Golf and Whisky – Both Quintessentially Scottish

When imagining scenes of Scotland, two things can often spring to mind – golf and whisky. And, with the imminent Scottish Golf Open coming up, we thought why not share some of Scotland’s golf and whisky history.

Golf related whisky in the Collection
Scotland is the birthplace of golf…

Scotland is regarded as the birthplace of golf and the first record dates back to the 15th century. However, in 1457, King James II placed a ban on golf through an Act of Parliament. The game was seen as a distraction from military training and archery practice when soldiers should have been focusing on repelling a potential attack by the English army.

Golf would not be permitted again until almost half a century later when in 1502 King James IV repealed the ban. That same year the King made the first documented purchase for hand-crafted golf clubs. They cost him 13 shillings and were bought on his visit to Perth the same year.


James IV – A king with a fondness for golf and aqua-vitae

During the reign of King James IV, the first written record of Scotch, or a drink akin to it, was also written into the Exchequer Rolls of 1494. The Exchequer Rolls were records of royal income and expenditure and the entry states: “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae.” The Gaelic word for Aqua vitae is ‘uisge-beatha’, translated from the Latin to mean the ‘Water of Life’. Eventually  ‘uisge-beatha’ was corrupted to whisky. This record is now considered the first recorded mention of whisky – or distilling – in Scottish history.

James IV was both a keen golfer and a lover of whisky and further to this, the King has been recognised as one of the greatest monarchs of all time. He loved music and literature and had a keen interest in scientific research, experimentation and weaponry. He was also the first King to promote the game of football and had a formidable collection of canons. It is said that aqua-vitae was an essential ingredient in the gunpowder used by his bombardiers.


Mary Queen of Scots – The Mother of Golf…

However, James IV was not the only monarch to have an interest in golf. Mary Queen of Scots began playing golf at an early age whilst in France and since 1552, with her at the forefront, female golfers have been changing the game.  As a result, Mary is now regarded as the Mother of golf and as a great story for women in sports.

Mary was quite the pioneer commissioning the St. Andrews Links course in Scotland, taking the sport back over to France and introducing the concept of a caddie. It is believed that the word ‘caddie’ comes from the word ‘cadet’. In the French military it was tradition for cadets to carry the clubs for any royalty and it is thought that Mary pronounced ‘Cadet’ as ‘Caddie’.

Golf was a way for her to escape tensions of the state, and she loved spending most of her time outdoors. According to legend, Mary once lost a match of golf at Musselburgh to Mary Seton (one of her four attendants) and the Queen gave her necklace to her as the prize.

In 1565, Mary married Henry Lord Darnley who died only two years later.  Shortly after his death Mary was seen playing golf. This was seen as her not taking the time to grieve and triggered the rumour that Mary had plotted his death. Despite the trials of her reign, her legacy and spirit have been captured in several special whisky bottlings which you can see in our whisky collection, including the Highland Queen and a limited edition by Glenfiddich.


Golf today – A Scottish and world phenomenon…

Fast-forward through to the mid-18th century, and the game of golf was becoming slowly formalised, but due to the need for expensive equipment, golf remained a sport of the wealthy. Societies were then formed and the first one was established in Scotland in 1744. Today there are over 550 golf course including St Andrews – Old Course, Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and Gleneagles, amongst some of the most famous and renowned in the world.

Scotland has also played home to some major golf championships, including The Ryder Cup and The Open. The Ryder Cup was established in 1927 and is a biannual competition whereas The Open was founded in 1860 and was first played at Prestwick Golf Club. The Open is one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and is the most international competition of the major championships, with qualifying events taking place across five continents. The event is broadcast in almost 200 countries and to over 600 million households.

This year The Open will mark the 150th Open at the Old Course, St Andrews and will take place between the 10th and 17th July 2022. Before that, golf kicks off in Gullane, East Lothian with The Scottish Open being played at The Renaissance Club.

So this July, why no turn on The Open or The Scottish Open, take a trip to St Andrews or East Lothian,  or just simply enjoy a dram of one of your favourite Lowland whiskies produced on the doorstep of these famous clubs.

Golf ball whisky within the Collection