Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers tells Edinburgh golfers to stay away after travel clampdown

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
 The Club House and the bunker next to the 18th green at Muirfield  -  Ross Kinnaird/Getty
The Club House and the bunker next to the 18th green at Muirfield - Ross Kinnaird/Getty

It is the official home of the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, widely acknowledged as the oldest golf club in the world.

But from today, members who live in the Scottish capital will no longer be able to play Muirfield, where the Company has been based for 129 years, as a result of Scotland’s coronavirus tier system.

Club officials, along with others in East Lothian, have written to members telling them that those living in level three or four areas, which includes Edinburgh, “should not travel to the club” following the imposition of legally-enforceable curbs on movement last week.

Other clubs in the county, which boasts of having the highest concentration of Championship links golf courses anywhere in the world, have gone as far as pro-actively cancelling bookings.

The par 3, 13th hole at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield - David Cannon/Getty
The par 3, 13th hole at The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield - David Cannon/Getty

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on Monday that East Lothian will move from tier three to tier two restrictions from Tuesday, although Midlothian, which she had previously indicated was also likely to see the same relaxation of rules, saw its move down the levels abruptly cancelled as a result of a rise in cases.

The First Minister said she did not expect to announce any major changes to levels in force across the country on Tuesday, a week after she indicated the relaxation in East Lothian while imposing a near full lockdown on 11 council areas in west and central Scotland.

Scottish Golf, the national governing body for the sport, has issued guidelines to clubs urging them to follow and enforce the rules, with courses currently closed in England due to the national lockdown there. Courses have only recently reopened in Wales and strict rulesare  in place in Northern Ireland.

Stuart McEwen, Secretary of The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, said: “We asked all members to adhere to the law regarding the tightening on travel restrictions as of 6pm last Friday. 

“We realise that this has affected many members residing in the City of Edinburgh area however the club is fully supportive to protect all those living and working in East Lothian in the fight against Covid-19.  We hope that the City of Edinburgh will be in a position to move to Level 2 as soon as possible.”

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was established in 1744, and is widely acknowledged as being the oldest club in the world. Its original home was Leith, before it moved to Musselburgh in 1836, and later Muirfield, in Gullane, in 1891, which has become one of the most famous courses in the world.

US golfer Mark O'Meara prepares to tee off on the 18th at Muirfield in 2013 - ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP
US golfer Mark O'Meara prepares to tee off on the 18th at Muirfield in 2013 - ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP

Other courses in the area have adopted a similar approach, with Gullane Golf Club writing to members last week to say that those in level three or above areas “are not permitted to book any golf, turn up to play or use the practice facilities until restrictions are lifted.”

An email added: "We will also be contacting all visitors who have made bookings and reside outwith level 2 to inform them that their booking will be cancelled.

“We appreciate how difficult and frustrating it is to keep track of the constantly changing restrictions and guidelines issued to us by Scottish Government.”

In Scotland, non-essential travel in or out of level three or four council areas was made illegal from Friday, with police able to issue £60 fines for anyone breaking rules.

A spokesman for Scottish Golf said it had worked with the Scottish Government to prepare guidance but that it was for individual clubs to choose how to implement it.

He added: “We have and will continue to be clear that we encourage both clubs and members to make responsible choices that adhere to the law or comply with guidance depending on the relevant instance and encourage those involved in the game to demonstrate integrity through the continuing challenges that are presented.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Anyone who lives in a level 3 or 4 local authority area can only travel for essential purposes and must, by law, remain within that area unless they have a reasonable excuse.”