until St Andrews uncovered records dating back to 1552.

Influential Tournaments and Golf Figures

Musselburgh Links has played host to many influential tournaments and golfers throughout its history.

Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, an Edinburgh lawyer, meticulously recorded his rounds at Musselburgh Links in 1672, providing some of the earliest documented evidence of the sport.

The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, established in 1774, further cemented the course’s legacy in the golf world.

Throughout the years, numerous prestigious tournaments have been held here, attracting top players and contributing significantly to the sport’s rich heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are some key historical figures in early golf history?

Key figures include John Rattray and Sir William St Clair of Rosslyn, both significant in shaping the early history of the game.

When was Montrose Links established?

Montrose Links was founded in 1562, making it one of the oldest golf courses in the world.

What was Harry Colt’s role in Montrose Links?

Harry Colt redesigned Montrose Links, contributing to its development and enhancing its layout for the modern game.

What is the significance of Musselburgh Links in golf history?

Musselburgh Links, established in 1672, is recognized as one of the oldest golf courses, hosting influential tournaments and the renowned Royal Musselburgh Golf Club.

How have historic golf clubs contributed to modern golf?

Historic golf clubs have shaped the game through early rule formalization and are known for blending tradition with innovation to remain relevant today.


In tracing the origins of golf, the exploration of the ten oldest golf clubs offers a captivating journey through the sport’s rich history.

From the venerable Royal Burgess Golfing Society, founded in 1735, to the historic Musselburgh Links, established in 1672, each club embodies centuries of passion and dedication to the game.

These clubs, scattered across Scotland and England, have not only stood the test of time but have also shaped the evolution of golf, contributing to its rules, traditions, and cultural significance.

Their enduring legacy serves as a testament to the enduring allure and timeless appeal of the world’s oldest and most esteemed golfing institutions.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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