Eleven Gentlemen
1786 Eleven Gentlemen

Eleven good gentlemen met in the Crail Golf Inn and talked golf. Quill was put to paper, and on the 23rd of February 1786 the Crail Golfing Society was founded. There are only six older golf clubs in the world.

Scarlet Jackets
1792 Scarlet Jackets

An official uniform of a scarlet jacket with a plain yellow button was adopted as the Society uniform. Any member appearing on the links without this uniform was liable to a penalty of half a mutchkin of punch. In 1793 two former captains of the Society, were fined for 'appearing on the links with green jackets.'

Lindesay Medal
1830 Lindesay Medal

David A. Lindesay Esquire from Wormiston presented the Society with a silver medal. It is one of the oldest trophies in golf. In 1855 the medal was won by Allan Robertson, from the famous St Andrews ball making family.

The King
1834 The King's Birth

The year which started an occasional tradition when ‘all’ were invited to dine with the committee to celebrate the birthday of the monarch. In this case William IV.

Maillardet Medal
1842 Maillardet Medal

John William Maillardet was the deputy Inspector of Hospitals for the Madras Army, East India Company. He was Captain of the Society and in 1842 presented a silver medal to be "played by all golfers'. It is still played for today.

Fielden Snuff Mull
1843 Fielden Snuff Mull

WH Fielden was Captain of the club when he donated the Snuff Mull on 26th July 1843. Originally presented as a decorative object it was converted to an annual trophy in 1872. Awarded today for the lowest aggregate score for three of the Society's six stroke play competitions. The smell of tobacco is still present today as you lift the silver lid.

Club Centenary
1886 Club Centenary

In the year of the clubs centenary Dr Frederick A Saunders FRCS offered a silver medal inscribed: "Presented to the Crail Golfing Society Estd 1786 on the occasion of its Centenary 23 Feb 1886." The Centenary Ball reported a surplus of £3 and 10 shillings. Financial prudence that has continued to this day.

Old Tom and Balcomie Links
1895 Old Tom and Balcomie Links

The first 9 holes of Balcomie links were designed by the master himself, Old Tom Morris during 1894; the course formally opened in 1895. He said the links were ‘very suitable for a nine-hole course and I am bound to say that there is not a better in Scotland.’ He extended the course to 18 holes in 1900.

Ranken-Todd Bowl
1895 Ranken-Todd Bowl

George Chiene and the Fortune family of Barnsmuir presented a sliver punch bowl to celebrate the new Balcomie Links. The trophy was named after Captain Ranken the first captain of the Society and the then tenant of the land Richard Todd. The resulting tournament has become a world famous annual competition between the old clubs of Fife.

Crail Ladies Golf Club
1901 Crail Ladies Golf Club

At the Crail Town Hall in March 1901 a meeting for the purpose of forming a Ladies Golf Club was held. Local ladies and the Burgh of Crail Golfing Committee attended. Provost Sim, Chairman of the Committee, explained to the ladies that the sum of two shillings and sixpence per member would be charged for the upkeep of the links.

The Clubhouse
1905 The Clubhouse

The "great need" for a clubhouse was first recorded in 1903. Subscription lists were opened and the ladies boosted funds through a sale of work. The construction of a clubhouse on the present site began in 1904 at a cost of £680.

After the Great War
1919 After the Great War

To encourage golf after the Great War, two buses were purchased by the club in 1919 to transport members to and from Crail.

Naval Air Station
1940 Naval Air Station

The historic listed military buildings seen on the approach to the club are what remains of HMS Jackdaw. Commissioned in October 1940, it was a Royal Navy training school for aircraft carrier torpedo bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. It is the best preserved RNAS in the world.

Land Purchase
1972 Land Purchase

A pivotal year in the club's history. A costly but decisive action. For the handsome price of £33,000 including costs, the Society purchased the course and clubhouse from Crail Town Council.

Craighead Links
1998 Craighead Links

Opened in 1998, Craighead Links was Rio Olympics course designer Gil Hanse’s first course design outside the USA. It provides a longer and contrasting challenge to Balcomie Links.

Clubhouse Refurbishment
2009 Clubhouse Refurbishment

The clubhouse was virtually rebuilt with an extension and major refurbishment that resulted in two bars and three eating areas from which to enjoy the spectacular sea views.

2018 Ladies' Senior British Open Amateur Championship

90 of the highest ranking ladies senior golfers from all the globe competed for the championship on the Craighead Links. One of the increasing number of major competitions Crail Golfing Society is attracting today.

Scottish Amateur Championship
2019 Scottish Amateur Championship

Back to back national championships over both courses at Crail. 264 elite amateurs competed over 3 days. The winner was Crail's own George Burns, student of St Andrews University.


Royal Burgh of Crail

It comes as no surprise that Crail has a historic golf club since everything about the place has a history. Early records have it as Cherel and by 1153 as Karel. Origins of these names go back to the Pictish words for ‘fort’ and ‘rocks’. A stone cross-slab is preserved in the parish church suggests religious associations back to the 8th century.

Crail became a Royal Burgh in 1178 in the reign of King William the Lion. Robert the Bruce granted permission to hold markets on a Sunday in the Marketgate that continued for centuries and were amongst the largest in Europe. Essentially built around the quaint, but still a working fishing harbour, much of Crail’s housing dates from 17th-19th century often in a Dutch style reflecting the predominant trade with the Netherlands.

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1786 Resolution

There is evidence that golf was played in Crail long before 1786. Two years before George Washington was elected the first President of the United States and three years before the storming of the Bastille in Paris, a group of eleven gentlemen 'fond of the diversion of golf' met at the Golf Inn and formed the Crail Golfing Society.

The records of 1786 are still preserved; indeed the Society still possesses a complete set of minutes from the date of its inception. Crail Golfing Society is the oldest golf club in the world that can make that claim.

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Mark of a Legend

Old Tom Morris lived from 1821 to 1908 and is rightly viewed as the father of the game as we know it. In 1894 Crail Town Council acquired the lease of land at Balcomie and sought Old Tom’s opinion ‘as the representative of the game of golf’. His view was that the ‘links were very suitable for a nine hole course, and I am bound to say that there is not a better in Scotland’.

This was an era of course design which owed more to the natural features of the land than giant earth movers. At the opening of the course in 1895 he offered this sage advice which is worth noting – ‘when ye’re in difficulty tak’ your niblick’. Today Balcomie has the unusual combination of three par fives, six par threes and nine par fours, producing a tough par of 69.

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Danes Dike

Danes Dike is known locally as a 1200 year old defensive wall built by Viking marauders to keep out the local Pictish tribes. More importantly, the wall comes into play on four holes of Craighead Links. The wall extends from the farm of Craighead south-eastwards down to the shore.

At one time the north end terminated at a rock in the north face of what is known as Constantine's Cave. Although popularly ascribed to Danish invaders, the monument is probably early medieval in origin, is built of revetted flat stones, and is now mostly covered in grass. Parts of the wall are about 4ft high and over 10ft in width.

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Lindesay Medal

In 1830 David A. Lindesay, Esquire of Wormiston after expressing his surprise and regret that a Golfing Society of such long standing, was still without any honorary distinction, presented the Society with a silver medal and proposed that is should be gained by any gentleman whether a member of the Society or not.

In 1855 the medal was won by Allan Robertson, which to our knowledge was the only trophy ever won by the world’s greatest golfer at that time. He and his family were master club and ball makers. Robertson was an early user of iron clubs, and the first to design double greens on the Old Course. In 1858 the medal was played for over Balcomie and won by a William Ayton of St Andrews with 65 strokes. In 1872 it became a closed competition to Society members only.

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A King's Cave

Local tradition has it that Constantine II, King of Alba (903-943) was killed in or around the cave during a battle with the Danes. Like many stories recounted by members as they walk from 14th to 15th on Balcomie it only has a nodding acquaintance with the facts.

The earliest layer was found around 30cm below the current land surface and contained animal bones, including red deer, ox, horse and whale, along with some antler and bone tools. A later layer contained Roman glass and pottery, including several pieces of amphorae. The construction of a wall across the entrance suggests the cave was used as a chapel around 800-1000AD; several incised crosses and Celtic-style animals are carved on the cave walls have been dated to this period.

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Ranken-Todd Bowl

'Crail is the home to one of Scotland’s venerable and most unusual tournaments, the Ranken-Todd Bowl, played annually amongst the clubs of Fife. It ranks as one of the greatest tests of skill and endurance in golf' Peter Alliss

George Lyall Chiene, an eminent surgeon, and the Fortune family of Barnsmuir presented the club  a silver punch bowl to celebrate the re-opening of the Balcomie Links in 1895. It is interesting that he chose to call it Ranken Todd. Named after Captain Ranken who was the first captain of the Society, and Richard Todd the then tenant of Balcomie; the annual team competition was played for by local clubs between ‘the middle of the Water of Leven to the middle of the Brook Putiken.' The event is one of Scotland's most historic and coveted team competitions and is still played for today.

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Lifeboat Shed

Still standing proudly today at the back of the 14th green and casting a shadow over the 2nd tee box of the Balcomie Links is a unique stone building. This was the Crail Lifeboat House that operated between 1884 to 1923.

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Trophies and Medals

Competitive golf is at the very heart of our Society. The club's first trophy, the Lindesay Medal presented in 1830, is one of the oldest trophies in golf. Championships that date back hundreds of years are still played for today. 

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Village Putting

Across the street from Crail Primary School is the Crail Festival Putting Green. It is shown on old maps of the town as Ashburn Park. The Putting Green was brought back to life by Crail Festival Society after many years of closure. In 2011 Greenkeepers from Crail Golfing Society began the work of turning the green into the first class putting surface we have today. This collaborative process has resulted in an integral part of the summer community in Crail.


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A New Era

In the late 1990's the Craighead Farm was put up for sale. The Society took a bold and pivotal decision to expand and build another golf course. Designed by acclaimed American course designer, Gil Hanse Craighead Links has established itself as a course of championship pedigree and a wonderful addition to the old links of Balcomie.

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