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Rules of Golf Edinburgh

Golf, History of Golf, Oldest Golf Course, Best Scottish Golfer.

Leith Links Edinburgh

Where the Rules of Golf

Were First Written

The beginning of golf to rules was when John Rattray wrote the 13 rules in a book and signed them. Not discovered until 1937 when a member of the Company of Gentlemen Golfers at Edinburgh, on looking through old minutes of previous club meetings found rules written at the back of a book. The book contained now to be known as the original rules of golf signed by John Rattray the club captain at that time 7th March 1744. For more history of golf see (Old and New Edinburgh Volume 5 Chapter 3 ‘The District of The Burghmuir page 30 -31). 

John Rattray at Leith Links

Leith Links

John Rattray Surgeon

Sportsman & Jacobite

John Rattray's Statue stands next to three stones with bronze plaques. The inscriptions on the plaques read;

John Rattray (1707-1771) signed the original rules of golf drawn up in March 1744. Eleven golfers competed in this first “open’’ golf tournament played over Leith Links on 2nd April that year. Edinburgh Town Council enacted regulations dated 7th March, demanded written rules and commissioned 1 Silver Club as the prize. Rattray won and the Gentlemen Golfers 13 Rules Articles & Laws in Playing of Golf still form the basis of today’s global game.


As winner Rattray became Captain of the golf for the year and first fixed a silver ball with his initials to the silver club. He won again in 1745. That Year however, Rattray’s life took a dramatic turn. As a surgeon and Jacobite he became surgeon general to Bonnie Prince Charlie was captured in Culloden and set to hang. Rescue came when his golfing companion Lord Duncan Forbes of Culloden gained his release. Rattray played and won in 1752.


Leith is the birthplace of competitive golf, first home of the Gentlemen Golfers who wrote the original rules and witness to John Rattray’s inaugural silver club victory. The silver club remains the oldest golf trophy in the world, still played for today. The Gentlemen Golfers are now known as The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The competition was contested over Leith Links every year until 1828 when play moved to Musselburgh and in 1892, to Muirfield.  

The three memorial Stones to Golf on Leith Links

Leith Links

The Original Rules of Golf

Articles & Laws in Playing of Golf

You must tee your Ball, within a Club’s length of the Hole.


Your tee must be upon the Ground.


You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the tee.


You are not to remove, Stones, Banes or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green and that only within a Club’s length of your Ball.


If your Ball comes amang Watter or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball and bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.


If your Balls be found anywhere touching one another, you are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.


At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary a Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.


If you should lose your Ball, by its being taken up, or any other way you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last and drop another Ball, and allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.


Na man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed to mark his way to the Hole with his Club or anything else.



If a Ball be stopped by any person, Horse, Dog, or anything else, the Ball so stopped must be played where it lyes.



If you draw your Club, in order to Strike and proceed so far on the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.



He whose Ball lies farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.



Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholars Hole or the Soldiers Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken out teed and played with any Iron Club.

Leith Links

Golf History

There is a cairn with three plaque that give details of the Leith golf course and its history. This year 2019 the 275 anniversary, a statue of the man (John Rattray) who signed the rules can be seen on the Leith Links. Dr John Rattray was also a very proficient golfer and captain of the honourable company of Edinburgh golfers. Brother to the Rattray clan chieftain. John Rattray also a Jacobite supporter joined the Jacobite Army after Bonny Prince Charlie requested for medical doctors to help with the wounded after the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.  

Leith Golf Links Golf Cairn

The First Golf Competition to Written Rules

The first competition was played over five holes at Leith Links: The first hole was Sawmill (Braehead) 414 yards (379 m),

North Mid Hole 461 yards (422 m), East Hole 426 yards (390 m), South Mid Hole 495 yards (453 m) and the last hole Thorntree Hole 435 yards (398 m)

Leith Links Golf Course Layout 1744

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

On 7th March 1744 The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (the called The Gentlemen Golfers) officially came into being here at Leith Links, when the City of Edinburgh presented the golfer with a silver club for annual competition.

On the 7th March 1994, the actual 250th anniversary of the club, was celebrated by the planning of a white hawthorn tree near the finish of the 5th (Thorntree) hole, by The Lord Provost of Edinburgh, The Right Honourable Norman Irons and the Captain of The Honourable Company, Mr Douglas Foulis. On Friday, 18th March 1994, in celebration a 6-a-side two-ball foursome challenge match was played here by the High Constables of the Port of Leith versus The Honourable Company. The matches were started off by the Lord Provost, the players were dressed as i the 18th century. They played with wooden clubs of the time and with 'feathery' golf balls filled with goose feathers. Three holes were played, the 1st (sawmill), the 2nd (North Mid Hole), and the 5th (Thorntree). The Honourable Company won two matches to one.


The Honourable Company moved to Musselburgh Old Course in 1836 and then to Muirfield in 1891.  

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

Leith Links

Home to The Rules of Golf

Inscription on the Home of Golf plaque; Historical home of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The game was played over a five hole course, each hole being over 400 yards long. In 1744 the first official rules were drawn up for a tournament on Leith Links and these rules, 13 in all, formed the basis for the modern game of golf.

Leith Links Plaque. The Home of Golf

The Forgotten Great British Golfer

Thomas Dickson Armour

THOMAS (Tommy) ARMOUR 1896 – 1968 Scotland’s most successful golfer was born at 18 Balcarres Street in Morningside and first played golf at the Braid Hills, a member of the Edinburgh Western Golf Club and Bruntsfield Links. Emigrated to the U.S.A as a teenager and became one of the great unremembered golfers. Winner of the British Open, US Open, U.S.P.GA. Championship, Canadian Open on four occasions and many other competitions.   

Edinburgh Western Golf Club Sign.
Tommy Armour Golf Champion Edinburgh Scotland
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