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Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans, East Lothian. (1856 - 1903)

On the 21 September 1745 the battle of Prestonpans was fought and a Colonel James Gardiner, who was fighting on the English side, died at the foot of a white thorntree, part of which is now in the Edinburgh Naval and Military Musem, this was subsequently how the club got its name. 

Established in 1856 the club sometimes referred to as Prestonpans Golf Club continued until 1903 when the course was lost due to coal mining. 

The club was formed on the 22 December 1856 the rules were drawn up and the following officers were elected; John Grieve, Convener; Thomas Pow, Treasurer; William Carse, Secretary; Committee – John Grieve, William Carse, Robert Smith, Thomas Pow, John Edgar and Geo Christison. 

The original course was of six holes, par was said to be “something like” 4-5-3-4-5-3 = 24. In the mid 1870s Mr W Doleman, Glasgow, played three rounds and returned a score of 72, a course record. 

On 20 October 1859 a “Grand National Tournament” was played over the Bruntisfield Links. Seven clubs were represented; Burgess, Blackheath, Manchester, Tantallon, Warrender, St Leonard’s and Thorntree. The club were represented by F Bunet and R Tait both with 12 handicaps and W Carse and D McCuaig scratch. The winner of the scratch competition was James Williamson, Burgess, with a score of 150, Mr McCuiag “a fine young golfer” was second with 151. 

Thorntree were the first winners of the oldest team golf trophy in the world - the County Cup in 1868. It was played at Luffness and the club were represented by; F Burnet, J Burnet, W Carse and Robert Hay. It was stated at the time that some of the best golfers in East Lothian were members at Thorntree. They went on to win it again the following year with the same players. 

The Earl of Wemyss (then Lord Elcho) presented the massive silver cup for annual competition among the clubs of the County.


Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans. The County Cup.

The County Cup.


A quarterly competition for the old silver medal of the Thorntree Golf Club was played in October 1879, eight competitors entered, three rounds of six-holes were played; John Edgar, 88; James Pow, 91; N McCairn, 92; George Swan, 95. 

Result of a competition played on Saturday 4 April 1885; W Wilson, 80; J Callender 82; R Kay, 85. 


Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans. Entry from The Golfing Annual 1888/89.

Entry from The Golfing Annual 1888/89.


Result of the silver medal competition played in April 1893; John Johnstone won the medal with 88 scratch, William Bedford also scored 88. Other scores; R Ormeston, 93-4-89; Geo Clarke, 103-9-94; William Robertson, 102-8-94; Geo Greenfield, 101-4-97; James Dewar, 114-15-99; Charles Lamb, 107-8-99.

Ordnance Survey Map from the 1890s showing the golf course.


Thornton Golf Club, Fife. Report on the course in November 1894.

O.S. Map Revised 1892; © Crown Copyright {year of publication 1895}.


Report on the course from November 1894.


Thornton Golf Club, Fife. Report on the course in November 1894.

"Golf" Friday 16 November 1894. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Report on a general meeting in February 1895.


Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans. Report on a general meeting in  February 1895.

"Golf" Friday 22 February 1895. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


The following is taken from the Golf Book of East Lothian by the Rev John Kerr written in 1896.

In November 1894 a movement for the enlargement of the course was started, and a deputation of the golfers, consisting of; Captain Dewar, Provost Edgar, Dr McEwan, E Johnston (secretary), John Sandilands, D Adams, John Bower, Thomas McWalter, C Lamb, John Kay and William Wilson, waited on the trustees of the Schaw Bequest, to get the course extended to include 36 acres of ground on the opposite side of the road from the present course. This request was granted and a new course made, consisting of four holes on the old ground (13 acres) and eight holes on the new ground (33 acres). At a meeting in February 1895 it was resolved to “reconstitute the club as at the 1 January last” with the adoption of the old rules. The first match over the new course took place on 18 May 1895. 

The distance of the holes were as follows; Hole 1 – 270 yards; 2 – 265 yards; 3 – 310 yards; 4 – 120 yards; 5 – 260 yards; 6 – 200 yards; 7 – 260 yards; 8 – 300 yards; 9 – 310 yards; 10 – 325 yards; 11 – 260 yards; 12 – 250 yards; making a total yardage of 3,130 yards.


Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans. Layout of the twelve hole course.

The above layout is of the twelve-hole course.


The entrance fee for the revised Thorntree club was 10/- with the subs also 10/-. The first captain under the new regime was Mr F Cadell and the (alleged) joint-secretaries, G Hunter and E Johnston. 

On Saturday 1 August 1896 Andrew Monro won the yearly medal with a score of 90.

Saturday 12 June 1897. A competition for silver and bronze Jubilee medals, presented by Mr C Lamb, with an additional prize for third place donated by Mr A Instant. Prize winners; John McLennan, 86-10-76; William Doig, 103-20-83; William Duncan, 88-2-86.

Result of the Armstrong trophy played on Saturday 28 August 1897; James Cunningham, 90-7-83; Hew Inglis 84 scratch; Richard Cowper, 100-15-85; William Russell, 93-6-87; George Greenfield, 90-2-88; Robert Fraser, 98-10-88; Thomas Hare, 107-16-91; James Cowper, 104-13-92; William Inglis, 95-2-93; John Kay, 101-4-97; Andrew Monro, 97+2-99.

On Saturday 1 May 1898 a trophy presented by Mr Adams of the Black Bull Inn was played for; Andrew Monro with a scratch score of 90 was the winner; William Inglis, 93; George Clark, 93; James Cunningham, 94; Richard Clark, 96; William Duncan, 99; Robert Fraser, 103.

Result of the ladies’ monthly medal for May 1902; Mrs R H White, 64 scratch; Miss M D Hislop, 77-12-65.

On Saturday 25 April 1903 the first competition of the season for the Adams silver cup took place, twelve players took part, John Shiells was the victor with a score of 82.

Result of the annual competition for the Armstrong Trophy which was played in May 1903, result as follows; John Shiells, 84+2-86; William Russell, 98-6-92; J S Grosset, 99-7-92; J Hawthorn, 113-18-95; John Edmond, 97 net; William Edmond, 110-12-98. 

The Adams silver cup was again the prize on Saturday 27 June 1903. Scores as follows; James F Wallace, 92-14-78; D Horne, 85-1-84; Matthew Edmond, 84+2-86; John Shiells, 81+6-87; William Russell, 96-8-90; William Edmond 103-13-90.

On Saturday 11 July 1903 the annual competition for the scratch medal took place. Scores; Thomas Edmund, 42+41-83; John Shiells, 85; Andrew Monro, 88; D Horne 89.

It was reported in the Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday 26 November 1903 that the Forth Collieries Company had been carrying out research for the past two years in the Prestonpans and Cockenzie area. About six months ago they drilled and struck a coal seam averaging six feet in thickness. The new pit would be constructed in the centre of the Thorntree golf course.


Thorntree Golf Club, Prestonpans. Location of the course.

Grid reference NT39520,675355, co-ordinates 339520,675355.



The Thorntree Golf Club remains strong. It is a club within a club based at the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club (Instituted 1774). After 1903 they had no course but in 1912 they used Port Seton Golf Course as their base until 1938. After 1938 the Thorntree Golf Club became affiliated to the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club. The Thorntree and Port Seton Golf Clubs play an annual match for the Peter McAldin Trophy.

I would like to thank Matt Cunningham, Historian for the Port Seton club, for the help and information he has provided regarding the history of both Thorntree and Port Seton clubs.