Instituted in 1735, The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh is not only regarded as the world’s oldest golfing society but also one of golf’s most prestigious clubs. Named for its original members – a ‘burgess’ being a freeman of the burgh – the Society first played on the common lands of the Bruntsfield Links, before moving to Musselburgh in 1874.
Just a few years later, in 1894, they moved on once more, finding a more permanent home in Barton, a few miles to the west of Edinburgh’s city centre, where the Society can be found today. In the years since, the Society and the course have evolved and changed, yet history remains at the core of the character and identity of The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh – just as the Society has its part at the heart of golf’s heritage.
Since 1894, the course at Barnton has been shaped by some of the game’s greats. Before the Society had even completed the purchase of the parkland, Old Tom Morris had made his assessment and given his strongest recommendation. Others have made their mark on the course, with James Baird’s design and Willie Park Jnr’s inspiration in evidence today. The experts behind post-war improvements have been no less impressive, with Harry Colt and Philip Mackenzie putting their expertise into the course’s development. The influence of these masters can still be seen and felt today, across the fairways, features and greens on what is one of Scotland’s finest parkland courses.
A golf course of this quality has always attracted some famous admirers, including a few regal players. In the 1920s, the course was a favourite of two princes who would both become Kings, the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of York – with the former a Burgess Golfing Society Captain. By command of their father, King George V, the Society changed its name to The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh. Today, the Society not only retains its royal name, but also its patronage, with His Royal Highness The Duke of York an Honorary Member.
In more than 100 years in its home at Barnton, the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh has played host to countless competitions and tournaments, from schoolboys and amateurs to the highest calibre of professionals in Europe. The distinct parkland feel, lush fairways and true greens presents a demanding par71 for even the best of golfers. The Royal Burgess has provided the backdrop for a variety of professional, amateur and junior events, including The Martini International, Pringle of Scotland Championship and the Penfold Tournament. The course also hosts the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Coronation Schools Tournament every year for teams of former pupils – and has done since its inception in 1953.
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