The authoritative journal Golf In East Lothian written by John Kerr and published in 1896, asserts that golf was first played in North Berwick on the East Links (known as Rhodes Links) as far back as the end of the 17th century. This was in an area east of the Mill Burn, between the Rhodes Cottages and the sea. The first official record, however, is in Council Minutes dated 27th March, 1728.
It was to be much later in April, 1893, before plans were discussed by the Town Council, not for a golf course, but for a public park, where the more youthful inhabitants could play football and other games. Provost Brodie raised the matter, with Sir Walter Hamilton Dalrymple, who was quite agreeable to giving a piece of land near the Glen at an agricultural rent. The public park did not materialise, why we do not know, but within twelve months a nine-hole private golf course was laid out measuring 2310 yards with a par of 35.
The course was formally opened in April 1894 by Sir Walter Hamilton Dalrymple, followed by a match between Ben Sayers (pictured on the left) and Hugh Kirkcaldy (Open Champion 1891) from Oxford, both of who had just returned from Machrihanish. After a close game of two rounds, or 18 holes, the match went in favour of the Oxford professional by 83 to 87. Meanwhile, golf had become well established on the West Links.
The popularity of golf rapidly increased in North Berwick, resulting in over-crowding of the West Links, and the Town Council of the time realised the only way to meet the demands of golfers was to expand the Rhodes land.
A special meeting was called on 20th February, 1905, extending an invitation to all interested parties, at which a decision was proposed for the acquisition of more land to the east of the town for the provision of a new Burgh Course. Within a year Ben Sayers and James Braid (pictured on the right) were employed to design and supervise the extension of the Rhodes Links to 18 holes and in 1906 The Glen Golf Club was constituted.
The first captain at the club (who oversaw the expansion of the course) was G Dalziel in 1906 when the North Berwick Corporation Links Club was formed. It was to be in the year 1930 when the name Glen Golf Club was adopted.
The picture on the left shows Mr L M Balfour teeing off in front of a large gallery on the occasion of the opening match of the North Berwick Corporation Links Club.
Part of the original course layout (unfortunately, the page containing the other half of the course has been lost).
From a 1920 guide to North Berwick: "For many years the congestion of players on the West Course was a matter of much concern to the Corporation, affecting, as it did, the prosperity of the whole community and many and anxious efforts were made to secure additional golfing ground. It was found impossible to secure this at the west end of the town, but ultimately, in 1905, the Town Council succeeded in acquiring, under Provisional Order from Sir Walter H. Dalrymple, Bart., ground at the east end of the town, on which a magnificent course has been formed.
This course, which extends from Tantallon Terrace to Canty Bay, was laid off by James Braid, the ex-Open Champion, and Bernard Sayers, the local professional, and was opened for full play in April 1908. It consists of 18 holes and is about 3 1/2 miles in length ..." The photograph shows the original Burgh Golf Club House around 1920.
The Burgh Golf Course, from a 1920 Guide to North Berwick: "...it is a full 18-hole (course) extending over 3 1/2 miles. It stretches along the coast eastwards from Tantallon Terrace. The varying character of the ground makes the round full of interest, and it is a fair criterion of good golf. To ensure first-class turf in the driest season a full water supply is laid on throughout the whole course. The fresh breezes from the North Sea have proved it to be a rare Summer Course..."
Daily tickets, 1/6. (during June, July, August and September, 2/6). Weekly, 8/6, Fortnightly, 12/6, Monthly, £1. Yearly, £1 5/-
Some key items in the history of the Glen:
- 1906 - L.M. Balfour Melville struck the first ball on the new 18-hole course. He was an accomplished Scottish sportsman having represented Scotland internationally in hockey as well as in golf.
- 1908 - The Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman newspapers remarked on the equal status of ladies - believed to be the first club in the country to afford them "all privileges of membership"
- 1915 - The first real crisis - a huge revenue loss owing to war service and the stopping of privilege rail tickets by the National War Committee. This led to the clubhouse having to be given up, the suspension of all Club Rules 'for the duration' and the setting up of a Provost's Viability Committee.
- 1930 - The name Glen Golf Club was adopted
- 1934 - The Ladies Section was added
- 1951 - The Junior section started
- 1964 - T.W. Hawes became the first Club Champion
- 1975 - R.J. Walker became the first Junior Champion
- 1977 - R.R. Knox became the first Senior Champion
- 1990 - Kate Miller became the first Ladies Champion
- 2006 - The new clubhouse was opened
- 2007 - Jinty Kerr became the first lady Club Captain
The first hole in 1950. Note the two greenside bunkers which have long since gone!