Historic Leith Links golf rules to go under hammer

The rare copy of the Early Rules of Golf is valued at �30,000-�50,000. Picture: Neil Hanna
The rare copy of the Early Rules of Golf is valued at �30,000-�50,000. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A RARE first edition of one of the earliest formal rules of golf – published nearly 200 years ago – is expected to fetch up to £50,000 at auction later this month.

James Cundell’s Rules of the Thistle Golf Club was published by James Ballantyne in Edinburgh in 1824.

It was one of only six books of printed rules published prior to 1830, and included historical notes on golf now regarded as the first “history of the game”.

Cundell was a listed member of The Thistle Golf Club, established on March 8, 1815. Its members played on Leith Links and later became the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield.

The book, from an American collection, will be sold by Lyon & Turnbull at a special auction of golfing memorabilia on July 15, at the private Eden Club in Pittormie Castle, near St Andrews.

Paul Roberts, vice-chairman of Lyon & Turnbull, said: “This rare volume of the Rules of Golf was one the most important accomplishments of the Thistle Golf Club.

“Published in 1824, it is a rule book with an extensive introduction on golf history, termed as ‘some historical notices relative to the progress of the game of golf in Scotland’.

“Significantly, the 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 same lot also includes a rare Thistle Golf Club silver prize medal won by George Logan Esq for winning the tournament played on Leith Links on December 7, 1822.

The medal is accompanied by the winner’s actual scorecard, inscribed “Mr Logan, Winter Prize Medal, 7th December 1822”, and recording the scores for each of the ten holes.

The rare surviving scorecard, still in excellent condition, is among the earliest known anywhere in the world.

The auction, timed to coincide with the 144th Open Championship at St Andrews, will include just 37 lots. Other highlights include a Tom Morris long-nosed putter from around 1880, estimated to make £3000-4000; a small feather-filled golf ball by Allan Robertson from around 1830 which is valued at £8000-12,000; and a rare “stars and stripes” ball from 1897 expected to fetch £20,000-30,000.

Mr Roberts added: “This is a very exciting opportunity to take part in an exclusive auction.”