World’s oldest golf scorecard from Scotland to fetch thousands at auction

The oldest scorecard in the world from when a Mr Cundell played Musselburgh in 1820. Picture: Contributed
The oldest scorecard in the world from when a Mr Cundell played Musselburgh in 1820. Picture: Contributed
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The world’s oldest golf scorecard - marked in Scotland 199 years ago - is expected to fetch up to £3500 at auction in Edinburgh next month.

The framed and mounted scorecard shows that a Mr Cundell played the five holes within the Musselburgh Race Track twice on December 2, 1820.

The tally, in black ink smudged by the rain, shows he completed the ten holes in 84 strokes to win the Leith Thistle Golf Club winter medal.

Charmingly, the golfer provided his own commentary in a handwritten note at the bottom of the card, writing: “Dreadful storm of wind and rain, atmosphere quite yellow, just like the lurid regions of Pandemonium.”

The rare memorabilia, once owned by the great golfer Sir Henry Cotton, will be sold at Bonhams’ Sporting Sale on May 1, when it is estimated to make £2500/£3500.

Cundell is almost certainly James Cundell, who was closely involved with the Thistle Golf Club since its founding in 1815 and who published one of the first ever rule books of golf in 1824.

Sir Henry Cotton, the best British golfer of his generation and winner of three Open Championships in the 1930s and ’40s, collected memorabilia in a tin box discovered after he died.

Kevin McGimpsey, Bonhams’ golfing memorabilia consultant, said: “This original scorecard is in remarkable condition considering its age and the atrocious weather conditions at the time Mr Cundell played his round.

“It has an excellent provenance, having once belonged to the well-known golfer Sir Henry Cotton who kept it in his renowned Black Tin Box with other rare examples of historical golfing memorabilia.

“The scorecard predates the oldest cards owned by the international golf museums.

“The fact it was scored and marked in inclement weather nearly 200 years ago is quite phenomenal.

“A serious collector, or an institution, might want to have it as a keystone part of their collection.”

James Cundell was a listed member of The Thistle Golf Club, established on March 8, 1815. They played on Leith Links, in Edinburgh, and later became the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield.

He is best known, however, as author of the “Rules of the Thistle Golf Club”, published by James Ballantyne in Edinburgh in 1824. One of only six books of printed rules published prior to 1830, it included historical notes on golf now regarded as the first “history of the game”.

The oldest scorecard is included in Part Two of the Pierre Horwitz Collection of golfing memorabilia, which covers the period from the early part of the 19th century to the 1920s. It concentrates especially on the manufacture of clubs and balls and rare patented designs of both.

Other highlights in the sale include a white painted feather golf ball estimated at £3000/£5000. It was handmade around 1840 by Allan Robertson (1815-1859), one of most gifted of the early professional golfers.

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