The Rules of the Game

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Antique golf clubs
Antique golf clubs. Kindly reproduced from Getty images_78482421

Within the Edinburgh Town Council minute books preserved at the City Archives, we can find one of the first known set of regulations for a golf competition, as documented on the 7th March 1744.

A group of prominent gentlemen asked the Town Council to supply a prize for an annual golfing competition they were setting up to be held at Leith Links. The Council agreed to provide a silver club as a trophy, as long as the men produced and followed an agreed set of regulations. These regulations included:

  • the players’ names being picked out of a bonnet and matched into pairs;
  • the Silver Club being declared to be always the property of the Good Town;
  • the victor shall be called ‘Captain of The Golf’ for the next year;
  • the victor shall append a gold or silver piece to the Club for the year he wins.
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Silver Club golfing regulations, Edinburgh Town Council Minutes, 7th March 1744. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.

These 11 regulations paved the way for the very first 13 ‘Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf’ and established the world’s first known golf club – the Company of Gentlemen Golfers. The National Library of Scotland holds the records for this golf club, where you can see the 13 Articles in the club’s first minute book.

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Official Souvenir Brochure of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, 1970 – from the archives recovered from Meadowbank Stadium

Edinburgh remembers its sporting clubs and events through interactions with the Town Council like above but also in the historical records of a whole variety of different clubs in the city. The City Archives has within its own collections records from athletics and rowing clubs, as well as records for the Commonwealth Games and the Meadowbank sports centre. These provide a picture of what sporting hobbies were taken up by local residents over the years, and where these activities took place.

We preserve these records to tell us about the past; but we want you to tell us what we should collect about life today for tomorrow: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/archivesurvey