Leith Links became popular with skilled sportsmen for several reasons. Its sandy geography meant drier ground compared to Bruntsfield Links on moorland of Borough-muir (later Meadows park) in south Edinburgh. The wealthier Edinburgh golfers could afford to travel 2 miles to Leith Links with its much smaller population and fewer restrictions on golf from puritan churches. Edinburgh golfers were often professional colleagues and friends, particularly in medicine and law, who played alongside Leith's merchants and trade guilds.
In 1709, Council agreed to sponsor a Silver Arrow archery competition on Leith Links for the Edinburgh Company (later Royal Company) of Archers. Today, the same Silver Arrow competition takes place annually on Edinburgh's Meadows, not far from Archers' Hall.
City of Edinburgh Council grants a Silver Club with Rules - 7th March 1744
As many archers were also golfers, the Council granted sponsorship of a Silver Club to the 'Company of Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh' in 1744 for an Open competition for 'All Nobles and Gentlemen...of Great Britain and Ireland...'. on Leith Links requiring rules of golf. The Winner was to serve as Captain of Golf for one year with responsibilities of Rules and the Links. The Silver Club was to be taken on foot by Tuck of Drum (paraded with armed escort) to Leith on the day of the competition. (By amazing coincidence, 1744 is the same year the first 22 Rules of Cricket were published, containing nearly twice as many.)
After winning, by order of City Council, the Captain's authority on golfing matters was considerable; the determination of golf disputes (assisted by 2 or 3 others) and Rules interpretation as well as the superintendency (management) of the Links. The Captain acquired a Senior and important Company position for a year, potentially affecting the golf of all its members.
William Inglis, the Captain of the Edinburgh Golfers (1792-94), parading the Silver Club.
In 1744 on 7th March, as The City Council granted the Company of Edinburgh Gentlemen the Silver Club prize sponsorship for an Open Competition. Perhaps this was initiated by Company member and golfer, Duncan Forbes, Lord President of High Court of Session and Scotland's most senior law officer. Also an enthusiastic golfer, in time of snow or frost on the Links, he could be found sometimes playing along nearby Leith Sands. He was a known golfing partner of John Rattray, Surgeon.
While twelve players subscribed to play, 10 golfers played on 2nd April 1744 the first open Links golf competition. In its April 1744 edition, Scots Magazine reported the Victor was 'Mr John Rattray Surgeon' in Edinburgh, becoming the first Captain of Golf for the Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The scoring method of holes used is unclear. For a given hole, it could be numbers of competitors beaten by a lower score; or individuals playing several matches with the winner as the one with most holes-up on his competitors.
In 1746, there was no Silver Club competition as Scotland was convulsed by the 1745 Jacobite Uprising - led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. John Rattray joined as Personal Surgeon to the Prince at the Battle of Prestonpans, marched south with the army but accompanied it to final defeat at Culloden in 1746. He was arrested after the battle and finally taken for trial to London. He was pardoned in 1747 after signing the Oath of Obedience to the British King, and returned to Edinburgh. He completed his 1745 Captaincy in 1747 and took part in the March 1747 Silver Cup and won again. See 'Rattray Statue' Section for more details of his life.
These Council regulations were drawn up in 1744 for this new annual competition organised by what is considered to be the world's first golf club and reproduced in full here. The 'Scroll' mentioned here contained the first '13 Rules of Golf' which are shown in 'Rules of Golf 'Section. For the Rules, see 'Rules of Golf' section.
For the full text of the Act of Council and regulations in original spelling, download and open the document below.