Oldest Golf Courses in the World

10 Oldest Golf Courses in the World

Although the exact origins of golf have been lost to history, it is generally accepted that modern golf developed in Scotland in the Middle Ages. There is some evidence of games very similar to golf dating to the late 13th century. However, the game that modern golf is based on became popular in the 16th century. In fact, some of the oldest golf courses on this list trace their history back to this time period. Every one of the oldest golf courses in the world are located in Scotland and as of the time of this writing (May 2021) they are all still in operation and open for play.

10. Carnoustie Golf Links

Year Established: 1842
Location: Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 54
Length: 6,941 yards (6,347 m)

Carnoustie Golf Linksphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Records of golfing in Carnoustie go all the way back to the mid-16th century, but the current Carnoustie Golf Links only dates to 1842, when the Carnoustie Golf Club was formed. There is evidence that there were earlier golf courses on what is now Carnoustie’s Burnside course prior to 1835.

The original Carnoustie Golf Course featured 10 holes and was designed by Allan Robertson with assistance from Old Tom Morris. The course was modified in 1926 by James Braid. Carnoustie Golf Links is one of the venues in the Open Championship rotation and has hosted golf’s oldest major on eight occasions.

Did You Know?

According to the Carnoustie Golf Links’ website, Carnoustie natives are some of golf’s earliest ambassadors as around 300 golfers from Carnoustie emigrated to America at the start of the 20th century, spreading the popularity of golf.

9. North Berwick West Links

Year Established: 1832
Location: North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 6,506 yards (5949 m)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The North Berwick Golf Club was formed in 1832 and they began playing organized golf on what is now the West Links golf course. People had been playing golf in North Berwick as early as 1672, but none of these earlier courses still exist as houses were built over the area. So, golf moved over to the West Links sometime in the late 18th or early 19th centuries.

Initially, the North Berwick West Links was six holes and located on a small parcel of land. Course expansion began in 1865, with the final major extension happening in 1895. A full 18-hole course was established at the West Links in 1877.

Did You Know?

The North Berwick Golf Club was the first golf club to admit women in 1888. However, women were not given full membership rights until 2005.

8. Scotscraig Golf Course

Year Established: 1817
Location: Tayport, Fife, Scotland
Type: Semi-Private
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 6669 yards (6098 m)

photo source: Geograph

The Scotscraig Golf Club was founded in 1817 by some members of the St. Andrews Society of Golfers. No one knows for sure how long the club had been playing golf in the area, but the original Scotscraig Golf Course had only six holes. Originally, the Scotscraig Golf Course was located within the Garpit racecourse. The outline of this old racecourse are still present. In 1893, the Scotscraig Golf Course was expanded to nine holes and eventually to its present 18 holes in 1904.

Did You Know?

After being forced to leave the Scotscraig Golf Course in 1834 due to farming, the Scotscraig Golf Club returned in 1888 and has been playing there since, making Scotscraig the oldest course owned by the club which founded it and still plays it.

7. Kinghorn Golf Course

Year Established: c.1812
Location: Kinghorn, Fife, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 5141 yards (4701 m)

Kinghorn Golf Coursephoto source: Golfpass

Although the modern Kinghorn Golf Course dates to 1887, a letter was discovered a few years ago that revealed golf has been played on the Kinghorn links since at least 1812. The letter shows that the land the Kinghorn Council bought to build the present course in 1886 is the same land that golfers had been using for years.

The original 9-hole course at Kinghorn was laid out by Old Tom Morris. The Council expanded the course in 1909 when it bought more land and nine additional holes were added. The Kinghorn Golf Course was last altered in 1985.

Did You Know?

The the original 1st and the 8th (now 18th) holes of the Kinghorn Golf Course are still in use.

6. Kingsbarns Golf Links

Year Established: 1793
Location: Fife, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 7,224 yards (6606 m)

Kingsbarns Golf Linksphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Kingsbarns Golf Links have hosted golf games since at least 1793 when it was originally called the Cambo Links. The Kingsbarns Golfing Society continued to play on the original links until it was closed in 1850 in favor of using the area as farmland.

The Kingsbarns Golf Club and the links were not resurrected until 1922. Scottish pro golfer Willie Auchterlonie laid out the course in 1922 near Kingsbarns Bay. Unfortunately, the links were shut down again due to the onset of World War II. Construction of the current Kingsbarns Golf Links began in November 1997 and the course finally reopened in 2000.

Did You Know?

During World War II, land mines were installed on the Kingsbarns Golf Links course as part of the national security defence effort and the ground reverted to rough pasture until the course was rebuilt in the 21st century.

5. Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Course

Year Established: 1702
Location: Iverness, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 6085 yards

Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Coursephoto source: Geograph

Although golf had been played in Scotland since the 15th century, the earliest mention of the game being played in the Scottish Highlands dates to 1702 in Chanonry (now Fortrose). Golf became so popular in the area that by 1793 the first Fortrose Golf Society was formed and the club’s records confirmed that golf had been introduced in Fortrose & Rosemarkie years earlier.

The Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf Course cites 1793 as its official start date. The 6th, 7th, 8th holes, and part of 9th hole of the of the modern course now stretch over parts of the original course. This original course was only 6 holes, which was later expanded to 18 holes in 1924.

Did You Know?

In September 1940, the Fortrose & Rosemarkie Golf course and its clubhouse were requisitioned by British military authorities as a training ground, where sea landing tactics were practiced in preparation for the D-Day landings.

4. Musselburgh Links

Year Established: 1672
Location: Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 9
Length: 2968 yards (2714 m)

Musselburgh Linksphoto source: Geograph

The Old Course at Musselburgh Links is another golf course with centuries of history. Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, a prominent Edinburgh lawyer, kept detailed records of playing golf at what is now the Musselburgh Links in 1672. Not only is Musselburgh home to one of the world’s oldest golf courses, but the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club dates back to at least 1774, making it one of the earliest golf clubs.

Originally, the Old Course at Musselburgh Links was only seven holes. An eighth hole was added in 1838, followed by the ninth and final hole in 1870. In 2009, Musselburgh Links was named by Guinness World Records as the World’s Oldest Golf Course, however this distinction now belongs to St. Andrews since they uncovered golf records dating back to 1552.

Did You Know?

Reportedly, Mary, Queen of Scots played golf in Musselburgh, in nearby Seton Castle, as early as 1567.

3. Elie and Earlsferry Links

Year Established: 1589
Location: Elie and Earlsferry, Fife, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 6,251 yards (5,716 m)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The right to golf in Elie and Earlsferry dates to 1589 when a royal charter was passed granting the villagers permission to use the Elie and Earlsferry Links. The earliest records of an official course layout date to 1770 and mention and short and long course. Parts of the current golf course are located on this land.

Although golfers had been enjoying the Elie and Earlsferry Links for centuries, around 1812, local farmers began to push back and wanted to farm the land. It took 20 years for the local golfers to fully securing golfing rights and this right has been upheld since. In 1895, the current Elie and Earlsferry Links golf course was designed by Old Tom Morris and James Braid.

Did You Know?

A unique feature of the Elie and Earlsferry Links is the periscope from the Royal Navy submarine HMS Excalibur installed at the starter’s hut, which players can actually use to view the entire course.

2. Montrose Golf Links

Year Established: 1562
Location: Montrose, Angus, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 6585 yards (6021 m)

Montrose Golf Linksphoto source: Geograph

Golf has been played at the Montrose Golf Links since at least 1562, when a notable student named James Melville who studied at St. Andrews University put Montrose on the map. There are records from around 1562 stating the Melville was taught to golf from an early by local Reverend William Gray.

The current 1562 course at Montrose does feature part of the original golfing grounds. It was designed in 1913 by Harry Colt and for the most part has remained unchanged since then. Although people had been playing golf in Montrose for hundreds of years, the Montrose Golf Club (now called The Royal Montrose Mercantile Golf Club) was not formed until 1810.

Did You Know?

Around the mid-19th century, the Montrose Golf Links had grown to 25 holes, the most in the world at the time, and they held the first and only 25-hole championship in 1866  to celebrate this achievement.

1. Old Course at St. Andrews

Year Established: 1552
Location: St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Type: Public
Total No. of Holes: 18
Length: 7,305 yards (6,680 m)

Old Course at St. Andrewsphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland is the oldest golf course in the world, dating back to 1552. Every golf aficionado knows that St. Andrews is the “home of golf” as the game was played on the links as far back as the 15th century. St. Andrews is essentially, the world’s first golf course. However, as golf became increasingly popular, the sport was banned in 1457 by James II of Scotland.

The ban was not lifted until 1502 when James IV became interested in golf. While people were allowed to play golf again in Scotland, St. Andrews remained off limits until 1552, when the Archbishop John Hamilton gave the townspeople of St Andrews the right to play on the links.

Due to its extreme age, the Old Course at St. Andrews has of course been redesigned numerous times. Around 1856, the Old Course’s modern layout began to take shape and was designed by the “grandfather of golf” Old Tom Morris. The Old Course influenced the development of golf as well as golf course design.

Did You Know?

The Old Course at St. Andrews is home of The Open Championship (established 1860), the oldest major golf championship.



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