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Great Places In The Game: 4th At Musselburgh And Mrs. Forman's

This summer I had the privilege of playing a round with hickories at Musselburgh Links, recognized as the oldest course in the world by Guiness. The first documented play was in 1672, though its believed Mary, Queen of Scots whapped something resembling a ball around here in 1567.

I chose to focus in on the fourth hole for now because it's a sensational par-4 that incorporates the surrounding racetrack. There is also the hole's ties to Mrs. Forman's restaurant behind the green. Through the hatch in the wall where she sold refreshments to golfers is now a window, the charming restaurant and pub pays homage to its predecessor with numerous wall photos of the old days along with excellent food. And of course, they still serve golfers on the back patio.

Musselburgh and its race course, to be featured in a separate video and included in a story next July for Golf Digest's Open Championship preview, are must stops for any golfers making the pilgrimmage to East Lothian.

The YouTube video, which I recommend watching at the enlarged size for full effect compared to the embedded version below.

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Reader Comments (14)

12.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlue Canyon
Very cool. I remember driving by it on my way to play Gullane in May. If I'd known its history, I would have stopped.
12.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Slothower
Wonderful post on Musselburgh...Mrs. Forman's looks like a great place. We can always count on you for a unique perspective.
12.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
There are very few items on the list of regrets from my summer in St Andrews...but the fact I never played Musselburgh or Prestwick is near the top.
12.27.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbaked
I played Musselburgh in May of 2011 - The restaurant (at the former Mrs Forman's) wasn't even open for some reason.

It also interesting to gauge distance using the furlong markets along the race course. From that, I know that I am easily able to drive the ball longer than one furlong (1/8 of a mile).

Other than that, the golf experience at Musselburgh is not very satisfying. You really have to remind yourself of the history in order to keep interested at all.
12.27.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob
Geoff. What happens when the races are on? Do they still allow play and if they do, do they call the horses through ? :-)
I take it that the "running rail" on the course is OB?
12.28.2012 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Great stuff, Geoff! I'll be sending this to Mungo Park presently - just in case he hasn't seen it. Musselburgh should only be played with hickories. I'm glad you used them at the cradle of golf.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
The best way to enjoy the course is with hickories. It is a wonderful course with many subtleties. The par 3 fifith or Sea hole was studied at length by Bobby Jones. My favorite is the 6th with its two tiered green. I'm sure most modern golfers would consider it a pasture not worth a drive by. I'd just as soon those people stay away. More time for me to enjoy the course that hosted six Open Championships.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Stevens
The railings around the course are made entirely of white PVC pipe. From a distance it looks quirky and charming - up close it looks awful.

Unfortunately, there is often a lot of trash blowing around the course (maybe it comes from the grandstands) and they don't seem to have the budget to pick it up on a daily basis.

The course certainly has history. It is too bad that things can't be spruced up a bit. I suppose there just is not enough money.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
Great video Geoff. We played Mussleburgh with hickories and replica gutta perchas about 5 years ago. My slow, flat swing turned out to be perfect for launching that ball with those hickories.

What I remember most about the 4th was that my drive failed to clear the track and landed in the middle of it. The grass was so thick that the ball disappeared. Unlike normal rounds, I became obsessed with finding it not only because it was the only gutta I had but because I had this mortal fear that it would get stepped on by a horse and cause a catastrophe. After 7 or 8 minutes, I finally found it and played on, making bogey. I shot 43 with those bygone tools.

Terrific little course that drips with history. Can't wait to play it again ... only with hickories, of course. It would not be the same otherwise.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFWIW
Youda man, FWIW!!
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Amazingly, they allowed play to tee off until 11:30 am on a day the first race was at 2. I was shocked but they claim to have a machine that vacuums the track before the first race of any debris. I did not see this in action, which is why I, like FWIW, searched for one of my balls until I found it in what is essentially US Open rough.

The rails are PVC because they are moved, taken down, etc... for the different events (harness racing, jumping, etc...) and in the case of the 6th tee, to allow people to tee off. They can't be permanent for those reasons and also because it allows them to give in case of a accident. One of the perks of plastic. And I hope they don't "spruce" it up. I found it to be a perfect mix of modern maintenance and old style playability for the hickories.
12.28.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Man I hope I am not shattering any visions of grandeur, I don't know how old you are, or how long you have been playing- but...a Furlong is 220 yards, to convert it to golf speak. Pretty good carry, not an exceptional overall drive.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
@digsouth - I am pretty sure it is only oldtimers at racetracks who know instantly how long a furlong is. I thought it was longer that it was and am a bit surprised the my drives are well in excess of an 1/8 of a mile.
12.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob

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