The golf links are the feature that join the beautiful villages of Earlsferry and Elie and the local population are justifiably proud of their ancient course. The course has evolved over the centuries from a simple links golfing tract in the 1500’s to the fine 18 hole course it is today.
It has been confirmed from Royal Charter that golf was played over “the golfing tract” in Earlsferry from that time and the Charter was renewed in the 16th century by King James VI of Scotland reconfirming the right for the villagers and visitors to play golf ….. all at a time when Christopher Columbus had just discovered America and most people believed that the earth was flat!
The golf links at Earlsferry are arguably amongst the oldest golf links in the world. The first mention of an official course layout comes around 1770, when both a Short Course and Long Course are mentioned in official documents. These two courses were situated on the land now occupied by the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 17th holes, although there is little to suggest the sort of formal course layout we would recognise today.
From 1812 there were then 20 long years of legal wrangling between the local Laird and the Burgh as golfers fought for the right to play golf over the links in the face of objections from those farming the land.
This right was finally secured in 1832 and it has been upheld ever since. Certainly few would argue that the struggle made to safeguard this right was not worth the effort and golf in this corner of Fife remains just as central to life today as it was back then.
All over the course there are reminders of this heritage. The view of the 12th century chapel from the 3rd tee, Cadgers Way an ancient pilgrims route crosses the 4th and 17th fairways, and the “inch” stones on the 6th and 9th fairways remind of us of the dispute with the local farmer in the 1800’s allegedly mediated by Old Tom Morris himself.
From the 8th fairway looking ahead can be seen the ruin of Grange House, originally built by nuns in the 1500’s and then made into a house in 1715 by James Malcolm a supporter of the Jacobite cause who had all his possessions seized by the Crown after the failed uprising by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
A game of golf at Elie is a step back into the very history of golf.
In more recent times the Club House was started in 1875 and as the popularity of the game grew, club makers set up stall in what is now the lower car park selling their wares to Members. The Club has a fine display of golf clubs made at Elie in the late 1800’s at the same time when James Braid was learning the game on the links at Earlsferry and went on to become Open Champion five times. Golf clubs crafted by the likes of Rolland, Reekie, Crowley are now sought after by collectors from all over the world.