Murrayfield Golf Club's creation in 1896 was part of the late nineteenth century explosion of interest in golf in Edinburgh which saw many private clubs created. The Murrayfield area was not as heavily populated as it is today and the bulk of the early membership came from the Haymarket district, the New Town and Western suburbs.
Many of the founder members of the Club were already heavily involved in golf in East Lothian. No doubt they helped to create a course conveniently situated near their homes and businesses so that their love of this increasingly popular game could be pursued more easily. And while they played over the new fairways which stretched up the lower slopes of Corstorphine Hill, they could catch a glimpse of East Lothian and their other courses!
The original 12 hole course was on leased land lying to the east of Murrayfield Road, an area now occupied by Campbell Avenue, Campbell Road, Cumlodden Avenue and Lennel Avenue. It was very much intended to be a local club and circulars were issued in the neighbourhood to persons likely to become members. An advert in "The Scotsman"was hardly necessary because response was excellent and it was quickly decided to limit the membership to 300 gentlemen and 200 ladies.
The new club's central location and the relative ease of access to the course, even in the days of the trams, carriages and bicycles, was surely one of the reasons for its popularity, and remains so today.
When a portion of the Ravelston Estate to the west of Murrayfield Road was leased, it was possible to increase the course to a full 18 holes, laid out on both sides of the road. By 1898 the membership was 340 gentlemen and 186 ladies and flourishing.
It was 1904 when the course was wholly laid out on the Ravelston Estate west of Murrayfield Road. The course was then 4,930 yards for 18 holes; a distance regarded as adequate for the ball and club technology of the day, viz. Haskell and hickory. Look for the maps of the early courses as you climb the stairs to the upstairs lounge in the clubhouse.
It was this layout that Harry Vardon and James Braid famously played in their exhibition match on 30th July 1904, attracting many thousands to the course. Their match did much for the early reputation of Murrayfield, not only as a picturesque course, but also as a challenging test of golf. The match was filmed and a copy was discovered in 1992. Preserved and stabilised, it was found to be one of the oldest golfing films of actual play known to exist. This fact, and the fame of its subjects, made it of considerable interest when it was auctioned at Phillips in Edinburgh before the 1992 Muirfield Open. It was bought by a consortium of members and now finds a home in the Golf Museum in St Andrews.
The present clubhouse was opened in 1912 and replaced the original clubhouse which had been built in 1897 and lay to the east of Murrayfield Road. The current clubhouse layout dates from 1988 when a major extension and renovation of the original building was completed. This became necessary because of the failure of schemes suggested in the 1960’s and 1970’s to sell off the first and eighteenth fairways, redesign the course utilising the ground occupied by Ravelston Golf Club, and build a new Clubhouse on ground near the present sixteenth green.
The Club has had many notable golfers among its members from the earliest days, including national champions and Internationalists. Two of the first Captains, W. G. Bloxsom and A. M. Ross, were extremely well known in golfing circles and achieved notable feats, especially in East Lothian. W.G. Bloxsom, the first Captain, had the distinction, in conjunction with AS Douglas, of designing and patenting the first-ever artificial golf tee. The ball stood on short rubber studs instead of the mound of sand previously used.
The most successful golfer in the inter-war period was William John Guild, father of the past Club President, David Guild and twice Club Captain. He won the Scottish Amateur Championship in 1926 and was also Highland Amateur
Champion in 1928. He played for Scotland in 1925, 1927 and 1928 and captained the team in 1928. He later became President of the Lothians Golf Association, President of the Scottish Golf Union in 1933-1935 and also a Walker Cup selector in 1936. In the photograph, he is receiving the Scottish Amateur Trophy in 1926. The Murrayfield crest can be seen on his blazer.
The ladies of Murrayfield have achieved considerable success with many early Internationalists, most notably Miss Madge Neill Fraser, who played for Scotland every year from 1905-1914. Pride of place must go to Mrs J. B. Watson (later Mrs E. C. Beddows) who won the Scottish Championship on no less than four occasions in the 1920’s. She represented her country in matches almost every year from 1905-1931 and also as late as 1951 aged 63. Although she never won the British Championship nevertheless she also played for Great Britain against France in 1931 and 1932. She also played in the first official Curtis Cup match against the USA in 1932 and was later elected Captain of the British team in 1939.
She was followed into a captain’s role by Mrs Wallace Williamson, who led the British team for USA / Canada in 1938 and Miss Elizabeth McClarty, who led the SLGU team on several occasions in the 1960’s.