A History of Golfing in Crail

Crail has been associated with golf for many centuries. Our exhibition traces the game from the early Dutch traders who, brought a form of it to Scotland. We explore  early golf club manufacture, famous golfers Allan Robertson and Tom Morris, the formation of Crail Golfing Society and its sister club The East Neuk o’Fife Golf Club.

Golf clubs were handmade all over Scotland, wherever the game was played. Wooden clubs were crafted by bow makers using the art of gluing overlapping timber. Iron clubs were forged by heating and hammering techniques.

The clubs had names such as mashie, niblik and spoon. Modern day equivalents are numbered one to nine. Many examples are in the exhibition.

A game resembling golf was introduced in the east of Scotland by Dutch traders, fishermen and tradesmen who came here from as early as the 9th century. The Scots took up the idea and expanded it into the game we know today.

Golf was played on what is known as links ground, low lying pasture adjacent to the sea. Links ground, formed in the last ice age, has poor quality soil, is stony and sandy and only suitable for growing grass. It is also the perfect place to play golf. Crail has such a piece of ground at Sauchope Links, on the edge of the village.

Golf had been played on Sauchope for centuries before Crail Golfing Society was formed in 1786. The Society is the seventh oldest in the world.

Sauchope was a very narrow course and had only 8 holes. In 1895 Crail Town Council acquired a lease on Balcomie Links, two miles outside the village and invited Tom Morris to design a nine-hole course. He said of Balcomie “There is nowhere finer in Scotland”.

Five years later in 1900 extra ground was acquired and Tom Morris returned to lay out another nine holes.

Before the town council took over Balcomie, the residing farmer Richard Todd, a keen golfer, had a seven-hole course laid out on the links at Balcomie and invited friends to play there. Allan Robertson, the finest golfer of his generation played there in 1855 when he won the Lindesay Medal.  This medal is still played for today at Crail Golfing Society.

The Society was in abeyance for thirteen years from 1859 and no committees or captains were elected. In 1872 The East Neuk o’ Fife Golf Club was formed and in that same year, Crail Golfing Society was resurrected. The two clubs coexisted for 27 years before amalgamating.

Please note that the Golf Exhibition is on the first floor of the Museum accessed only by stairs.

A Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation SC023505

© 2018 Crail Museum and Heritage Centre