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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Golf in the parish of Dirleton 1945-2000

Michael Cox

Golf has been synonymous with Gullane for over 150 years. Since the end of world war two it has increased its influence throughout the parish, being played on five 18 hole golf courses of very high standard. These are the three courses of the Gullane Golf Club, and the private Luffness New and Muirfield courses. In addition, part of the North Berwick West Course lies within the parish to the east of Yellowcraig. They all add to the economic well being of the parish. The three clubs, together, have doubled the total number of employees engaged in greenkeeping, administration and catering, during the last 50 years. In 2000, almost 100 people were employed full-time. Part-time employment is provided for catering staff when functions are held, and, of course for caddies, who are often young people wishing to gain knowledge about courses and the performance of older golfers.

Founded in 1882, the Gullane Golf Club (GGC) has had three courses since 1910. It also maintains the children's course at the Smiddy Green. No.1 course is 6466 yds; No.2 6244 yds and No.3 5252 yds. GGC is private members' club that welcomes visitors to play its courses. After the war, priority for membership was given to people living in Gullane. Latterly, the catchment area for membership has widened, with a continuing lengthy waiting list. In 1950, the membership of the Gullane Golf Club was around 400. By 1977 the number of members had risen to 947, whilst at the end of the century there were a total of 916 members of which 569 were full fee paying ordinary members. In the mid-1950s there was no joining fee and the annual subscription was eight guineas (£8.40). At the end of the century the joining fee is three times the annual subscription of £311. Course fees for visitors' fees rose proportionately. The cost of a round of golf on Course No.1 was six shillings (30p) in the mid-1950s; £1.50 on weekdays and £2 at weekends by the early 1970s; £5 on weekdays and £7 at weekends in 1980. By 2000 the charges were £56 for weekdays and £70 at weekends.

Over the years GGC has staged a number of major national and international events. Uniquely, the GGC has never charged spectators for watching these events - the easy accessibility to the courses makes this impossible. Visiting players come from all over the world and their green fees help swell the club's income. The American Golf Magazine rates the world famous view from the 7th tee on the No.1 course, over the course and to Edinburgh, Fife and way beyond, as worth the green fee alone! Bernard Darwin, noted golf writer, considered there to be no finer view from any golf course on the east of Britain.

In 1980, Archie Baird, the historian for both the GGC and Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG) at Muirfield, converted the building next to the GGC Professional's Shop into 'The Heritage of Golf Museum', which features clubs, balls, personalities, costume and golfiana. In order to provide accommodation for the ever-increasing number of visitors, a visitor's clubhouse was opened in 1993, by Bernard Gallacher, and built at a cost of £60,000. 30,000 visitors played over the three courses in 1999. The income of the Gullane Golf Club has increased a hundredfold since 1945. In the 1950s the income was around £13,000. It doubled in the next ten years, trebled in the next to £83,000 in 1975. In the 1980s the income rose from £217,000 (1982) to £428,000 (1988) and by the mid-1990s the income had reached £1m. It is indeed a major commercial venture, but it provides thousands of people with a great deal of pleasure, albeit not without both physical and mental effort!


Courses and greenkeepers

At the end of the war the anti-invasion concrete blocks that had been constructed on some of the fairways on both the No.1 and No.2 courses were buried. Sheep had been grazing on Gullane Hill for many years affecting greenkeeping. However, grazing rights ended in 1950, leaving only the rabbits to cause problems, and they were greatly reduced with the onset of myxomatosis later in that decade. Rabbits continued to cause problems again in the 1970s but systematic pest control measures reduced their damage considerably.

During the last 50 years the maintenance of the courses has become totally mechanised. In 1950, pipes connected to the mains water supply had been connected to all 54 greens. The greens were hand watered to 1983. Until the mid 1950s hand mowers were used to cut the greens. Motor mowers then took over. By 1960, tractor drawn gang mowers were cutting the fairways. A turf-cutting machine was used for the first time in 1968. Larger grass cutters appeared in 1970 along with tractors. Further developments took place in the 1980s and early 1990s. More sophisticated equipment was purchased and the original well was brought back into use to supply a new distribution system for the new water sprinkler system. A new well was drilled in 1993 to supply up to 5,000 gallons per hour to the tees and travelling sprinklers were bought for watering fairways. Toilet facilities were provided on the No.1 and 2 courses at the end of the century.

The success of any golf course in attracting both members and visitors lies on the design and location of the course and especially on the skill of the head greenkeeper and his staff to maintain the three courses to cater for every calibre of golfer. The head greenkeepers between 1945 and 1978, with their dates of retiral, were: William Wood, 1948; Robert Runciman, 1954; Andrew Anderson, 1974; and Tom O'Brien, 1978. Instead of appointing a new head greenkeeper, a course foreman was then appointed for each course. Tom Watt for No.1; David Brown for No.2 and William Huish for No.3. However, in 1980, Tom Watt was appointed head greenkeeper, with William (Willie) Robertson taking charge of the No.1 Course. There was a change in greenkeeping management in 1993. Paul Seago was appointed course manager with Willie Robertson as his deputy. Stewart Duff became the No.1 course foreman; Bobby Hay for No.2 and Brian Hutchinson for No.3. Willie Robertson retired in 1997.


Key events

Gullane No.1 Course has hosted many kinds of championships since the end of the war. In addition it has hosted the final qualifying rounds for all the Open Golf Championships since 1966 and, for the Amateur Championship in 1998, when played at Muirfield (see below).

The major events held over the No.1 Course for men include:

Ladies' events:

Youths:


Gullane Ladies' Golf Club (GLGC)

Formed in 1904 its members have played an important role in the golfing scene in Gullane.

During the last 50 years the number of members has been in the range 300 to 400, with annual subscriptions rising from £7.50 in the 1950s to £250 at the end of the century. The club was involvement with the staging of the major ladies' event, held over the No.1 course. More significantly is that a number of members have been successful in national and international events. Of those members who resided for a period in the village we note: Jean Anderson (Donald) winner of Scottish Ladies' 1947, 1949 and 1952 - runner-up 1953; Marjory Draper (Peel) winner of Scottish Ladies' 1954 - runner-up 1952 and 1962; Connie Lugton winner of Scottish Ladies' 1971 - runner-up 1972; Lesley Hope winner of Scottish Ladies' 1975 - runner-up 1979; Jayne Smith (Ford) winner of Scottish Ladies' 1999.

Lesley Nicholson played for Great Britain and Ireland against Europe for the Vagliano Trophy in 1999. In the same year she played for Scotland in Home Internationals and European Team Championships. The GLGC won the Scottish Ladies' Foursomes in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1995.

Of the non-resident members Catriona Mathew (Lambert), who won the Scottish Ladies in 1994, became a professional and has performed well on the European and American Tours.

Since 1945, five members of the club were chosen to play in Curtis Cup matches. Jean Donald in 1948,1950 and 1952; Marjory Peel in 1954; Marjory Fowler in 1966; Margaret Nichol in 1968 and 1970, and Catriona Mathew in 1990, 1992, and 1994. On one of the three occasions that Jean Donald and Catriona Mathew played, Great Britain and Ireland were the winners.

Dirleton Castle Golf Club (DCGC) celebrated its centenary in 1954 with a dinner attended by representatives from neighbouring golf clubs. Two problems faced the club for most of the 40 years since 1945. The club did not have its own clubhouse and only showed half- hearted attempts to buy premises when they came on the market. Jointly with the Dirleton Castle Ladies' Golf Club, a fund raising scheme was undertaken but eventually wound up in 1984 with the monies divided and invested for future needs by both clubs.

The larger problem was the up and down relationship with the Gullane Golf Club. Difficulties arose from time to time regarding the use by members of the GGC courses for both play by individual members and club events. The question of fees, tee times and a limit on the number of members caused friction from time to time. In 1983 a legal agreement between the DCGC and the GGC included that membership of the GGC was a prior requisite for DCGC members and that the number of members of the DCGC should be restricted to 100, with a few minor exceptions. Those DCGC members who at that time did not become members of the GGC have only been able to play on the No.2 and No.3 courses. This resulted in a diminution in the independence of the DCGC. In the last decade the activities and relationships between the two clubs have been more closely integrated. Since 1945 the number of members has been in the range 110-130. Outstanding has been their success in winning the East Lothian County Cup on 11 occasions during the last 50 years.

Dirleton Castle Ladies Golf Club (DCLGC) founded in 1921, all the members must be resident within the parish. Competitions are played on the GGC No.2 and No.3 courses. Membership is in the range 40-50.

Gullane Comrades' Golf Club was originally set up in 1921 with the requirement that members had served in the armed forces. In more recent years membership has been open to men who are members of the GGC and DCGC resident in the parish. Membership is in the range 70-90. Trophies have been played for over the Gullane and Muirfield courses. Latterly, play on the Muirfield course had been restricted to one evening per year. This concession was withdrawn in 1999.

The Gullane Nine Club, formed in 1895, this has been primarily a social club supported by Edinburgh businessmen, usually members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and their competitions are played on the Gullane No.1 and Muirfield courses. Membership of around 30/40 is by invitation only.


Golf at school

A significant proportion of the people living in the parish play golf. Some children learn to play golf before they go to school. For the schoolboys and girls of Gullane the children's golf course was right opposite the school up to 1977, the year when the new school opened.

The school logbook lists the winners of the two trophies that are played for each year - the oldest, the 'Honour Bright Trophy' since 1922, and, the 'Babe Zaharias Trophy' since 1964. The former a hole and hole competition and the latter a stroke play competition, with both played over the Gullane No.3 course. In 1963, a visiting American, George Zaharias, gave a sum of money to the school to purchase a trophy in memory of his late wife the redoubtable Babe Zaharias (1914-56). She was the first American golfer to win the British Ladies' Amateur Championship when it was played at Gullane in 1947 (see later).

Another competition for young people started in 1950 - the 'Peel Trophy'. It is a hole and hole competition also played on Gullane No.3 Course. The trophy was given by Mrs Marjory Peel, a war widow, and a first rate golfer (see GLGC above). She died in 1988. The competition is divided into two groups, the juniors, under 12 years and the seniors, 13-16 years. Since 1987, each group has been divided in two. After Mrs Peel gave up organising the competition this role has been undertaken a number of ladies, members of the local golf clubs. Many of these teenagers then become junior members of local golf clubs.


Gullane Golf Club and the Watt family

Looking through the records we find that one local family, the Watts, have over many years, made their mark on golf, both locally and nationally. Three sons of Hugh Watt Senior (1882-1969), a renowned golfer in his own right, made their mark in the golfing world both locally and nationally. They were Hugh Junior known as Beattie (1915-75), Jimmy (1922-78) and Tommy 1918-91).

In 1975, Hugh Watt Junior tragically died on the day of a presentation to him by the Gullane Golf Club to mark his retirement at the age of 60. Beattie Watt had won the Honour Bright Trophy in 1929. After school he trained to become a professional and after war service resumed his professional duties at the Barnton Golf Course in Edinburgh. In 1951, he became the first professional appointed by the Gullane Golf Club. His skills were passed on to his assistants who in turn became professionals. One of these, Jimmy Hume, succeeded him and continues as the professional at Gullane, whilst his son-in-law, David Huish, is the professional at the North Berwick West Course.

Beattie Watt's, younger brother, Jimmy, also became a professional. His last appointment being at West Kilbride, Ayrshire, from 1951 until his death in 1978. The third brother, Tommy, joined the greenkeeping staff at the Gullane Golf Club in 1949, becoming the head greenkeeper in 1980. He retired five years later. Tommy's son, Tom, the Honour Bright Trophy winner in 1960, also took up greenkeeping as a career and has spent his working life in England. Tommy's grandson, Neil, son of Tommy's son Hugh, won the Babe Zaharias Trophy in 1990. Golf has certainly been to the fore in this Gullane family.


Linking Four Golf Clubs

There are a number of books (see Snapshot 2000 reference list) that have been written about the local golf clubs and the large events that have taken place since 1945. These are primarily concerned with the history of the clubs, the events and the members who achieved success in the many competitions that have taken place over the years.


People

One man has been selected to represent all these golfers who have participated in the competitions and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow villagers both on and off the course - Guy Robertson-Durham. He was an active member of both of the above clubs as well as being a member of the Dirleton Castle Golf Club and The Gullane Nine Club. After war service he was actively engaged in many village activities. He served as chairman of the local branch of the British Legion and a founder member of the Gullane Racquets Club as well as taking part in local amateur dramatic productions. However, it is as a golfer that he will be long remembered. He had a scratch handicap over a period of seven years. He qualified to play in the 1948 British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield. He was chosen to play in a four-ball match in the company of King George VI who had spent some time watching play during the Open Championship.

He was the GGC Champion in 1950 and 1956, won 16 scratch medals and was elected Club Captain 1969/70. His record at Muirfield was equally impressive where he won 20 Gold and Silver medals between 1947 and 1967. He served the HCEG as Recorder from 1955 to 1963 and elected Captain 1972-4. The excellence of his iron play is shown by his fantastic achievement of 14 'holes in one'. On his death in 1993 the HCEG commissioned a life size portrait, which is to be seen in the members' smoking room.


Muirfield Golf Course and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG)

The HCEG moved from Musselburgh to Muirfield in 1891. It hosted their first Open Golf Championship in 1892 and since then 15 Opens have taken place, seven of them since 1945. For most people it is this event that has had the greatest impact on the village, especially since 1972.

The HCEG Club at Muirfield is a private men only club. In the 1990s, it was reported that prospective members would have to wait more than 20 years before being considered for election for membership. On occasions election has proved not to be a forgone conclusion. The maximum number of members was then 550, with 75 overseas members, paying an annual subscription of £430. In the last decade the annual subscription had risen to £675 with a round of golf costing £85.

A high percentage of members have distinguished themselves in the armed services, 'the law' and other professions. It is possible for members of other clubs, with low handicaps, to play at Muirfield following a formal application from their own club's secretary. In the mid-1990s they would pay £50 for a round. Whilst ladies can play they are not able to eat in the clubhouse. The only exceptions, since the war, would seem to be the ladies of the two Curtis Cup teams in 1952 and 1984, and, the Vagliano Trophy competitions in 1963 and 1984.


The Open Golf Championships

When the Open Golf Championship is held at Muirfield, it has a considerable impact on the area. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, St Andrews (R&A) undertakes all the work at Muirfield, with the HCEG receiving a fee for allowing the Open Championship to take place there. The table below shows how this prime international competition has expanded since the end of the war. Many thousands need to be added to the attendance figures to take into account all the people involved in the preparation, staging and removing the temporary structures on the course. The 1972 Open was the first to feature a large tented village and a worldwide media presence with television needs to the fore with cameras on high platforms. For the three subsequent Open Championships the number of spectators has reached a high, yet steady, level.

For the 1987 Open, the Gullane & Dirleton History Society carried out a survey of the affect on the village. Preparations and advertising by hotels and guesthouses started in 1985. A survey of 15% of the residences in the village showed that 25% of them had friends or relatives staying with them; 17% had paying guests and 8% let their houses. Well over 50% of the people living in the village attended the Open on one or more days, with 33% of all ages obtaining work at the Open or on jobs resulting from the Open. These jobs included teenage litter pickers, through to the members of local golf clubs who acted as stewards around the course. In addition to spectators, the visitors included the players and their caddies, the R&A staff and contractors, the media, the hospitality providers and tented village staff. Many of these would have travelled from their accommodation, which could be upwards of 30 miles from Gullane.

Preparations started early in the year with extra greenkeeping staff being employed. The stand and tent erection teams appear before and after the event. The stands provided seats for 17,000, with 7,000 at the 18th green. A vast array of electronic communication equipment has to be installed to cater for the media representation from around the world and television coverage of the event. The latter included the BBC's mini-television centre, comprising a fleet of lorries and vans. Most noticeable was one of their cameras on top of a 200 ft high platform, which at times gave television viewers a panoramic look at the East Lothian countryside and beyond. The tented village had stands featuring a vast range of products and services - golfing equipment and clothes as well as golf related tourism promotion and publications. A wide range of catering facilities was provided, from those in the Muirfield Clubhouse through to the business hospitality complex. Space also had to be allocated to banks, police and Red Cross.

Car parks and hospitality tents were located in nearby fields with a temporary bridge over the main road providing access to a caravan park. There was a helicopter base at West Fenton Farm. A bus shuttle service to and from Drem Station connected with Scotrail's 'Golflink' services. There was an augmented bus service to and from Edinburgh, but most people came to Muirfield by road. The greatest inconvenience for local residents was the restriction on parking cars along the Main Street as well as many of the side roads on the northeastern side of the village. These restrictions had an adverse affect on the shops in that they did not get any passing trade. Most people in the village have been and will continue to be directly or indirectly affected by the Open Championships at Muirfield. They bring extra money and golfing enthusiasts into the area. The media and television coverage helps to portray Gullane as a place that keen golfers around the world should visit.

Open Golf Championships - the statistics

Year Prize Money Through the gate Entries Winner Runner-up
Total
£
1st Prize
£
1948 c1,500 c200 ? 272 Henry Cotton (UK) Fred Daly (UK)
1959 5,000 1,000 ? 285 Gary Player (SAfr) Flory van Donck (Bel)
1966 15,000 2,100 40,000 310 Jack Nicklaus (USA) David Thomas (UK)
1972 50,000 5,500 85,000 570 Lee Trevino (USA) Jack Nicklaus (USA)
1980 200,000 25,000 132,000 994 Tom Watson (USA) Lee Trevino (USA)
1987 650,000 75,000 131,000 1407 Nick Faldo (UK) Rodger Davis (Aus)
1992 950,000 95,000 146,000 1666 Nick Faldo (UK) John Cook (USA)

Other major golf events at Muirfield


Muirfield - the greenkeepers

The success of major events is due in large measure to the design, maintenance and condition of the courses on which they are played. The latter two factors depend, in great measure, on the head greenkeeper, now the course manager, and his staff. Since 1949, Muirfield has had four men of ability in charge. James Logan (1949-80) and David Kirkcaldy (1980-88). David Kirkcaldy had been a greenkeeper at Muirfield since the 1950s. In 1988, Chris Whittle was appointed course manager. He moved to Royal Birkdale in Lancashire in 1994 and was succeeded by Colin Irvine, who had been the course manager at the Dusseldorfer Golf Club near Dusseldorf in Germany. Prior to that appointment he had been a greenkeeper at Muirfield - he was returning home.

Throughout most of the period there was a team of eight men carrying out all the greenkeeping duties. Prior to an Open Golf Championship additional staff were employed. A hand-watering system with some 30 hose points was increased to 51 points in 1993. It was only in 1998 that an automatic watering system was installed for watering the fairways - the greens remaining to be watered manually.

James Logan, who was highly regarded by all golfers who played at Muirfield, was the son of a GGC head greenkeeper, William Logan. In the village he was always known as 'Shaig' but at Muirfield, 'Shay' or more formally 'Logan'. He had been a greenkeeper at the GGC pre-war. After the war - he had been Japanese prisoner-of-war - he was appointed head greenkeeper in 1949. He prepared the Muirfield Course for four Open Championships, one Curtis Cup, one Walker Cup and one Ryder Cup. During the course of a press interview, just before the 1972 Open Championship, Charles Lawrie, the chairman of the R&A Championship Committee, commented "Logan has been truly superb. This is his fifth Open and he knows the course intimately and exactly how to set it up". When interviewed before the 1973 Ryder Cup, he commented that the Muirfield course "gave golfers a scrupulously fair test of their abilities". In the same year he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM). He retired after the 1980 Open Championship.


Luffness New Golf Club was established in 1894 and like the HCEG at Muirfield has an all-male membership. For many years post-war Luffness has been a second club for Edinburgh golfers - a links course for winter play. This is reflected in the high number of Edinburgh based members with few local members. In 1972 a survey showed that a quarter of the members were over the age of 65, with only ten under the age of 30. A concerted effort was made to find new members. In 1981, with a total membership of 459, the percentage of over 65s had only fallen by 3%. Since then the number of members has increased and had reached 708 by 1999.

After the war, it was necessary to undertake a great deal of work to bring the fairways and greens up to good standard. This work was not helped by the presence of the anti-invasion concrete block and rabbits. Some of the former were buried, whilst some were used in the construction of the Cockenzie Power Station in 1963. For a few years from 1949 sheep were to be seen grazing on the course. The Luffness New Golf Club has been well served by its head greenkeepers and greenkeeping staff. There have only been three head greenkeepers during the last 63 years. James King was head greenkeeper 1937-70 and saw service during the war in the Royal Observer Corps. The foreman greenkeeper, Alex Thomson, who had joined the greenkeeping staff in 1946, followed him. Sadly he died four years later. Bob Watt, a Gullane man, followed in 1974 and is still in charge at the end of the century. In 1949, Alex Thomson, found himself employed for six months each year trapping rabbits and selling them to gamedealers. With the arrival of myxomatosis in 1954 the rabbit population declined. However by the 1970s the problem was as big as ever and outside assistance was sought to deal with the problem.

Three attempts were made to buy the course from the landowners - Hopes of Luffness. Those of 1957 and 1973 were unsuccessful. The course was eventually bought in 1979 at cost of £150,000 when the club became a limited company. Following the deteriorating conditions of the course due to the semi-drought in 1971-3, a period of concerted restoration was begun. Professional help was sought from the R&A agronomist, Jim Arthur. Another concerted effort was made to get rid of the rabbits at the same time. In 1974/5 improvements were made to the clubhouse, head greenkeeper's cottage and provision of equipment storage, with further additions 1987-92. In 1991 a watering system of pop-up sprinklers to the greens, tees and fairways was completed at a cost of almost £150,000.

The Luffness New Course was one of the local courses selected for the playing of the preliminary rounds during the British Open Championships held at Muirfield in 1966,

1972, 1980, 1987 and 1992. In 1949, a member and scratch player, Robin Wight, won the Scottish Amateur Championship at Muirfield. In 1951 and 1988 the club won the East Lothian County Cup. Compared with the Gullane No.1 and Muirfield courses, Luffness is a shorter, more gentle links course well loved and supported by its mainly city members.

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