GULLANE, Scotland -- The long history of golf has its grey areas, but stop into the Heritage of Golf Museum after a round at Gullane Golf Club and local legend Archie Baird will serve it up in a single, concise, black-and-white tour.
Gullane is mostly known for its three golf courses in East Lothian, including Gullane No. 1, the club's most famous and an Open Qualifying venue among some of the country's other prestigious events.
But before or after your round, be sure to see Archie. With a few days notice, Baird will offer free tours of his Heritage of Golf museum right next to Gullane's pro shop. Here, Baird shows off his extensive collection of artwork, memorabilia and equipment, including some bizarre old clubs.
"I especially enjoy showing Americans this one," he says with a grin. It's an old, hickory iron designed by an American that has a wooden face attached to the iron head. "They thought that it was the wood that made the ball go far, so they put wood over the face of the iron, bless them."
The tour starts at the beginning of golf history, dating back into the 1300s. Though the game's origins are debated by many, Baird has plenty of proof the game was played by the Dutch on ice, including paintings of men playing to a stick on ice, as well as some young Dutch children in formal portraits holding ancient tools, resembling the game's first clubs.
In a painting from 1668, you'll notice Dutch men now joined by men in kilts. Those are Scots, who would sell wool to the Dutch in the winter and would sometimes stay for days or months if the weather was unfavorable to return home.
Baird especially enjoys talking about the golf ball, which went from an expensive, feather-core ball to a cheaper, more mass-produced ball made of a black, gum-like Gutta-Percha, just after 1850. This allowed the number of golf clubs in the world to go from just a handful to thousands by 1900.
The tour ends rather abruptly, as Baird notes:
"Then the modern, rubber-core ball came along in the 1920s, courses had to adapt to it, and I lost interest. Any questions?"
That's not entirely true. Baird still plays the game regularly, often at Gullane, especially enjoying the shorter Gullane No. 3 course, designed by Harry Colt in 1910.
For more information, see www.heritageofgolf.org.