Musselburgh Links Course Review

Musselburgh Links is the oldest golf course still being played and a living history lesson

Musselburgh Links - Feature
From the back tees, the first at Musselburgh Links is extremely tough and often better played as a drive and pitch par 4
(Image credit: Rob Smith)

GF Round: £17 Mon-Fri, £18.70 Weekends
Par 34, 2,874 yards
Slope 120
GM Verdict A living history lesson of golf, and a must play for its history value alone
Favourite Hole The opening hole, a monster par 3 across the race course to a well-sited green

Golf is documented to have been played here as long ago as 1672. Arguably the oldest golf course still in existence, Musselburgh Links hosted six Open Championships up until 1889. At this time, it was also the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers before their move to Muirfield. The course runs through the popular race-track to the western end of East Lothian.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 1

The opening hole is played over the racetrack to a beautifully sited green

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The course opens with its toughest examination from the whites, a 240-yard par 3 that is actually 100 yards shorter from the yellows.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 2

The par-4 second hole just after sunrise

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The 2nd, somewhat unencouragingly called The Graves, is a gentle par 4 with the green just short of an ocean of gorse.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 3

Barracks Entry is the third hole, a short par 4

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The same gorse lines the left of the 3rd, which also has fairway bunkers as well as one that lines the left side of the green.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 4

Mrs Formans is the SI1 par-4 fourth at the far end of the course

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The 4th is the first of the two back-to-back holes whose greens are outside the racetrack. In days gone by, the green here had a pub immediately beyond for mid-round sustenance. Sadly, this became a private home 5 or 6 years ago, so the best way to achieve a feeling of well-being is to hole a putt for par!

Musselburgh Links - Hole 5

Looking back down the second of the short holes, the fifth

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

You now head for home via the shortest par 3 on the course, albeit one that is still over 180 yards from the back tee.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 6

There is a steeply sloping green on the par-4 sixth

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Back inside the racetrack, the 6th is a short par 4 where the real trouble comes in the form of a severely sloping green.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 7

Hole seven, the Bathing Coach, is the only par 5

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

There is a fair walk back to the next tee, your reward being that as a par 5, this is probably the most scoreable hole on the course. Avoid the sand, and 3-putting, and there is a good chance of success.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 8

The eighth, Hole Across, is another very long par 3

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The 8th is actually a ‘new; hole, albeit now 150 years old as it was created in 1870 in preparation for hosting later Open Championships.

Musselburgh Links - Hole 9

The closing hole is a right to left dogleg

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

The round finishes with one of the most attractive holes on the course, a two-shotter that curves round to the left to a very pleasingly situated green site.

For a real step back in time along Scotland’s Golf Coast (opens in new tab), hickory clubs are available for hire. No-one is claiming that this is at the top of the list of the best golf courses in East Lothian, or that it will get your heart racing with its wow-factor and views. But that doesn’t mean it’s not more than worth the very modest green fee for playing a course that has hosted six Open Championships. If not quite a must-play, it’s certainly a really-should-play for all those interested in the history of the game we love.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for more than 40 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly for over ten years, specialising in course reviews and travel. He has now played more than 1,170 different courses in almost 50 countries. Despite lockdowns and travel restrictions in 2021, he still managed to play 80 different courses during the year, 43 of them for the first time. This included 21 in 13 days on a trip to East Lothian in October. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but nine. During the 2021-22 review period, Rob has played 34 of the Golf Monthly Top 200. He is a member of Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at r.smith896@btinternet.com.