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LEVEN Golfing Society may be a relative newcomer on the Scottish golfing scene but its roots stretch back to the formative years of the game.
Through amalgamation, it origins justify the claim of being the 11th oldest club in the world and in the Kingdom of Fife only Crail, the R&A and in part Scotscraig can trace their history further back.
Leven’s journey to the prestigious place it now occupies on the world’s golfing map began on February 29, 1820, when 15 golfers drew up the constitution of Innerleven Golfing Society.
A silver medal costing £3.14.6d was bought for play over 15 holes at Dubbieside, now buried beneath the site of the present Methil Power Station. Dubbieside then consisted of five holes but was soon extended to nine.
Originally members of Innerleven Golfing Society were required to wear a jacket of King Charles tartan when competing for any prize but, by 1861, this rule had been rescinded.
The members also drew up the Rules of the Game for Dubbieside – before the R&A rules became universal – and the 12 written rules bear a remarkable similarity to those of the present day.
The club initially prospered and by 1829 membership stood at 55 and, in 1825, membership was apparently sufficiently strong enough that it was able to refuse admission to one applicant.
By 1833, however, some members were objecting to paying the quarterly subscription of one shilling (five new pence in today’s money) and it was decided that only those members playing at the April and October meetings would have to contribute.
The Dubbieside Links, in 1848, was reputedly the place where Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris first saw play with the Gutta Percha ball, the replacement of the feathery. The Spring Meeting Dinner of that year heard the first performance of the song, ``In praise of Gutta Percha.’’
By 1866 the Industrial Revolution had begun to affect play over the original links and the building of railway lines encroached on the ground and at the Autumn Meeting of 1867, ``because of the diminishing breadth of green,’’ the club decided to play on ``the popular green at Leven.’’
The club made a contribution to Leven Golf Club of £10 because ``they had brought the Links into fine condition.’’ When Lundin Mill GC was formed in 1868 the nine holes then in play were extended to take in the area south of the railway line up to the sand dunes of Lundin Links.
At this time four clubs were playing over the same ground, Innerleven, Leven Thistle, Leven GC and Lundin Mill but the last two were soon to fail – Lundin in 1877 and Leven in 1884.
Innerleven was, in 1876, actually running the Links with contributions towards the upkeep from the other two Leven clubs. Happily the failures were only of a temporary nature.
The opening of the full 18 holes was marked by a 36-hole match on October 2, 1868, which Young Tom Morris won with a score of 170; his father returned 189 strokes.
Innerleven is reputedly also the first club to use sandboxes and one of its early prominent members, Charles Anderson of Fettykill, whose descendants still live in Leslie, invented the hole-cutter.
Innerleven’s first clubroom in Leven proper was in a building which had been a washing house. The owner, Matthew Elder, had converted it to a clubhouse and the two Leven clubs occupied the upper flat whilst the celebrated clubmaker, A. Patrick, had his workshop below. By 1881 the second lease period was running out and the members wanted a new clubhouse ready for 1883.
Perhaps they objected to Elders increasing the yearly rent to £5! A site was obtained adjacent to the existing building on the site of the present Leven Thistle clubhouse.
The original building was bought from Matthew Elder for £200 and leased to Alex Patrick. A new building was constructed at a total cost of £1,066. 9/7 but, by the early 1890s, this was found to be insufficient for the members’ needs.
By 1892 active discussions were taking place with John Wilkie, a builder, to buy ground to the west of the Home hole and to build a new clubhouse. By 1894 this was completed and ready for occupation. The final cost of the house and furnishings was the immense sum of £4,400.
Golf had not been forgotten through all this building and re-locating and 1855 saw the club actively taking part in the organising of a National Tournament, which finally took place in St Andrews in 1857.
The Innerleven representatives, David Wallace and David Marshall, were given strict instructions to ``bring home the prize’’ but sadly the winners were Blackheath.
Then 1870 saw the start of something that has grown throughout the years. The Standard Life Assurance Company, then proprietors of Lundin Estate, gifted a gold medal for amateur competition by members of Innerleven, Leven and Leven Thistle Golfing Society. Leven Golfing Society’s records show a list of invited clubs drawn up after 1870 which totals 52 and one can assume that the club’s official existence at the time of the inauguration of the tournament would have been on the list of invites.
With this proviso, the tournament can proudly claim to be the oldest open amateur stroke play competition in the world, predating Glasgow Golf Club’s Tennant Cup by some 10 years.
The competition was originally over 18 holes, the first winner being local player, James Elder, with a score of 85. Over the decades the Gold Medal has grown in stature and is now one of the most prestigious competitions in Scottish golf. Traditionally play for the Amateur Champion Medal took place on the second day of the club’s Summer Meeting. In present times early August sees the reservation of Leven Links for the `Standard Life Golf Medal.’
Proof that Innerleven was amongst the leading clubs of the day is shown by the invitation in 1886, of the R&A to participate in arranging the proposed Annual Amateur Championship and the next year the club was invited to send a representative to the newly formed Permanent Organising Committee.
Despite being a leading club which in 1908 still sent a representative to the Amateur Championship Organising Committee, the Council did not accept an invitation in October 1912 to join the Golf Union of Great Britain and Ireland. Perhaps it was this insularity which eventually led to the club’s demise.
At the beginning of the 20th century the membership was standing at about 200 and records show that financing both the house and the Links continually raised problems over the next 40-50 years.
The membership steadily declined and in the mid-1950s it was no more than 40. On July 6, 1956, the club made the first approach to Leven Golf Club, regarding amalgamation. Lengthy discussions took place and, on September 1, 1957, members of Leven Golf Club joined with those of Innerleven in the present clubhouse – as members of the newly constituted Leven Golfing Society.
Leven Golf Club had a long history itself, being founded on March 20, 1847. The are references to golf being played over three holes between the windmill of the salt works and the mouth of Scoonie Burn in the early 1800s. The above date is the earliest documented because on that was when Matthew Elder, in the name of a number of other gentlemen, presented the club an inscribed Silver Medal for annual play. This is the first record in the original minute book but the heading immediately prior that recording reads:
LEVEN GOLFING (sic) CLUB Instituted April 22nd 1846
The club played over ground to the east of the town owned by Christie of Durie and leased to a Mr Thompson of Scoonie Farm as grazing ground.
In the early days the club had no rights over this ground – only the right to ``play over the links.’’
For his permission Mr Thompson was made the first honorary member and later was made the gift of a ``chair for all his kindness to the club.’’
Like most golfing societies of the time members had no fixed home. After-meeting dinners and suppers took place in local hostelries – 1848 saw the club dining in the Star Inn and in 1849 the venue was Crawford’s Hotel.
The green fee for each meeting was 3d and as these meetings took place only twice a year the club’s income was not great. It was not until 1853 that the club was given permanent use of a room in Mr Elder’s building – free for the first year.
In the same year the club agreed to take responsibility for the upkeep of a wooden bridge over Scoonie Burn but it had to finance that by asking members to subscribe individually.
The playing ground was nine holes to the Mile Dyke and the preparation, cleaning and continual extension of the links was undertaken by the members.
November 1850 saw a match with St Andrews Golf Club in which the visitors were successful and, after dining in Crawford’s Hotel, ``drove off for home in glorious style’’.
This was one of many matches and golfing occasions in which the club took part and there were regular matches with Elie, Wemyss, Crail, Edinburgh and Perth.
In 1865 the club was sufficiently established to ask Tom Morris to advise on the siting of bunkers. He returned in 1867, presumably in connection with the laying out of the links extension east of the Mile Dyke, and for this work he was paid £1.1.0 plus 10/6 expenses.
The first competition over this extended course took place on September 28, 1868, and the winner was David Marshall with a score of 99. Around this time the Innerleven club moved from its original home at Dubbieside.
The running of the links gradually fell to Innerleven and this contributed to the coolness between the then three clubs – Leven Thistle having come into being in 1867.
The council in 1880 considered and refused a demand from Innerleven that the club’s proportion of the Green Baillie’s expenses for the upkeep of the green be increased.
Leven GC suffered tremendously from both the formation of Leven Thistle and the coming of Innerleven.
In April 1882 an AGM was cancelled as only the captain and the secretary attended. In 1883 the captain failed to appear and the club was dormant for a while but the officials had the foresight to pay a nominal amount and preserve their right to play over the links up to 1890 when a new lease was to be prepared. This was done without the participation of Leven Golf Club and an attempt to reform in 1893 failed when it was realised that the club would have no standing on the Links.
In 1908, when Lundin took sole occupancy the Links east of the Mile Dyke, another attempt at resuscitation took place. The superior of Leven and the Links, Christie of Durie, was approached and persuaded future organisation should be the responsibility of a joint committee of three clubs and, in April 1909, Leven Golf Club was back in business. In 1910 the Anstruther Cross was designed as the new club’s championship medal.
The reforming of the club was bitterly opposed by the other two clubs and it was only the personal decision of the superior that Leven Golf Club was included as an equal partner in the lease negotiations that enabled the club to resuscitate. Leven Thistle, Innerleven, Lundin and Methil sent their apologies when invited to the inaugural dinner.
The first few years were far from easy. With a membership of about 130 the club found itself paying a third of the links upkeep along with the Innerleven which had 150 members and Leven Thistle 750.
In spring of 1914 the club informed the Links Joint Committee that it could no longer meet its obligations.
The Joint Committee expressed sympathy and suggested that the club pay up to December 1913 when a more equitable arrangement would be considered and this was reluctantly agreed. Outbreak of war made things very much worse with a third of membership serving in the forces.
After the Great War of 1914-18, the club picked up and a minute of May 1920 showed the finances improving.
By November 1921 the club felt that it could once more take part in the links organisation and was considering buying Maple Lodge in Links Road as a clubhouse. In December 1923 the club had 200 members and was considering a new clubhouse in Balfour Street when Stormount House on Leven Promenade came on to the market. The club bought this in 1924 and stayed there until 1957 when the amalgamation took place.
The Town Council acquired the links in 1927 and the club was closely involved with the two other clubs in negotiating, not without difficulty, a new lease of the course.
In 1933 the club criticised the Scottish Golf Union for picking a national team on the eve of the Scottish Amateur Championship final as one of the finalists was not included, perhaps feeling that this put the disappointed gentleman at an unfair disadvantage.
The Second World War years naturally had an adverse effect on the club fortunes as members were lost to the services. Competitions were suspended and, although the club was fighting off approaches from the military authorities to requisition the building for use by the Polish army and the Home Guard, the latter was allowed to rent the top floor of the clubhouse.
Resumption of full club activities took place in 1946 and one of the first decisions taken was the appointment of a club professional – with no financial liability to the club. This appointment only lasted until April 1948.
When the links lease was revisited in 1951 the club considered that it could not continue to be a lessee and the members decided that the Town Council should run the links but wiser minds prevailed and within three months another general meeting had rescinded the previous position by a decisive majority.
Amalgamation was soon to be mooted and, with a great deal of misgiving and no small amount of opposition, the decision to merge with Innerleven Golf Club was taken, this being approved at an EGM in February 1957 by 56 votes to 13 with about 50% of the membership present.
The Stormount clubhouse was sold and, on September 1, 1957, the members located to the present building and Leven Golfing Society was born.
History of Ladies Section 1891 - 2010
Leven Ladies golf Club was formed on August 21st 1891, and the first game was played on Saturday August 22nd at 2pm on a 9 hole course ‘beside the Scoonie Burn’.
In 1892 a decision was taken to have a new course laid out to the north of the railway line which ran from Leven to Lundin Links and Crail and the ground was leased from Miss elder for an annual rent of £10. The 12 hole course was laid out by one of the ‘gentleman associates, Mr Alexander Patrick, and the cost borne by two others, Mr T C Balfour and Dr Crole, whose names appear in the minutes for many years as stalwarts of the Club. Captain and Mrs Christie of Durie are also mentioned frequently. Mrs Christie became the first Lady Patroness in 1892, and later in the same year Captain Christie was asked to lease land for a six hole extension to the course ‘to relieve pressure in the summer months’. A map of ‘the green’ shows the 18 holes on a triangle of land bounded by the railway, Silverburn property to the east and marshy ground to the north where we now have the Bing. Mention is made later of rubbish from the pit encroaching on the course and of water spoiling some of the new greens.
In 1893 a special meeting approved plans for a Pavilion which was erected at a cost of £67.2.6 and first used on November 11th. Some other prices are mentioned in the minutes; day tickets were raised from 3d to 6d; the cost of an annual ticket for a ‘single lady’ and a gentleman associate was 5/- and a family ticket was 12/6, the green keeper’s wage was raised to 15/- a week, but reduced to 10/- in the winter months because of the shorter days.
In the early days the Club made its own rules, eg ‘boys who carry clubs for payment will be ineligible to play in competitions’ and ‘the flag must be laid down and not stuck in the green’. Handicaps too were settled by the committee, and members were asked to withdraw if their own, or a relative’s, handicap was discussed.
In 1894 the Club was ‘constituted on a proper basis’ with an entry fee of 1/-, and the rules were printed and posted ‘at the green’ for the first time. A mixed foursome competition with Lundin Links brought an entry of 82 and Drs Crole and Watson represented the Ladies’ Club in Evening Times foursomes over Leven Links. The gentlemen associates continued for many years to play a big part in the running of the Club, from 1895 onwards forming the Green Committee, with the Ladies making up the House Committee.
In March 1896 water was brought to the course at the following cost:-
Mr Barker (plumber for laying pipes)
For use of town water
For connecting to supply Innerleven Thistle and Lundin Links Golf Clubs
Rent to Railway for allowing pipes to be laid under bridge (The Cattle Creep)
From 1896 - 1906 the minute books yield interesting pieces of information. The Balfour Salver is played on the first Thursday of the month throughout the year ‘to encourage practice’, but from 1900 is played from March to September only.
Two divisions are proposed for handicapping for Medal play, ‘Over and Under 8 odds’. The St Andrews Rules, first mentioned in 1898 are to be hung ‘at the green’ along with a copy of the local rules. The overflow of water from ‘the redd’ is again mentioned and Mr Carlow is asked to deal with it. The Club’s financial problems come to light with the Pavilion in need of repair or even replacement and fund raising is discussed to ‘dispense with the need of an annual bank overdraft’. Finally, a decision is taken to build a new Pavilion at a cost of £260.9.2 and it is officially opened by Mrs Christie on April 19th 1906.
1907 - 1919
During this period the attention of the Ladies’ Club was taken up with the thought of ‘losing their present course’ and in 1909 it was annexed to become part of Leven Links. A new course, laid out to the north of the Pavilion, was formally opened in 1911, featuring a flag and flagstaff donated by Mr Donaldson of the Elms. In 1912 the Ladies’ Club had its first fixture card printed, and held a Bazaar to help pay the expenses of the Links Joint Committee over the laying out of the new course.
The War years had some effect on the Ladies’ Club; money for prizes was donated to the War Fund; a match with Dysart was cancelled; the course was eventually let for cattle grazing at an annual rent of £39 per year. The Ladies were allowed to play on the ‘long links’ for 5/- a year, ‘as long as they are dispossessed of their own links’.
1919 - 1932
The course was returned to the Ladies in 1919, re-opened in May 1920 ‘in splendid condition’, and with the Club’s finances cleared of overdraft because of the let for farming. Soon, however, the rent of the course was raised to £20 and fund-raising again occupied the Committee’s attention.
In 1923 a bid was made to extend the course to the present boundaries of the Municipal, but negotiations with Mr Christie fell through. A nine hole putting course was opened beside the Clubhouse in July, a round to cost 1d ‘if own putter used’. Attempts to secure the use of ground beside the cemetery eventually met with success, with the proviso that the ground was to be returned when needed. During this period, too, a motor mower was purchased and a motor-house built.
In 1928 a sub-committee was appointed to meet the Town Council who were interested in starting up a Municipal Course, and kin April 1932 agreement was reached on the eventual take-over. In the same year Mrs Kermack and Miss Brown were appointed to the Links Joint Committee as representatives of the Ladies Club.
1933 - 1939
This period saw protracted dealings with the Town Council, which resulted in the management of the Leven Links being taken over by Club members, while the Town Council assumed control of the Ladies’ Course, though the Ladies were allowed to continue in possession of their Pavilion for 10 years ‘if the Club was still in existence’. In February 1936 the Club reconstituted with Lady members only and Mrs Kermack, who had been secretary for 45 years, became the first Captain. Since the Municipal Course still had only 13 holes, a round was completed by repeating the first five holes. All LGU competitions however were played on the Leven Course. In 1938 the Town Council took over responsibility for the Pavilion allowing the Ladies to use if for meetings, functions and hospitality. Standard Scratch Scores in 1939 were 71 for the Municipal and 78 for the Leven Course.
1940 - 1945
The effects of the second World War are noted in the minutes:- Office Bearers remain unchanged for the duration; no trophies are played for; matches are difficult because of ARP duties, the Municipal Course is ploughed up and the Clubhouse broken into, resulting in the Ladies being granted the use of a room in the Thistle Clubhouse every Tuesday.
1946 - 1962
The AGM in February 1946 made a fresh start to an important year, during which the Ladies were granted the courtesy of the Leven Course from 5.30 to 6.30. The Club’s 55th anniversary was celebrated at the Beach Hotel on November 27th. In 1947 the appeal for the return of the Pavilion was successful and social members were admitted to the Club for the first time at 2/6 per year.
In 1948 the first of many whist drives was held in the Caledonian Hotel, later in the Scoonie Church Hall. In 1949 the first Open competition was run on May 14th with an entry fee of 3/6 and there were 22 competitors, most of whom gave up because of torrential rain. The first Junior competition was held in July with 33 boys and 5 girls. The dinner and presentation of prizes became an annual affair, held at first in Comely Bank and costing, in 1955, 12/6 for three courses followed by tea and cakes.
On Coronation Day 1953 the flag was flown at the Pavilion, and an all day competition took place, but soon afterwards the future of the Pavilion became a matter of concern. Considerable sums of money were needed for upkeep and it was noted that the ‘Municipal’ was beginning to show interest in taking it over. When in 1962 the Town Council renewed the lease for only six months, the Ladies accepted the offer of accommodation in Leven Golfing Society Clubhouse and vacated their Pavilion in November of that year. Also in 1962 another long serving Secretary Mrs Annan retired after 25 years in office.
1963 - 1974
The official amalgamation date with Leven golfing Society was 26 March 1963 and in February 1964 the first committee of Leven Golfing Society (Ladies Section) was formed. A new secretary, Mrs Donaldson (later to become an Honorary Member) took over and maintained the tradition of long service remaining in post for 14 years.
Three important golfing events, for which the ladies played host, were the Scottish Girls Championship in 1965, the British Girls Amateur Open Championship in 1968 and the Scottish Girls Stroke Play Championship in 1970. In 1968 the Thornton Lounge was opened and the changing rooms completed. The Open Tournament in May grew in popularity to record entry in 1970 of 99, while the Junior competition also attracted larger entries every August. Mixed Foursomes with the LGS men became an annual event.
1975 - 1991
The Minute Books, kept for the last ten years by another long serving Secretary, Mrs Stuart, note some changes in the running of the Ladies’ section; rising costs; fashion shows or demonstrations taking the place of whist drives or coffee evenings for fund raising; a booking system introduced in 1981; lack of young players coming in. They reflect too the regular annual rhythm of activities, AGMs, competitions, matches, open tournaments and dinners all organised in the spacious comfort of LGS clubhouse with the valued co-operation of the members of the Men’s section.
In July 1991 the Ladies’ section will again offer hospitality to a Scottish Girls’ Championship, a welcome event in the middle of the celebrations for their centenary year.
1991 - Centenary Year
The highlight of the Centenary Year was a special competition held on 21 August to celebrate 100 years of the Ladies’ Golf Club; two shields were donated to be presented to the winners and thereafter played for annually. Players from many of the local clubs were invited to take part in the competition and each visiting club presented the Ladies’ Club with a gift to mark the occasion.
1992 - 2010
In 1993 Mrs Davina Scott was made a Life Member of the club and on 28 August 2008 Davina celebrated her 100th birthday with a putt on the 18th green and a party in the clubhouse. Also in 1993 Mrs Rita Stuart became a Life Member which was presented at the Annual Dinner.
In 2000 the millennium was celebrated with a Cabaret and Dance held on the 29th February and an Invitational golf Event on 30th September.
At the AGM in 2008 Mrs Shirley Hazelton was presented with her Life Membership.
In 2009 Lorna Bennett successfully defended her title of Scottish Ladies Veteran Golf Association Champion. In 2010 Lorna was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the SLGA and is the East of Scotland representative of the SLGA.
Lorna is also our Ladies Club Champion - a title she had held for the 4 of the last 5 years - and she holds the Ladies Course Record set on with a score of 69 CSS 74.
In 2010 Emma Wilson was elected President of the Scottish Ladies Golfing Association.