HISTORY

No one knows who invented the game, as we know it today, or where it was first played;  Aberdeen, Edinburgh or St. Andrews?   'Het Kolven', Colf, Kolf, Chole, Jeu de Mail were all ancient club and ball games played in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.    It is therefore reasonable to assume, given the historical records existing today, that early equipment used in these outdoor pursuits arrived on fishing and trading vessels from the Low Countries more than 500 years ago.

It is not extravagant to assume, knowing that the earliest mention (1625) of a golf hole (the Queen's Hole) was on the Links of Aberdeen, that our Royal and Ancient game may well have started right here in The Granite City.

Wealthy merchants and businessmen would acquire the implements for this new found pastime and set off from Footdee (The Footie hole) along the Queen's Links.

The Aberdeen Golf Club was formed in 1815 and its members continued to play on the Queen's Links and over the Broad Hill until 1888 when they picked up their hickory clubs and gutty balls and migrated to the magnificent links at Balgownie.

It was Captain H V Brooke in 1886 who moved that 'considering the way that the links was being cut up by cricket and football players, a private course at Balgownie should be procured for golfing purposes'.   Less than two years later, with very little ado the Aberdeen Golfers "folded their tents and silently stole away" to the peaceful seclusion of Balgownie Links.

Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in the world.   For the first thirty five years of its existence the club was known as The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen, with membership of the Society being determined by ballot. 

 Notes of Interest

1.         Five Minute Rule

They were clearly a meticulous group of gentlemen for in 1783 they became the first to introduce the five minute limit on searching for golf balls.   A sensible idea, you may think, but one that has caused the modern day Aberdeen golfer much distress.

2.         The Red Jacket

The early Aberdeen Golfers decided in 1827 to have a uniform coat to be worn by members when at the game.   A ‘committee of taste’ was appointed to determine the cut of the coat, description of check etc., and a light-coloured lincoln green coat was selected and probably worn at the competition for the first Gold Medal on 31 March 1827.   The ‘wearin’ o’ the green’ did not prove popular and in 1828 the committee decided on a scarlet coat with gilt metal buttons with the inscription  ‘Aberdeen Golf Club’ and a scotch thistle.      The head-gear worn with the scarlet cut-away coat with tails  was a tall ‘lum’ hat but no doubt because of the Aberdeen breezes this was discarded and replaced by a black velvet cap.   An original red jacket is on display in the entrance foyer of the Club.

3.         The Ballot Box

Admission to membership was by ballot and all applications for admission had to be three months on the table, one dissent being sufficient to reject any candidate.   In the clubhouse there is still preserved the original ballot box in which members voted on admission of new members.   Inlaid in brass is the date 1780 and the words ‘Yea’ and ‘Nay’ over the holes into which the coloured balls for or against membership were dropped.

Royal Patronage

In 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, the Society changed its name to the Aberdeen Golf Club and in 1903 the accolade of Royal favour was conferred on the club by His Majesty King Edward VII.   Originally the members played over a strip of common land between the Rivers Don and Dee but in the second half of the 19th century the club acquired its own course at Balgownie on the northern side of the River Don, today is regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest championship courses.

 In 1872 the club received the patronage of Prince Leopold.   However the Royal title was not applied for until 1903 and granted by his majesty the King on the 10th August that year.



 



 

Courtesy of Mr Pickup Dicksee (PGA Retired) Collector of early buttons.

In 1827 The Aberdeen Golf Club adopted a Lincoln Green player's coatee soon to be followed by a more usual scarlet version in 1828, in the latter case with a description of the button to be worn. The first illustrated is in die-stamped silver plated copper and displays the Arms of Aberdeen with the club title in surround. The style and decoration on this button is more in keeping with the period c1790-1815 and may therefore have been worn on an earlier player's garment. It is 26mm, flat with a slightly raised central area.
The second button is in high quality copper gilt and is die-struck, again 26mm with a raised design, of importance is the back mark, 'Bullivant Tipson'. This Birmingham partnership existed 1816-1837, finishing abruptly 1st November of the latter year.
Coatees for playing the noble game disappear c1835-1840 and only in c1880 does a player's optional red jacket make its appearance, popular up to the outbreak of WW1 but rarely worn thereafter. Your very fine display includes one of these coats and I assume the third photograph shows the button as worn on your example. Of two piece construction and again in high quality copper gilt, with a back mark, 'Firmin & Sons Ld London Patent 2346'.
Finally, a lady golfer's playing jacket button, 23mm copper gilt, die-struck, a single piece button with raised design including the distinctive scroll at the bottom, 'Balgownie', so post 1888. The back mark being, 'E Armfield & Co. Birmingham'.



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