MUSSELBURGH, East Lothian, Scotland -- Tucked inside the Musselburgh Race Track sits golf's oldest playground.
Musselburgh Links, The Old Golf Course is touted as the oldest course in the world. Its 2,954 yards are no match for modern golf balls and titanium drivers, but imagine playing this par-34 layout with a feathery ball and a brassie club.
Billboards located near the second tee give players a sense of its historical timeline. Mary Queen of Scots is said to have played on site prior to surrendering to the Confederate Lords in 1567. The first documented evidence of golf came in 1672.
The wives of local fishermen played the first women's competition in 1811. Robert Gay used the first hole-cutting instrument in 1829. Seven of the current nine holes were laid out in 1838, with two more added in 1870. Musselburgh hosted British Opens in 1874, 1877, 1883, 1886 and 1889. Willie Park Jr., whose legendary father was a pro at Musselburgh, won in a playoff in front of a large crowd in 1889.
Playing through the rails and over the racetrack brings an odd feel to several holes. The scorecard actually explains what to do when landing in a hoof print. Fantastic sod-walled bunkering and colorful gorse makes up for these quirks and any rough spots in conditioning. Playing with hickory clubs available for rent remains the best way to connect with the club's magical past.