Club History

1948 WGC Golfers at rest

Golf is first recorded near Dunbar on 18th August 1616, when ‘Alex’r Jakson and William Aitcheson, yonger’ (sic) of the parish of Tyninghame, were brought to account for breaking the Sabbath (Sunday) by playing at 'nyneholis' (nine holes). This was an early form of golf found in references between 1573 and 1650. They were reprimanded by The Kirk (Church). There were other miscreants noted 1617, who were also rebuked for playing at 'ye golf'. In 1640, Rev Andrew Stevenson an assistant minister in the Episcopalian church in Dunbar was disgraced when ‘apprehended while playing at the gouff’ on Sunday.

The location of their illicit golf is not known for certain but is believed to be the West Barns Links, now wooded as the John Muir Country Park, which were then accessible by the shore road from the other side of the Tyne, no longer possible today. The wood was planted over the area of the golf course in the 18th century, but the racecourse to the south is still mostly open space occupied by the East Links Family Park.

In 1794, the first Dunbar Golfing Society began playing over the West Barns Links, which they called the Hedderwick Links. The 'Dunbar Golfing Society' set down its Regulations and listed 27 members, of whom 26 were present and one was marked absent. The Regulations only concerned the club and covered the process of the meeting and club payments and not the rules of golf.

“The Regulations of the Dunbar Golfing Society, May 14, 1794.
1 The members shall meet at the West Barns Links the second Wednesday of every month.
2 When the expense of each member for dinner amounts to 2 shillings and 6 pence the club shall be dissolved.
3 Every member for every time he is absent, shall pay 1 shilling towards defraying the expense of dinner.”

This document was apparently held, in turn, by the Rev William Whitfield, the Rev John Kerr and JH Taylor before coming back into the possession of the Dunbar Golf Club in 1946. A copy of it can be seen in their clubhouse.

No further record of the early Dunbar golfers survives. The West Barns Links were taken over for military training, during and after the Napoleonic Wars (1794-1815). There was a rifle range, as a result of which, golf there waned for decades.

Though there is anecdotal evidence of occasional play throughout the early 19th century, it was the opening of the railway line in 1846 and the establishment of local military barracks in 1855 that signalled a new beginning for golf in the area.

In 1856 the Dunbar Golf Club was formed, having negotiated playing rights over the East Links, where it still plays today.

The West Barns Links revived under the ownership of St Clair Cunningham and his widow Alice from 1890 to 1937 and had its own golf club, the West Barns Golf Club. It was the site of a world record golf score by James Braid of 57, reported in The Scotsman in 1912. The OS map above shows the Links in 1921.

However, it was a private course and when the Town Council opened the Winterfield Links, on the other side of Bellhaven Bay, it made the west links no longer viable. Dunbar town council acquired the 70+ acres of Winterfield in 1935 and a municipal golf course run by the burgh was founded. At first the layout of the front nine was quite different, with the first hole running from a point behind the present 7th tee to a green near the 2nd tee. The back nine was not dissimilar to today’s. When the golf course reopened after the war in 1946 the layout of the Winterfield Golf Club as we know today was created.

The picture above is of Golfers outside the original clubhouse in 1948. Back Row - Jimmy Smith; John Tait; Joe Johnstone; Johnnie Preston; Peter Barrie. Front row - Douglas Dores; David Hastie; C Mackenzie. This picture is exhibited on the wall in the Clubhouse.