Are you a museum person? I am, sort of, depends on what type of museum, I guess. What I like most about any museum, though, are the interactive displays and exhibits that are able to bring their subject material to life in cool, meaningful ways. I mention that because it’s exactly what Musselburgh does, and why it’s special. Think of it as entirely interactive golf museum, the lone exhibit being the oldest golf course in existence. Pause and reflect on that last line. Not only do you get to walk all around–there are no ropes or annoying security guards reminding you “no photos, please”–but you also get to actually play golf! Take divots, cause pitch marks, watch your ball bounce all over all while battling the elements and anguishing over the rub of the green and your messy swing. If you’re going to Scotland, and especially if you’re in and around East Lothian, it’s more than worth your time to get to Musselburgh and connect with the history. But here’s the really important part–DO NOT BRING YOUR OWN CLUBS. Leave them in the hotel, the car, wherever; you don’t need them and won’t want them. Period. End of story. Call ahead to the golf shop, rent a set of hickories (old-school balls included) and don’t worry about shooting a number. Just go out and play, have fun, and soak in as much of the history and aura as you can.
THIS COURSE IN ONE WORD
WEIRD COURSE TRIVIA
Cockenzie Power Station, a massive structure, used to stand right on the edge of the Firth of Forth near Musselburgh. It dominated both the skyline in town, as well as sightlines from the course. In late 2015, however, it was demolished. The video of the demo is worth a watch:
We learned that the ash from the coal being burned through the years at the plant began settling and accumulating all around. What’s crazy to think about is Musselburgh used to be situated much closer to the Firth, but now there is young terra firma built up making the Firth seem far away as you go around the course. In the picture below you can see the plot in the distance where the old power station stood, as well as get a sense of the way the land has expanded off to the Firth-side of the course through the years:
The 4th. It’s a 400+ yd par 4, meaning all you can handle with hickories and an old ball. It’s a slight dogleg right that plays through the first turn of the racetrack and out to the corner of the property where the green sits tucked between Mrs. Foreman’s pub long and left and a roadway to the right. My biggest disappointment with the hole is that Mrs. Foreman’s pub is not an operational bar! To read more about the situation, including some efforts to save and restore it, click HERE.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
Speaking of efforts to save and restore, there is a big effort to return Musselburgh closer to its original design. Blue Thistle Limited is a Scottish company created to raise and spend funds to make the Old Course at Musselburgh a “must-visit” golf venue. Part of their PLAN is to commission Mackenzie & Ebert, renowned course architects, whose initial renderings call for “many of the course’s lost features” to be reintroduced and modern changes remodelled back to their original state.
WHAT SHOULD I DO BEFORE PLAYING THIS COURSE?
Two necessities: reserve a set of hickory clubs and read up on the history.
The golf shop at Musselburgh clubhouse isn’t much in terms of food and clubhouse, you can pick up a drink and snack from the vending machines if you need something. The place to seek out, however, is the Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club located just a short jaunt from the course. According to Dave, general manager at Musselburgh, it’s “the friendliest place you’ll ever go.” He said it doesn’t have any of the airs or graces of a traditional golf club (eg. no shirt and tie requirement), but instead is a bit boisterous and a marvelous place to go have a sandwich and beer. According to Dave, they’ll “welcome you with open arms.” Maybe the biggest regret of the trip for me is there was nobody at the club on the Sunday evening after we played.
Tee Times: open to the public and can be made through the COURSE WEBSITE
Greens Fees: greens fees top out at about 16 pounds, with a set of rental hickories costing an additional 39 pounds
Lodging: quick trip from wherever you’re staying in East Lothian