The Links of Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland; considered the birthplace of golf, were shared by many different clubs throughout the 1700 and 1800’s; one of which was the Thistle Golf Club.
Sadly the original Thistle Golf Club itself, based in Leith, is no more.
The club was established in 1815 and played on Leith Links with the Leith Golfers who would become the Honourable Company of Edinburgh golfers based at Muirfield. The Golfers Yearbook of 1866 reported of the Thistle Club that This Club was established in 1815, and was in active operation for 15 years up to 1830. After having been in abeyance for 36 years, it was resuscitated on 5th April, 1866. The members have a commodious Club-room, and the game has made great progress since Spring; the resident professional being Willie Dunn, whose services the Club was fortunate enough, to secure. Its most important accomplishment was that in 1824 it published a rule book with an extensive introduction on golf history, which they termed as “some historical notices relative to the progress of the game of golf in Scotland.” Significantly, then history documents the origins of ball games, which with the related technology of the leather bound ball, known as the feathery, was key to golf development.
The Thistle Club motto was “Noli me Tangere!” which is often translated as “Do not touch me!” but more properly interpreted as “Do not hold me back!” There is a biblical origin to this motto from which several paintings have been derived, as well as the first Alabama flag motto.
The list of members of 1824 was published with the Rules and history. In 1866, it would include the notable Robert Chambers, also a member, inter alia of the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society and Captain of Tantallon golf Club and winner of the Grand National in St. Andrews in 1878, precursor to the Amateur Championship. He laid out the first 9 holes course at Hoylake with George Morris.
When Leith became crowded the Honourable Company moved to Musselburgh in 1836, but the Thistle Club struggled on at Leith to the end of the century. the Leith thistle is still listed in the golfing annuals for several years from 1887 onwards.
Some of the members had moved to playing at Bruntsfield Links in 1820s, though it too was congested. In 1870, the Edinburgh Thistle Club was formed and it was one of the founding clubs when the Braids Hills opened in1890, which is where they play to this day, inheritors in title to the Leith Thistle Club. One of its prominent members was James Braid, who prior to winning the Open five times between 1901 and 1910, won several club medals and the Braids Tournament in1892, which he considered the finest win of his amateur career. Tommy Armour who won the US Open in1927 and the Open in 1931 was also an Edinburgh Thistle Club member.
Sadly for the club, much of the Leith Thistle Club memorabilia has been sold off. One bowl survives in the National Museum of Scotland. Recently, Thistle Club scorecards from 1825 were discovered and are available in occasional auctions.
Spiritually, the club name is also kept alive by the Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, North Carolina (20 miles north of Myrtle Beach, SC), an apparently commercial development of Thistle Estates.
Quite a difference from the 7 holes on Leith Links. The North Carolina club is 110 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina which is the site of the first mention of golf in America when golf clubs and balls were imported in 1739 and 1743.
The Carolina club exhibits many of the relic trophy clubs and score cards from the time period, as well as the original book, Rules of the Thistle Golf Club, published in 1824.
Most clubs typically use 8 minute tee times. At Thistle thoughtful planning of tee times at 10 minute intervals paired with an impeccably maintained course, provides an old fashioned style of consideration for the players and promotes a leisurely pace to the game.
EXCELLENCE, PRIDE & TRADITION IS OUR MANTRA.
Excellence is reflected in our award winning 4 1/2 star rating from Golf Digest for the sixth straight year for outstanding course design, impeccable conditioning, and phenomenal service.
Pride embodies our staff, which is unparalleled in providing all guests with a first class experience in every interaction.
Tradition characterizes our preservation of the history and heritage of our name sake established in 1815, in Scotland.
The caring and devoted style of operation at the Thistle Golf Club starts from the highest management levels and shines throughout the entire organization promoting a superior level of satisfaction for both our members and guests.
The entire staff from our gatehouse to bag drop, from pro shop to pub has created, and will always maintain an atmosphere that epitomizes the heart and structure of a first class organization.
We promise to never compromise our commitment to excellence, providing only the highest of standards.
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