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Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. (1797 - 1897)

Although the original club, stated to be the tenth oldest in Britain, was founded in 1797, it is probable that golf was played at Burntisland as early as 1660.

The early course was situated on the links to the east of High Street. The club moved to its present location at Dodhead in 1897.

On Saturday 7th May 1831 the Prize Medal was won by William Stanhouse, junior.

The winner of the Prize Medal played on Monday 7 May 1832 was James Morison, Edinburgh.

The winner of the silver medal played in May 1834 was Mr Hutchison, Town Clerk.

The winner of the silver medal in May 1835 was Alexander Hunter Reid, Burntisland.

The winner of the silver medal in October 1836 was John Wood, Leith. After the game the members sat down to an excellent dinner in the George Inn.

The winner of the silver medal in October 1837 was A H Reid, fishcurer, Burntisland.

At a meeting held on the Monday 13 November 1837 members of the Burntisland Golfing Society appointed the following office bearers; Captain, William Peat; Secretary and Treasurer, P R Ramsay; Council – Hutchison, Stanhouse and Reid.

The winner of the gold medal played on 1 May 1838 was won by William Fortune, Whitekirk. Afterwards “the members and a number of admirers of the ancient game dined at the George Inn; the evening was spent in a very happy manner.”

The annual meeting of the Burntisland Golf Club was held on Thursday 6 December 1838, the following office bearers for the year were; Captain, P R Ramsay; Secretary and treasurer, A H Reid; Council – William Stanhouse, James Farnie and James Hutchison.

The winner of the silver medal in October 1839 was A H Reid, Burntisland.

The winner of the silver medal in October 1840 was William Stanhouse.

Following the annual meeting on Saturday 11th September 1847 the competition for the silver medal was played. The winner was A H Reid with a score of 76.

The annual meeting was held on Saturday 11 April 1863, the following officers were elected; President, Thomas Hutchison; Vice-President, Robert Gordon; Secretary, John Pennington.

Following is an extract from an article that appeared in the Fife Herald on Thursday 23 April 1868. It’s interesting as it mentions a “New Club” and also, at this time, a round consisted of playing the five-hole course three times. “The new golf club recently formed in Burntisland bids fair to flourish, and give the game an impetus it has not previously had over our rather limited but otherwise eligible links. The first competition of the club took place on Saturday, when five prizes - the first a set of clubs - were offered to the best players. The weather was excellent, and the green in capital condition, everything contributing to the success of this maiden tournament, which exited considerable interest. The usual course of three rounds or fifteen holes was played, with the following result; R Gordon (club captain), 73; D Gordan, 74; W Cowan, 76; T Nicol, 76; D Barrie, 76; J Barrie, 80; D Gilmour, 83; A Robertson, 86; J G Dickson, 88; J Venters, 88; H Plenderleath, 89; W Duff, 89; D Wood, 90; P Leitch, 91; R Pittilo (secretary of the club), 92, A Gilmour, 99.”

Below is the result of a match played against Wemyss Golf Club (now defunct) on the Burntisland links on Monday 8 February 1869. The course was the usual three rounds or fifteen holes, the match being decided by holes. 

Burntisland Golf Club   Wemyss Golf Club  
R Gordon 0 J Kilgour 5
A Stocks 0 J G Robertson 1
D Gordon 0 Sargeant Swanson 2
T Nicol 4 H J Johnston 0
W Cowan 1 R Burns 0
A Chalmers 9 J Williamson 0
J Smith 0 A Cameron 0
D Gilmour 0 J A Robertson 2
T Morris 10 George Burt 0
  24   10

The following is from the Golfing Annual 1888/89:-

“Burntisland Golf Club – Instituted early in the century, but re-established in 1871; Entrance Fee 5 shillings; Annual Subscription 4 shillings; Membership of 40; Captain – James Robertson; Vice-Captain – R Dover; Committee – H McKenzie, J Blyth, J Adamson and W Lonie; Secretary – J C Wallace, Burntisland.

Club Prizes; Silver Medal (scratch), played for first week in June; Inchdairnie Cup (scratch), played for first Saturday of August; Gold Medal (scratch), played for first Saturday of September; Visitors’ Medal (handicap), played for first week in July; Silver Medal (handicap), played for first Saturday in September; Various other competitions take place during the season; Competitions occasionally held at Musselburgh. A Wilson’s 61 for Visitor’s Medal is the lowest scratch score made in a competition.

Burntisland Links are of very limited dimensions, having only five-holes to the round. There are nohazards to speak of. All matches consist of three circuits of the green.”


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Craigkennochie from the Burntisland golf links.

Craigkennochie from the links.


Result of a match played on the opening of the new season in April 1891.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Result of a match played in April 1891.



Below, proposed new golf course at Burntisland.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Proposed new course for Burntisland May 1891.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Proposed new course for Burntisland May 1891.

From the Edinburgh Evening News Saturday 16 May 1891. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The monthly medal was played on Saturday 30 May 1891, there was a large field, result as follows; R Morgan, 79-12-67; James Begg, 74-6-68; R Ferguson, 73-4-69; T Watt, 70 scratch; W Elder, 75-5-70; W Addison, 80-10-70.

It was announced in Monday 1 June 1891 that “THE NEW COURSE AT HIGH BENTS” had been very busy during the week. “It is to be formally opened on Saturday”. The Burntisland club was now playing on two courses, the original five-hole links course off High Street and the “new” links at High Bents.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Report on the new golf course in June 1891.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Report on the new golf course in June 1891.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Report on the new golf course in June 1891.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Report on the new golf course in June 1891.



Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Location of the High Bents course.

The course marked in the centre of the above map is located at High Bents, it opened in June 1891. Reproduced from the {1895} Ordnance Survey map.


In December 1891 the annual Christmas competition was played. It was stated that “Fine weather favoured the players, who seem to have enjoyed a canter over their old golfing course (The Links) after the arduous exercise of the new course at High Bents.” It seems that former links course was being used in a more casual manner, most of the golf was now being played over the new course.  

On Saturday 30 January 1892 the monthly competition for Miss Kirke’s Medal took place at High Bents. Mr Dover had a three round total (suggesting a five or six hole course) of 82+2-84, runner-up was J Venters, 91-2-89.  

On Saturday 16 April 1892 the clubhouse was officially opened on the High Bents course. In his opening speech Captain Stevenson referred to the growing membership and prosperity of the club since the new course opened. 

The opening match of the season was played on the “High Bents” course on Saturday 21 January 1893, leading scores; T Gordon, 88-3-85; W Addison, 98-10-88; J C Wallace, 90-2-88; P McArtney, 99-10-89; J Wood 89+2-90; W Elder, 98-6-92; J Blyth, 96-4-92; J Ross, 93-1-92; J Venters, 94-2-92; A Lyon, 103-10-93; J Birrell, 107-14-93.

The members of the Burntisland Golf Club visited St Andrews on Saturday 22 July 1893 to play their annual competitions. Fifteen couples played. The Inchdairnie Cup was won by Archibald Wallace with a score of 92, and the Wallace Medal was won by Henry Philip, 96-7-89.

The following is an extract from a report appeared in the Aberdeen Journal on Thursday 9 August 1894. “Mr William Stanhouse, whose death took place at Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, in his ninetieth year, was one of the oldest members of the Burntisland Golf Club, and took a lively interest in the club, and in everything connected with the game. As far back as the year 1828 he was the winner of the old silver medal, now the property of the club, and his name is the first engraved upon it. Early in the century Mr Stanhouse played on the present course at Kinghorn with one of the local lairds, and won a match which created great local interest, the prize being a gift to the poor.”

It was announced in December 1894 that the Burntisland Golf Club was proposing to form a limited liability company with a view to acquire the farms of Greenmount and Dodhead to lay out an eighteen-hole course.

The following report appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News on Wednesday 27 March 1895. “As the result of protracted negotiations between the Burntisland Golf Club and the proprietors of Greenmount and Dodhead grounds, the special committee of the club have arranged for the purchase of the uplying grounds on Dodhead Farm for the sum of £4,000. The committee reported their action to a largely attended meeting of the club last night, and a provisional directorate of twelve of the leading gentlemen of the town were appointed to prepare and issue a prospectus. It is proposed to raise a capital of £5,000, the difference between this sum and the purchase price being considered necessary to the new course being put into efficient order for golfing.”

The competition for the old gold and silver medals was played over the “High Bents” course on Saturday 7 September 1895. James Wilson won the gold medal with a score of 78 scratch. H Philip, 80-1-79, and J Flanders, 84-5-79, tied for the silver medal.

As can be seen from the following result of a winter medal played in December 1896 the competition was decided by playing “three rounds of the course”. In spite of the adverse weather conditions the winning score of 59, made by James Ross was stated to be “one which has neither been equalled or excelled for a considerable number of years”. His three round score was 19,19 and 21, with a handicap of +1 gave him a score of 60. Other scores were; J Blyth jnr, 67-4-63; R Swan, 67-3-64; D Wood jnr, 66 scratch; J Flanders, 68-1-67; A Carmichael, 69-2-67; D Reekie, 71-4-67; J W Connel, 68 scratch.    

It was reported in the Dundee Courier on Tuesday 2 March 1897 that the extended golf course at Dodhead would be opened on 1 May 1897. It also stated that “The Burntisland old course consists of only six-holes and the congestion is chronic.”

The following report appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News Tuesday 6 April 1897. “BURNTISLAND GOLF CLUB CENTENARY – The Burntisland Town Council had before them last night an application from the golf club, requesting that the Council might signalise the centenary of the club’s existence by giving a cup or medal for competition among the members, the club this year having reached its centenary. The proposal was favourably received, and a small committee appointed to confer with a committee of the club as to the conditions of the gift, with the powers to procure a cup or a medal to the value of ten guineas. The new golf course is expected to open early next month.”  


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. Location of the earlier course.

The former Burntisland golf course is marked in the centre of the above map. Reproduced from the {1895} Ordnance Survey map.


The official opening of the “New Course” at Dodhead was to take place on Saturday May 1st 1897. Below is the layout of the new course.


Burntisland Golf Club, Fife. The opening of the new course in May 1897.

From The Edinburgh Evening News Friday 30 April 1897. Image © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.


The Google Map below pinpoints the location of the earlier Burntisland golf course.