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Musselburgh Old nine-hole course

The rise and fall of Musselburgh: How this small town once ruled the world of golf

Think St Andrews has always been king? Think again. Musselburgh was once known as the 'Cradle of Golf' and we explore its history with Mungo Park on the NCG Podcast
 

We call St Andrews the ‘Home of Golf’. It’s the modern Mecca of the game and a pilgrimage to the ‘hallowed’ links of the Old Course brings tens of thousands of visitors every year to the Fife coast.

But it’s pre-eminence wasn’t always so clear cut. Though you can almost miss the old links of Musselburgh as you’re travelling around Edinburgh, in the mid to late 19th century this small town was known as the ‘Cradle of Golf’ – and it produced some of the finest players who’ve ever lived.

Five Open winners came from Musselburgh and, between 1860 and 1889, they won the championship belt, and subsequent Claret Jug, on 11 occasions. The town’s famous nine-hole course also played a pivotal role in the development of the world’s oldest major.

In fact, you cannot consider the growth of the game without taking account of the influence of the Parks and Dunns – to name just two of the famous families who helped pave the way for the multi-billion industry we know today.

Mungo Park is the great grandson of Willie Park Sr, the first Open champion in 1860, and the great nephew of Willie Park Jr, who won the Claret Jug in 1887 and 1889.

His grandfather, also Mungo, helped expand golf in South America – winning the first Argentine Open in 1905.

He joins me on the From the Clubhouse podcast to consider the legacy of Musselburgh. We look back at a time when it ruled the golfing world, how it became a victim of its own success, and why even its decline was hugely important in establishing golf as a global game…

The From the Clubhouse podcast with Mungo Park

Listen to the full episode below, or search ‘The NCG Podcast’ in your preferred podcast platform.

Musselburgh

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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