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Archerfield Golf Club, Dirleton, East Lothian. (1869 - 1951)

The club was founded in 1869.

Initially a 13-hole course it was later extended to 18-holes. It was laid out on the Archerfield Estate on the west side of Dirleton village on the Firth of Forth, midway between Gullane and North Berwick. A private and exclusive course Archerfield was a favourite holiday haunt for nobility, celebrities and politicians, listing Prime Ministers Balfour and Asquith amongst its visitors. Archerfield was a sprawling estate, taking  in villages, farms and castles.

The old club was steeped in golf history, it was originally known as Dirleton, taking the name of Archerfield when it was extended to 18-holes in the late 1860s. Hold habits die hard and it was often referred to as Dirleton for many years. 

The amateur course record of 63 was set in 1899 by Freddie Tait, the Amateur Champion in 1896 and 1898.

In the early 1900s professional Arnaud Massy recorded a 62 on the course. In the 1920s professional W Watt set a new record with a score of 58.

Archie Shiells, who was listed as professional in the early 1900s, became the popular and highly competent greenkeeper, although he carried on assisting players with their game.

Davie Watt (David Paterson Watt), a rare left handed golfer at the time, was runner-up in the 1909 Dunlop Cup whilst professional at Dirleton. He moved to Mortonhall Golf Club in 1910. He won the Scottish Professional Championship in 1914. Watt served in the Cameron Highlanders during WW1. Davie Watt died on 25 April 1917 following a leg amputation, he was 31 years old.  

Ben Sayers, senior redesigned the course in about 1910, creating a superb course that was more than a match for its better known neighbours in East Lothian. 


Archerfield Golf Club, Dirleton. Entry from the Golfing Annual 1888/89.

Entry from the Golfing Annual 1888/89.


Archerfield Golf Club, East Lothian. Golfers in 1885.

Archerfield Golfers in 1885.


In 1890 the secretary was T D Thompson, Craigville, Dirleton, East Lothian. The lowest scratch score of 76 was made by Arch Murray on August 6th 1887. From 1906 to 1922 the secretary was W S Curr, Ninewar, Prestonkirk. Club membership was 30. The entrance fee was 5/- with subs at 7/6d. Sunday play was not allowed. The professional at this time was A Shiells; in 1922 Archibald Shiels was listed as the greenkeeper. Course records were: (a) F G Tait, 63; and (p) W Watt, 58. In 1940 and 1947 the secretary was T W Watson, Schoolhouse, Gullane. Other information remained as 1922.

Below is the result of a first round match in the East Lothian County Cup played over the Luffness links in July 1890.

Tantallon Castle Golf Club   Archerfield Golf Club  
G G Robertson and D Lyell 1 W W Whytock and T A Begbie 0
G McGregor and J R Whitecross 5 St. C Cuningham and J A Begbie 0
  6   0

Results from the autumn meeting played in October 1891


Archerfield Golf Club, Dirleton. Results from the autumn meeting in October 1891.

"Golf" Friday 23 October 1891. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


In October 1893 the members played two rounds for two prizes presented by Dr Craig Maclagan and Mr Kerr, Ferrygate. The best sore in each round was made by John Penn M.P, his scores were 86 and 80, winning both prizes. The sweepstakes were won by; J Morrison, Rev J Kerr and G Harrison Law.  

Ben Sayers visits Archerfield in February 1894.


Archerfield Golf Club, Dirleton. Ben Sayers visits Archerfield in February 1894.

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


Archerfield Golf Club, East Lothian, Early postcard of Archerfield House.

Early postcard of Archerfield House.


Course record by John White in August 1894.


Archerfield Golf Club, Dirleton. Course record set by John White in August 1894.

"Golf" Friday 10 August 1894. Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.


From "Golf" Friday 26 October 1894 - "Mr A J Balfour, M.P., has lately been enjoying some days golf over the Archerfield links, with Mr J E Laidlay as his partner, the "opposition" in what has been a very level foursome being John Penn, M.P., and Mr De Zoute. Mr Balfour is keeping up the improvement manifested in his play at the opening of the season, and is playing a steady and sure game."

In April 1911, by kind permission of Mrs Hamilton Ogilvy, the Edinburgh Caithness Golf Club held its first competition of the season over the Archerfield private course. The club had enjoyed this privilede for the previous five years. Sixteen members took part and the following won the prizes, presented by the captain A W Lowe; J Oliver, 90-12-78; J Charleson, 83-3-80; A G Smith, 89-7-82; A Donaldson, 91-8-83.

In February 1928 the Dundee Courier ran an article called “Where Golfers Don’t Wait – but they may have to walk or sail – courses on which there is no hurry – small memberships”

Included in the write-up were the following, now defunct clubs; Pirnmill Golf Club on Arran which had a membership of just 34; Carsphairn Golf Club in Kircudbrightshire, 26 members; The former private course of the Archerfield Golf Club, 30 members; The record at this time was held by the Durrow Golf Club, Queen’s County, with its membership of just twelve. Surely here was the ideal situation for the starter at Durrow, where, at the usual three minute intervals, all the members could be despatched in 18 minutes.    

Result of the McDonald handicap medal played in May 1939; Lieutenant Commander A B Russell, 68-1-67; W J Guild, 68+2-70; A F Robertson, 77-4-73; Captain C C Bell, 78-4-74; R Miller 90-16-74; T W Watson, 77-2-75.

At the outbreak of World War II, the land and house were taken over by the military authorities for the war effort. After the war the land was sold for agricultural purposes.  Archerfield Golf Club had disappeared by 1951. 

Thanks to Alick A Watt, Golf Historian, who contacted us in January 2004. Alick was bought up in a golfing family in Direlton, East Lothian, his father and four uncles were all professionals. In his youth he played on both the former Archerfield and Fidra courses, as did his forebears.

He shared some of his memories of the links with us. "Archerfield was a very private club. Holiday haunt for the nobility and Prime Ministers it was a favourite links for both Mr Balfour and Mr Asquith. The original 13 hole course was laid out in the late 1860s. A concession was given to the villagers who were connected with the estate they and their kin were allowed to use the course on certain days of the week. My grandfather was head gardener and groundsman there for many years. From my schooldays I had the facility of free golf – how I loved it there, how proud I was that I trod the same ground as the Rev John Kerr, Freddie Tait, J Laidlay, Bobby Maxwell, Arnaud Massay and others of equal distinction. F G Tait held the amateur record of 63, both David and Willie Watt returned scores of 59 when pro’s. I think I played most of my golf on the course before my teens, it was 18 holes at that time, wonderfully kept in order by Mr A Shiells the professional and greenkeeper. Visiting the place in the 1980s was heart rendering, the mansion was in ruins and the beautiful sandy turf of the golf course was now farmland. The course fell to the plough just prior to WW2. I reflect back to the good old days of my youth. The stately home and the original delightful golf course in one of Scotland’s prettiest villages now rests in the past”

In 2004 Alick Watt provided course details, copies of the handbook and plan and the picture of the clubhouse below.

Card of the course -

Hole 1

The Grave


Hole 10



Hole 2



Hole 11

The Thistle


Hole 3



Hole 12



Hole 4



Hole 13

Short Hole


Hole 5

The Brae


Hole 14

Brae Hole in


Hole 6

The May


Hole 15

Elbottle in


Hole 7

The Marine


Hole 16

Srabauchlin in


Hole 8



Hole 17



Hole 9



Hole 18

Home Hole



Archerfield Golf Club, East Lothian. Colour plan of the early course.


Archerfield Golf Club, East Lothian. Colour plan of the early course.

Above are watercolour plans of the early Archerfield course. (Alick A Watt)


Plan of the original Archerfield Golf Club course.

Plan of the original Archerfield golf course. Grid reference NT50485 85345, co-ordinates 350485 685345.


Archerfield House.

Archerfield House. The original golf course had long gone and the mansion was in a sorry state.


Archerfield Golf Club Rules & Regulations 1930s.

Local Rules booklet from the 1930s. (Alick A Watt)


Archerfield Golf Club 1930s Rule Book.

Cover of the booklet from the 1930s. (Alick A Watt)



After an absence of over fifty years, golf can once again be played at Archerfield over the recently re-designed Dirleton and Fidra courses.