Golf finds its swing

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In the first part of his history of the ‘stick and ball’ game, Iain Crawford traces its origins in colf, gowff and numerous other variations in both Scotland and the Netherlands, through to the first instituted club at Leith Links, the triumph of gutties over featheries, the inaugural Open in 1860, and on to the turn of the 20th century.

IT IS generally accepted that primitive man, carrying a stick and finding a small stone, a cone, a puffball head or a dandelion in his path, started the golfing instinct by having a swipe at it. How primitive and where are still matters of hoary historical research, but it is along the haar-haunted shores of the North Sea that the most strident claims to the origins of the game of golf are made.

The place where this first strike occurred is never likely to be established, so research instead concentrates on places where there was an attempt to replace the exhilaration of that first accidental swipe with a system, a chancy swish into a compelling fetish, an international obsession and worldwide big business.

Though the Romans and the Chinese have made claims as aspirants to the title of golf’s innovators and inventors – the Romans called its stick and ball game paganica , the Chinese suigan – the weight of historical evidence leads to the Low Countries and the east coast of Scotland.

The late Steven J. H. van Hengel, a Dutch banker and golf historian, put the case for the Netherlands in Early Golf, a book privately published in 1982. In it he produced documentary and pictorial evidence that a game similar in some respects was played in Loenen aan de Vecht in northern Holland, Brussels, Haarlem, Utrecht, Rotterdam and various other Dutch and Belgian towns at the end of the 13th century. It was called colf.

Like golf, or gowff as it was known in Scotland, it was played across country with a ball, rather larger than the present-day golf ball. Originally the balls were made of wood but that proved to have two disadvantages – they did not fly straight and they were dangerous when they went off-line (in that respect no different from modern golf balls). Later balls were made of sewn skins stuffed with cow hair – or, like the early featherie golf balls, packed with a hat-full of feathers.

The object of colf was to play over a set course in a minimum number of strokes and to strike the ball into a designated target, usually a door. The course could consist of as many doors as were nominated and was played through towns and villages, doing a fair amount of damage en route. Sometimes it was played on ice. Edicts from angry lords of the manor and magistrates banning the game provide the documentary evidence of dates, beginning around 1360. The ordinances against colf, however, were largely ineffectual because the game was so popular. Eventually, in most places, it was licensed to be played only outside the town walls or ramparts; later it was confined inside a specially built court, like tennis, with the target a decorated post. To distinguish it from the earlier cross-country game, this game was called kolf.

Feverish objections are made, particularly by Scottish golf writers, about comparing colf with golf. They probably both grew out of the French game jeu de mail (paille-maille) which was a kind of long-distance croquet in which the ball was struck with a long-handled mallet and directed through hoops. But the connections between golf and colf are closer than those between colf and croquet. In both games, natural or quasi-natural hazards have to be surmounted and special clubs were developed for this purpose.

Van Hengel never claimed that colf was the original game, only that available historical evidence gave it an earlier date. There could have been several reasons for this. Like colf, golf first made it into written records because it attracted the disapproval of those in power. But it was prosecuted on different charges. The first mention of golf in Scottish literature came in 1457 when James II’s parliament attempted to ban it because it was believed that golf and “futeball” (football), was interferring with archery practice. The Act was updated and strengthened in 1597, 1681 and 1682 and particular penalties were added, to be imposed on those who played during times of religious observance.

The relationship between the Low Countries and Scotland has always been close, and for a century before 1457, Dutch fishermen and merchants were the principal traders with Scottish ports. During the 12th century, huge fairs were held annually at Bergen op Zoom on the River Scheldt in Holland and at St Andrews, where as many as 300 ships from the Low Countries, France, Norway and other European commercial centres were in the harbour for 15 days in April for the Senzie Fair.

Among the commodities traded at the fair were leather golf balls from Holland and, for export, there were wooden clubs – “Scotch cleeks” – made in Scotland. Unfortunately, no records of these transactions were kept in Scotland but they appear in Dutch archives and it is fair to assume that if golf were popular enough in 1457 to interfere with practising shooting arrows at the English, it must have being going on for some considerable time before that date – maybe even for a hundred years to around 1360 when most of the authentic sightings of colf begin in Holland.

Indeed, according to van Hengel, there is no hard evidence as to whether the Dutch got the idea for colf from the Scots or the other way round. Anyway,

St Andrews is happy to claim that golf has been played on the site of the Senzie Fair for more than 800 years – but there is not much hard evidence for that either.

However, there is the not unimportant fact that golf is a game of holes, and that doors or posts do not – and seemingly never have – come into it. The holes theory comes from the mellow rustic picture of shepherds hitting pebbles into rabbit holes while watching their flocks. While this is a charming picture, Scotland has a problem in proving itself the land of origin for “the antient and healthful exercise of the gowf” because it does not have any pictures until the 18th century, whereas the Dutch have lots – paintings, statuettes, sketches, prints and tiles depicting everything from the full par-five swing to putting.

That the Dutch paintings and sketches date from the early 17th century can quite legitimately be attributed to the fact that there was very little landscape painting in Scotland at that time. But historically we are still out-documented by the Dutch.

Nevertheless, Scotland’s claim to be the golf nation is supported by longevity. Not merely is the matter of the cup, that 4.25 inches of elusive emptiness, into which you have somehow or other to propel a ball 1.68 inches in diameter, deeply relevant, as the hole does not feature in colf, but there is the very pertinent question: “What ever happened to colf?”

Round about 1700, this game, popular for centuries, quite simply disappeared. There were no bans on playing it – the invention of gunpowder had made archery irrelevant. The courses vanished. It simply stopped. Social historians struggled to find an explanation but no-one has yet produced a satisfactory one. A 19th-century book about Amsterdam attributed it to the more refined way of life of the 18th century and the rising interest in games like billiards. But there does not seem to be any logical explanation.

In Scotland the first clubs were formed and courses were laid out. Club and ball manufacture became a profession or at least an artisan skill. Although there had been no real rivalry between colf and golf, it was the end of an era. Perhaps no-one in Scotland noticed the disappearance of the Dutch game but swingers on Leith Links, St Andrews and Dornoch should have done. A sporting renaissance was on its way and a game worth millions was on the distant horizon.

It took some time. The early years of the 18th century were difficult and perilous for both the Scots and the Dutch, heavily involved as they were in both individual and international problems. Scotland was torn by arguments about whether the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland should be formalised by the abolition of the Scottish Parliament while the Dutch were trying to stay independent.

Although there was much else to occupy the citizens of the Netherlands and Scotland in the early years of the 18th century, golf does not disappear from the record. In fact, as far as Scotland is concerned, there are some important incidents and statistics which prove that this country’s long association with the game was steadily maintained in fervour and in growth. The “antient and healthful exercise” was to become ‘Royal and Ancient’, more organised and to spread far beyond the frontiers of Caledonia.

EVEN before the 1600s, golf had picked up recognition in the highest circles. In 1565, Mary, Queen of Scots became the first lady golfer on record when she was vilified by the Kirk Elders for “playing golf on the fields of Seton” too soon after the death of her husband, Lord Darnley. In 1603 when her son, James VI of Scotland went to London to become James I of England, he took a train of Scottish courtiers with him, and with them, the game of golf.

There are bills for the purchase of clubs and balls for King James VI. To stop the import of balls from Holland, complaining that “no small quantitie of gold and siller is transported zeirlie [yearly], out of his Heines kingdome of Scotland for buying of golf ballis”, in 1618 the King conferred a 21-year monopoly for the manufacture of balls on one James Melville on condition that each ball should cost no more than four shillings.

The royal move to England has led Royal Blackheath to claim that it was the first golf club, formed in1608, but there is no documentary evidence of its existence until 1766. There is plenty of evidence, on the other hand, that the game was going strong in Scotland well before that date. Sir John Foulis of Ravelstone, whose account books are preserved in the publications of the Scottish History Society, noted in 1672 that he had “Lost at Golfe with Chancellour Lyon, Master of Saltoune etc. 5. 16. 0” and “To golf balles 0. 12. 0.”

Clearly Sir John was not too straight off the tee, but what this also tends to underline was that golf was a pastime for the rich, the aristocracy and “people of quality”. But was it? Certainly Charles I was reputed to be playing on Leith Links in 1642 when news was brought to him about the Irish rebellion that sparked off the English Civil War. His Scottish supporter, the great Marquis of Montrose, who might have won the Civil War for him had not Charles dithered the opportunities away, was an early addict when a student at St Andrews University. He even abandoned his newly married wife, “sweet Mistress Magdelene Carnegie” in 1629 “when, scarcely had the minstrels ceased to serenade them, than we find Montrose at his clubs and balls again”.

The Duke of York, later King James VII and II, played frequently at Leith Links when he was resident at the Palace of Holyroodhouse as his brother Charles II’s Commissioner to Parliament in 1681-82, and was probably responsible for the first international golf match. Two English noblemen, having acquired some golfing skills during their time in Scotland, challenged the Duke and any Scotsman he chose to play a match for a large stake. As his partner the Duke chose John Patersone, a humble local cobbler, which suggests that swinging on the links was not confined to the wealthy.

With Patersone the prince won his bet easily and was so delighted with his victory that he gave his partner half his winnings, with which the cobbler built a house in the Canongate called Golfers’ Land. A plaque still adorns the site in the Royal Mile with his canny golfing motto: “Far and Sure”. Thus were the first golf professionals born – but the game had some way still to go on the long road from John Patersone to Tiger Woods.

It seems that before golf became organised, it was played on any convenient stretch of open land, usually by the sea where it was too windy and salt-laden to grow crops successfully. Anyone could play but the well-heeled bought crafted clubs with metal heads and leather balls stuffed tight with boiled feathers while the artisan class made their own balls from wood and their clubs from anything with which they could strike the ball. So the craftsmen made balls and clubs for the rich but designed them to be used to maximum effect by experimenting with their products themselves.

Games were played for wagers and the rules were agreed by the contestants before they drove off – how many holes, what kind of clubs, foursomes, fourballs or straight head-to-head match-play, and what odds. It was not until a group of enthusiasts got together and decided to formalise competition that rules were needed. But whether rules preceded clubs or clubs preceded rules is a chicken and egg question.

And then, of course, food and drink came into it. In the 1740s a group of Freemasons who played at Leith Links usually took refreshment at Luckie Clephan’s tavern after their exercise. From an agreeable habit it was built into a routine and the tavern became their headquarters. The moving spirit behind this social extension of golf is believed to have been one of the great characters of the age, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of the Court of Session, the senior legal figure in Scotland.

In the divisive and dangerous years of Prince Charlie’s 1745 rising, which attempted to restore the Stuarts to the throne, and its tragic aftermath, he used his authority to temper justice with mercy. He has been described as “a patriot without ostentation or pretense, a true Scotsman with no prejudices, an accomplished and erudite scholar and a man of genuine piety”. In some ways it seems an odd description for a man who founded the world’s oldest golf club but it was a genuine tribute to a great man, whose only ‘weakness’ was an obsession with golf. It was said that, on days when snow made Leith Links unplayable, he would be found on the beach battering his featherie along the seashore.

Every father who has ever struck a ball will relate to the rueful humour of his account of a November round in 1728: “This day, after a very hard pull, I got the better of my son at the gouf. If he was as good at any other thing as he is at that, there might be some hopes of him.”

After a couple of years of meeting at Luckie Clephan’s, the golfers of Leith sought formal recognition from the City of Edinburgh. On March 7, 1744, “in response to applications made from time to time by several Gentlemen of Honour, skilful in the ancient and healthful exercise of the Golf”, the town council presented a Silver Club “not exceeding the value of fifteen pounds sterling” to be played for annually according to the regulations drawn up by the Gentlemen Golfers. So the Company of Gentlemen Golfers came into being and the minute of the town council provides the documentary evidence of its seniority as the oldest golf club in the world.

The first club minutes and town council records contain the rules drawn up for competition for the Silver Club. It was to be played for every year on Leith Links and the victor was to be nominated “Captain of the Golf” and was deputed to settle all disputes relating to golf and golfers – a sporting honour of some power. The winner was to attach to the Silver Club a gold or silver ball and on being given the club was “to give sufficient caution to the Magistrates and Council of Edinburgh for fifty pounds sterling for delivering back the Club to their hands one month before it is to be played for again.”

Until the Silver Club, golf matches had been played for wagers, sometimes money, but often legs of mutton, haunches of venison, firkins of claret, port or whisky, or dinners for which the loser had to pay the bill. The Silver Club of 1744 launched championship golf in circumstances that turned out to be just as dramatic as the most tense Open or Masters tournament ever played.

The winner in 1744 was John Rattray, a surgeon in Edinburgh, who won again in 1745. But in September of that year, he was roused from his bed to be Surgeon-General to Prince Charlie’s army at the Battle of Prestonpans, where the Stuart prince’s army chased Sir John Cope and the Hanoverians south to Dunbar.

From that victory Rattray accompanied the Jacobite army (unwillingly it was claimed) south to Derby and back to final disaster at Culloden in 1746. Taken prisoner on the bloody field of Culloden, he was in danger of being executed and only the intervention of fellow golfer Duncan Forbes saved his life – perhaps the first instance of the advantage of belonging to a good club. He resumed office as Captain of the Golf in 1747 but had the good manners not to win the club again until 1751.

There were other perils, though less hazardous, in being a member of the Honourable Company. For example, in the 18th century you could be censured for dining without due care. As the minutes of 1753 reveal, one member, David Lyon, “ane Eminent Golfer, after subscribing and engaging himself to play for the Silver Club this day has not only not started for the Club, but contrary to the Duty of his Allegiance has withdrawn himself from the Captain and his Company and has dined in another house after having bespoke a particular Dish for himself in Luckie Clephan’s”.

Having marked his card, Lyon was dealt with by the Captain, who appointed “the Procurator Fiscall to endyte [him] for the above offence”. For not eating his dinner, Lyon was compelled to resign.

The practice of playing for trophies rather than food, wine or dinners was begun with Rattray’s victory but the association of good food and golf remains. The Silver Club is still donated by the City of Edinburgh – the Honourable Company is on its fourth Club now and the trophy is still played for at Muirfield at Gullane, the Honourable Company’s home since 1891 and the venue for 15 Open Championships.

Dinner matches, arranged over a friendly glass at a meal in the clubhouse, still go on but have been superseded in most clubs by monthly medals, club championships and other rungs on the complex structure of golf ambitions. But they are still arranged and played at Muirfield where golf is very much a recreation rather than a dour-fought contest.

Over the years the five-hole course on the venerable links of Leith became overcrowded and the Company, maintaining its connection with the city by craftily changing its name to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, moved to Musselburgh and in 1891 to Muirfield at Gullane, where it still resides. But before the Gentlemen Golfers moved from Leith they had firmly, if sometimes perversely, laid down the law about how this challenging game was played.

TEN years after the establishment of the Honourable Company at Leith, golf became a competitively organised game at St Andrews. Twenty-two noblemen and gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife formed the Society of Golfers of St Andrews. They also had a Silver Club as the trophy and the first annual challenge for it was played on May 14, 1754.

However, the game had certainly been played in the old grey town on the north-east coast of Fife for several centuries before that date. In addition to the testimony of Montrose and the Stuart kings, golf is reputed to have provided a popular distraction for students as well as townsfolk when the university was founded in 1411. Mary, Queen of Scots played there in the 1560s when she stayed in the town relaxing from her domestic problems and the rantings of John Knox. The links “between the Mussel Scaup and the Watter of Eden” are noted in the city’s charter of 1552, reserving for the townspeople the right to use the links for “golfe, futeball, shuting and all games as well as casting divots, gathering turfs and for the pasturing of their live-stock”.

No place in the world is as imbued with the atmosphere of the game as this little town. It has held a long and distinctive place in the history of Scotland as a capital, a marriage venue for kings, a seat of learning, a place of ecclesiastical strife, passion and horror. But what it is really about is golf. Whether or not it is the first place where the game was played or merely one of them is irrelevant. It is the rule-making centre, golf’s seat of government, “The Metropolis of Golf”, as it was known in the 17th century. Even if it was not the first place to make the rules, it is indisputably the capital of golf today.

For their early matches they adopted the same rules as were drawn up by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh – even to the extent of including the geography of Leith in their version. These rules were a great deal simpler than the current 100-plus pages of the Rules of Golf “As Approved by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland and the United States Golf Association”, since there were just 13 of them.

They very much reflect the conditions and the way the game was played 260 years ago but some still form a basic structure for how golf is played today all over the world. Here are two of the 13: “If a Ball be stopped by any person, Horse, Dog or anything else, the Ball so stopped must be play’d where it lyes” and “Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the presentation of the Links, not the Scholars’ Holes or the Soldiers’ Lines, shall be accounted a Hazard. But the Ball is to be taken out and Tee’d and play’d with any Iron Club”.

This rule (and others) that allowed the ball to be teed was probably included because of the rough and uncared for condition of the ‘course’, used as it was in Leith by soldiers and children and often soggy and disturbed by hoofmarks. We are also told that “the Fifth and Thirteenth articles of the Laws” – which had to do with dropping out of water hazards and the definition of what constituted a hazard – “occasioned frequent disputes”. So everything associated with the rules of golf seems to have been much as we know it today.

Having acquired rules, golf also began to spread across national boundaries. Golfing was popular near Charleston in what is now South Carolina, in 1785, reputedly introduced by Scottish soldiers stationed nearby. There was a links on Harleston Green in Harleston but there seems no record of there being a club.

Golf in the UK at this time was confined mainly to the east coast ports of Scotland, with clubs at Musselburgh, on Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh, in Aberdeen, Crail, Burntisland, Cruden Bay and Dunbar. There are also claims by the Glasgow Golf Club and its more recent acquisition, Gailes, for an

18th-century date, and Royal Blackheath maintains its entitlement to 1608 but lacks the papers to prove that it had a constituted existence before 1766.

Long before the Glasgow Club built itself another course at Gailes near Irvine, the first course on the Clyde estuary had established itself at Prestwick, where it was to make golfing history.

Before 1852 golf in its original disorganised way had been played along the Ayrshire coast but in that year a letter was sent to 69 gentlemen inviting them to attend a meeting at the Red Lion Inn to examine proposals for forming a golf club to play on the links of Prestwick. Fifty seven of the invitees joined on the spot and Lord Eglinton was elected as captain. It was also agreed to adopt the St Andrews rules.

There was no hanging about in getting things going. A few months later the captain of the Royal and Ancient, Colonel J O Fairlie, one of the original Prestwick members, lured Tom Morris away from his native heath at St Andrews to be the greenkeeper, ball and clubmaker at Prestwick for the princely sum of 25 a year. With his wife and two-year-old son, also named Tom and for ever afterwards known as “Young Tom”, Morris moved west and set about his duties.

In these days the term greenkeeper covered pretty well everything of a practical nature to do with the game – making the clubs and balls, laying out the course, teaching the game and being both a font of golfing wisdom and a loyal servant to the members. Morris had been apprenticed as a ballmaker at the age of 18 to the first great professional associated with the game, Allan Robertson.

Unfortunately Robertson did not survive into the age of major tournaments, dying in 1858, just two years before the first Open Championship. Tradition has it that he was never beaten on level terms in a match for agreed stakes.

BIZARRE factors affected the development of golf. All kinds of hardwoods were used for making clubs in the old days – thorn, apple, pear and others – but the original hickory shafts came as ballast cargo from Russia to Dundee. Even stranger was the origin of the gutta-percha ball, which owes its evolution to the Hindu god, Vishnu.

In 1843 a large black marble statue of the four-armed Hindu deity was sent from Singapore to Dr Paterson of St Andrews University. To keep it safe on its long journey half across the world it was wrapped in gutta-percha, or latex, a kind of Malaysian rubbery gum which can be moulded when immersed in boiling water but which dries hard and retains its shape when cooled.

From this packing material, Robert Paterson, the doctor’s son made the first gutta-percha balls. His early experiments were not successful but his brother, who lived at Lauder near Edinburgh, improved on the design and marketed it as “Paterson’s Composite Golf Ball” in 1846.

Allan Robertson and his assistant, Tom Morris, fell out about the virtues of the new ball because Robertson was (rightly) afraid that it would affect his trade in featheries and put him out of business. Morris left to open his own shop where, instead of making three featheries a day, he could make 100 gutties.

In a few years the cheaper and more durable ball, which not only preserved its shape better but also flew more accurately, had completely replaced the old ones. And by its price and long-lasting qualities, the gutty made golf available to vast numbers of new players.

It arrived just in time for the great championship that was to launch professional golf and make Prestwick a name to conjure with. There were, of course, competitions before the first Open Championship. There was an Inter-Club tournament on the Ayrshire course in 1857 and others at St Andrews in 1857, 1858 and 1859. But these were amateur tournaments. Professional matches were confined to contests set up by members who bet, often heavily, on their favourites.

St Andrews had a tournament for clubmakers, ballmakers and caddies on the second day of the Autumn Meeting. The members put in money as reward for the winners, but there was nothing so dignified as a cup or trophy for the hired help.

When Colonel Fairlie, himself reckoned to be the finest amateur of his day, filched Tom Morris from St Andrews for Prestwick, there was lively expectation in the west of some thrilling clashes between Old Tom and his rival, Willie Park Senior of Musselburgh. But instead of arranging head-to-head matches, Colonel Fairlie decided to extend the field. He had suggested a Medal for Professionals to the R&A when he first became a member there in 1838 but the proposal seems to have fallen on stony ground. So when his new club, just five miles from his home at Coodham, was formed in 1851, he transferred the proposal to Prestwick.

He had hoped to receive support from other clubs but none was forthcoming and in 1860 Prestwick took on the responsibility of organising the first Open Championship alone. The prize was a Challenge Belt, made of red morocco leather and “richly ornamented with various devices in silver”, open for competition in three kingdoms.

The first Open had only eight contestants (one of whom took 232 for the 36 holes) and soon developed into a contest between Morris and Park. In spite of his local knowledge Tom Morris spent an unwanted lot of his three rounds in bunkers of his own devising and Park won by two strokes.

Over the next ten years the Parks and the Morrises divided the spoils between them. Only in 1865, when the Belt was won by Andrew Strath, did the trophy go outside the two families. Strath was also from St Andrews and had succeeded Tom Morris as Keeper of the Green at Prestwick when Old Tom was lured back to St Andrews in 1864 by the enormous annual salary of 50.

Morris won the Open again in 1867, the year before his son at the age of 17 began his astonishing run of three victories in succession from 1868 to 1870. In 1869 he had the first hole-in-one ever recorded at the 145-yard eighth hole at Prestwick. His record score of 149, just a shade over level fours, an amazing score for his day, stood until 1891 when the championship was extended to 72 holes and was not surpassed until James Braid won the Open at Prestwick in 1908.

The other thing the astonishing Young Tom did, of course, was bring the Open to a halt. Having won the Challenge Belt three times in a row, he was entitled to keep it and the Championship no longer had a trophy. It was not played in 1871 but Prestwick appealed to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (by then at Musselburgh) and the Royal and Ancient to help in providing a new Golf Champion Trophy, as the present claret jug is inscribed, to be played for annually on the three greens of Prestwick, St Andrews and Musselburgh.

Curiously, when Young Tom won again in 1872, for the fourth successive time, (another record never surpassed), he did not receive the Claret Jug because it had not been finished. In its place he got a gilded medal but his name was engraved on the Jug later as the 1872 winner.

Young Tom’s brilliant career was to end in tragedy. When he returned to St Andrews in 1864 after spending most of his life in Prestwick, he was obviously championship material and he became the first professional who earned his living entirely by playing golf and not by making clubs, balls or caddying. When he was 16 he beat the best golfers of the day, including the great Willie Park at Carnoustie, then he conquered the entire field, including his father, in the Open Professional Tournament at Montrose.

He defeated Park again in an individual challenge match and went on to win four Open Championships in succession. His supremacy was never seriously challenged. He had an unusual swing for the period, not flowing but short and punchy, but he could do anything with a golf ball and was the acknowledged master of the newly-invented niblick.

In 1875 he went with his father and a crowd of backers to play a challenge match with the Parks of Musselburgh at North Berwick. In the middle of the game Old Tom received a telegram saying that Young Tom’s wife, who was expecting a baby, was seriously ill. The match was abandoned. John Lewis, one of the gentleman backers, offered his yacht to the Morrises to take them by the most speedy route across the Forth estuary to St Andrews.

Before they left, a second telegram was delivered to Old Tom telling him that his daughter-in-law and her unborn child were dead. Young Tom, beside himself with grief at the news brought with the first telegram, was not told the contents of the second until they were in sight of St Andrews pier. He was stricken with anguish and disbelief, totally shattered by the loss of his bride of just over a year and he never recovered from it.

He played just two more games of golf to honour commitments already made and three months later, on Christmas morning, he died, after an uncharacteristic and melancholy bout of drinking, in his bed. His tombstone, a handsome sculpted memorial subscribed to by golfers from all over the country, is in the cathedral cemetery.

Old Tom competed in every Open Championship until 1896, 36 years in all, a record surpassed only by the North Berwick professional, Ben Sayers. He lived to be 87 and, despite the occasional skirmish with the St Andrews green committee, became almost the patriarch of golf, a genial figure steeped in the wisdom of the game who came to epitomise its finest aspects and the strength of the Scots character.

There is a memorial to him, too, in the cathedral cemetery. His portrait in oils has an honoured place in the Clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient and the 18th green of the Old Course is named in his memory.

In his lifetime he had seen the game he loved and to which he had devoted all his days grow from a small elitist pastime to a worldwide sport which, when he died in 1908, had spawned hundreds of golf clubs and thousands of enthusiasts the world over.

There had been major changes in equipment for playing the game, and designing courses had become a new craft in landscape development. Golf was becoming an industry, but one moved along primarily by the sentiment and manic addiction it inspired in its disciples.