No trip to Gullane is complete without a visit to the Heritage of Golf Museum. Its founder, Archie Baird, who has died aged 95, leaves a legacy as one of the sport's foremost historians
Gaping wide-eyed in wonder at the golfing treasures that filled every nook and cranny of the Heritage of Golf Museum was the only way to top off a day at Gullane Golf Club.
Whether it was cleeks and featheries, paintings, or rare books, the fruits of Archie Baird’s lifetime of collecting the sport’s memorabilia were on show for inquisitive minds and those keen to see the history of the game from its origins.
So it was no surprise that warm tributes filled the air when it was announced Baird, the well-known golf historian, museum curator and former Gullane captain, had died at the weekend aged 95.
His passion for collecting the game’s riches began in the early 1950s when visiting an auction in Edinburgh.
He spied a canvas bag full of old clubs and found the words W Park, Musselburgh, inscribed.
Not only did the first Open champion make them but Park Snr was also the great grandfather of Baird’s new wife, Sheila.
“I realised it would be a fascinating hobby to collect old golf clubs, and a rewarding one, because every junk shop in Edinburgh had them and nobody wanted them,” he said.
From there, a love was born and his collection was opened up to all when he established the museum, found next to the pro shop at Gullane, in 1980.
It became a destination for golfers from all of the world – with both the sport’s luminaries and weekend hackers among those to go on pilgrimage.
Last year, Baird, who lived in Aberlady, was given the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to the history of golf.
“We were saddened at the weekend to learn of the passing of Archie Baird, aged 95, the founder of our Heritage of Golf Museum,” said Gullane in a tweet.
“A warm and charming character, his knowledge and love for golf made him a great source of information for all who met him. We will all miss him dearly.”
Geoff Shackleford, Golf Channel contributor and senior writer at Golfweek, wrote on his blog: “We’ll never know the number of golfers he entertained, enlightened and informed, and it really doesn’t matter.
“Anyone who came into Archie Baird’s golf museum at Gullane got a crash course in golf.
“The great man has moved on to the Big 18 in the Sky, but his legacy lives on in his museum and the joy he gave golfers who made the pilgrimage to East Lothian.”
Writer Lorne Rubenstein added: “Many people on planet golf, including Ben Crenshaw, considered Archie one of the great golf historians. Archie loved foursomes (alternate shot) team golf and decried the emphasis on score and score alone as the emphasis of what he believed represented the heart of the game.”
Other tributes flowed in across the world of golf…
The world lost one of the great lovers of golf history today- one of the men who got me into collecting #golfhistory & sold me my first ever golf print…the immortal Archie Baird.
— Society of Golf Historians (@SHistorians) December 7, 2019
R.I.P Archie Baird. Long-serving curator of the Heritage of Golf Museum, Gullane Golf Member and dear friend to all us here at Gullane Professional Shop. Our heartfelt thoughts are with his wife Sheila and family. pic.twitter.com/7OuiEHtRYg
— ⛳️ Gullane Pro Shop ⛳️ (@GullaneProShop) December 9, 2019
The greats of golf history saluting a fellow historian. What could be more fitting? RIP Archie Baird.
— Stephen Proctor (@SProctorGolf) December 10, 2019
R.I.P. Archie Baird B.E.M. 95 yrs old of Gullane Golf Club. I attended his tour a few years ago then took this pic afterwards. pic.twitter.com/jyt2hIqXZu
— howard boylan (@Golfsnappper) December 9, 2019
Baird, who had also been the historian at Muirfield, was a veterinarian for many years and said of his introduction to golf: “I knew when I qualified I couldn’t afford to get injured playing rugby and have a locum work for me so I thought golf was a good alternative.
“There were lots of marvellous municipal courses such as Braid Hills or Portobello. Two shillings and you were on.”
What a life that decision would bring.