Pick from a range of interesting facts and detailed information about Scotland and the Scottish people.
Scotland is known the world over as a place of history and heritage as well as cutting edge art and culture
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Live & Workin Scotland
Key information on the practical aspects of moving to Scotland and where to get advice. Plus read about the experiences of people who have moved to Scotland from all over the world.
Scotland is renowned across the globe for its rich culture and heritage, and its contribution to the world past and present. From its thriving contemporary arts and music scene to its achievements in industry, medicine, science, law and literature, Scotland's story is one of immense achievement
Making the links
Origins of golf
The history of golf in Scotland goes back at least as far as the fifteenth century when, in 1457, the game of was banned by Parliament under King James II as a distraction from military training. The ban would continue until the Treaty of Glasgow in 1502 ended the wars between Scotland and England. The same year, King James IV made the first documented purchase of golf clubs. Records show that golf was played at Scotlands (and the worlds) oldest existing golf course, Musselburgh Old Links, as early as 1672, though folk history places Mary Queen of Scots, at Musselburgh playing the game as early as 1567.
It was in the nineteenth century, though, that golf exploded onto the world stage, and was standardised into the game we know today. To this period we owe the standard eighteen-hole course, the regulation four-and-a-quarter inch diameter holes (the width used at Musselburgh) and the rise to dominance of St Andrews Royal and Ancient (a title conferred by William IV in 1834) as keepers of the faith.
Early years of course design
It was also in the nineteenth century that golf course design emerged as an art form in its own right. Originally, golfers would negotiate the natural contours of the land they played, using tried-and-tested routes around whatever obstacles the environment provided. With improvements in landscaping techniques, though, the time came for a terrain specifically designed with golf in mind.
One of the first great exponents of course design was golfing legend Old Tom Morris (so-called to distinguish from his son, Young Tom Morris). As a player, his achievements were illustrious. To this day he holds the British Open records for oldest champion (at the age of 46 in 1867) and greatest margin of victory (13 in 1862) but he is equally well remembered for his pioneering work in course architecture. Credited with inventing the dogleg, he contributed to many of the worlds best-known courses. Old Toms work can be seen at such courses as Carnoustie, Nairn and Royal Dornoch in Scotland, and overseas at Lahinch, Co Clare in Ireland and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.
Old Tom was again in the public eye recently, when Askernish Golf Clubs nine-hole course on South Uist was found to be hiding a full eighteen-hole Old Tom course underneath its soil. Restoration work is underway to reinstate the original course. Gordon Irvine, the Master Greenkeeper whose researches led to the unearthing, has compared the discovery to finding the Holy Grail.
Scotlands next true giant to emerge in course design was James Braid. Born in Earlsferry, Fife, in 1870, Braid became a professional golfer in 1896, pioneered the use of aluminium-headed putters and became, along with Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor, one of the ;Great Triumvirate who would dominate British golf in the early years of the twentieth century. Braid followed in the footsteps of Old Tom Morris to become a legend in course design. He was responsible for more than 250 courses throughout the British Isles. Visit Scotland, in conjunction with some of our finest golf clubs, has recently unveiled six James Braid Trails, covering thirty of his courses across Scotland, to celebrate his legacy. What is perhaps the pinnacle of Braids achievements is represented in his world-famous Kings and Queens courses at Gleneagles.
The outstanding contribution of Scots to the early development of course design has achieved recognition worldwide. When the unmarked grave of David Strath, creator of the world-class links at North Berwick, was recently discovered in Melbourne, Australia, St Andrews and the Golf Society of Australia were quick to erect a monument in honour of the great mans memory.
Go west, young man
Scots influence on golf course architecture has not been confined to home shores. In the United States, a nation that has embraced Scotlands game like no other, Scots have crafted many of the finest courses. Between his arrival in New York in 1892 and his death in Chicago in 1936, Aberdeen born Thomas Bendelow designed no fewer than eight hundred golf courses in the US and Canada. In a career that earned him the nickname the Johnny Appleseed of golf, Thomas Bendelow travelled widely through the North American continent, creating the backbone of the New Worlds golf landscape.
Other notable Scots contributors to American course design include Donald Ross (1872-1948), creator of 413 US courses who learned his love of golf playing Old Tom Morriss course at Royal Dornoch, and, of course, Dr Alistair MacKenzie who laid out 400 courses worldwide, including the aforementioned Augusta National, home of the Masters Tournament.
The present day
The centre of gravity of world golf has never strayed far from home, and Scotland continues to lead the way in course architecture. Since 2002, Golf Design Scotland, under the leadership of founder and director Richard Le Sueur, has blazed trails both in the construction of new courses and the expansion, renovation, and redesign of existing courses. On his influences, Le Sueur says: Ive been influenced by all the classic designers like Harry Colt and MacKenzie, but the courses have been changed so much over the years by various captains and greenkeepers, that its more the courses that have influenced me. While working on the design of a golf course or creating the features within that course, I tend to take inspiration from the classics where I grew up playing. I am an admirer of the more unique quirky courses like North Berwick, Cruden Bay and Prestwick and enjoy incorporating that same unique feeling within my design work.
So what does Le Sueur think is the most important element when designing a new course?
Hands on. I learned the trade in the ditches with the shovels and the bulldozers. My construction background allows me to be a hands-on designer and I will only commit to a limited number of projects at any one time. I offer clients the personal attention to detail required to design and oversee the construction of a well crafted and unique golf course.
Le Sueur was educated in Michigan in the US and at the worlds only dedicated MSc course in golf course architecture, at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh. Paul Albanese, Director of the MSc course says Golf originated here so it's like an architect studying buildings in Rome. It's the foundation that everything is built upon the world over!
The philosophy behind our unique program is to have students gain both a broad and specific understanding of the design process. We want the students to be able to think both creatively and technically, while gaining knowledge of all the different aspects of the golf design process.
David McLay Kidd, of DMK golf design, is currently working on the design of the much publicised No 7 at St Andrews. What would Old Tom Morris make of his new design?
Old Tom would probably have thought the site was vastly inferior to what he was given, given that he was working on the sand dunes between the Eden estuary and St Andrews Bay. Were working on what was heavily farmed land along the Eastern shore of St Andrews.
Cultivated land tends to have lost whatever natural contours it may have had beneath the plough and is a lot more fertile. We can only do things to the land to reduce its fertility and thin the grass to get that hard, fast game of golf that the Scots love.
As golf moves into the new century, new challenges face the world of course design. With the latest technology enabling players to drive further than ever while still maintaining control, pars on older courses are being hammered down. Courses that once represented an epic marathon are now, for the pros with the latest equipment, little more than a stroll. Some worry that disparity in the available equipment will lead to a two-tier situation of professionals playing mammoth courses with the latest and best golf technology, while amateurs are relegated to smaller courses. Others are more optimistic.
David McLay Kidd says: Its only the very top tier of professionals who are getting the most out of the new equipment to improve their game. Tiger Woods is hitting the sweet spot four times out of five. The average single-figure golfer only once a round. The average golfer maybe once a year! Are cars easier to drive than they were twenty years ago? Yes. Is Formula One racing more heavily regulated than it was twenty years ago? Absolutely. What we have to ask is why isnt professional golf being regulated in the same way with standardized equipment?
Carrying on the grand tradition of such golfer-turned-architects as Old Tom and James Braid, Scots golfing superstars Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance have moved into course design, creating numerous courses worldwide. Whilst Richard Le Sueur, welcomes the work coming to Scottish designers, he believes that course design in the future will continue to move away from player-designers to professionally qualified architects.
I am finding that most developers would prefer to allocate larger portions of their budget to building and marketing a unique golf course designed by a qualified Golf Course Architect, as opposed to relying on a big name to help sell memberships, on a lesser golf course. More and more golfers are becoming wise to the economies of that now. Architects like Tom Doak and David Kidd are doing great things for the industry by breaking through and picking up high profile projects which would have been set aside for player designers a decade ago.
With a glorious history and a plethora of gifted young Scottish golf course designers, Scotland will continue to lead the way in course design for years to come. Trumps multi-million pound project will bring in new jobs and will no doubt be another great course to add to the long list of great golf courses in the home of the golf, Scotland.
The unique land in Scotland will always be in demand.