Forgotten Greens of Scotland
Forgotten Greens of Scotland

Site of the now demolished Cockenzie Power Station and part of the former ground of the Thorntree golf course


Thorntree Golf Club.


 Instituted 1856.  Originally a 6-hole course on the narrow Preston Links to the east of the town.  Par play for the holes was 453453 = 24.  The club got its name from the thorn tree which marks the spot where Colonel Gardner fell at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745.

The Thorn Tree

( Explanation )


Colonel Gardiner fell, it is said, in the neighbourhood of a Thorn Tree which, for long afterwards, marked the site of the battle. He lay for two hours before being found by one of his own servants. His house was in Jacobite hands so he was carried to the church of Tranent where he died. The thorn tree survived into the present century, and, a subject of some veneration , it gave its name to a number of local institutions such as the Thorn Tree Golf Club and others.

What prompted the players to form themselves into a club, we did not discover from any written records they may have left in the way of minutes.  Such minutes, we believe, once existed but went missing.  The lot of the Thorntree Club has not been at all a happy one. At times its existence was so very feeble that it was supposed to be dead. In these hibernating or comatose periods the club records must have disappeared. That the club was healthy and vigorous at the outset, there are many evidences. We have before us the original set of Rules and Regulations which, as they contain some original points and are not long, may here be quoted:


Rules of the Prestonpans Thorntree Golf Club.Formed on 22nd December 1856


Mr. John Grieve, Convener.    Mr. Thos. Pow. Treasurer.     Mr. William Carse, Secretary.

Committee—Messrs. John Grieve, Wm. Carse, Robert Smith, Thos. Pow, John Edgar, Robert Hay, Geo. Christison.

1.   The club shall hold two meetings annually, viz first Monday of April and last Monday of August, the former for playing for the prizes, and the latter for playing for the medal. The annual subscription of two shillings and sixpence to be paid at the August meeting.

2.   The business of the club shall he conducted by a Chairman, Secretary, and the Committee to be elected at the August meeting of the Club.

3.   In playing for the Medal, three rounds shall be played. The players to be paired off by ballot thus —the last two’s on the list to mark for the first two’s, and vice versa.The cards being shown to the competitors at each hole, in order to satisfy them.

4.   He who holes the round in fewest strokes shall be considered the successful competitor.

5.   The party first starting off shall be allowed to reach the second hole previous to the succeeding party striking off.

6.   In the event of a ball being lost sight of, five minutes shall be allowed to look for it, and if not found, the party losing the ball shall drop one near where it was lost, lose a stroke, and play with the iron.

7.   When a ball is lying where it is considered unfit to be played, the party shall be allowed to put the same on the green, but behind the hazard, if on the beach on the sand, by losing a stroke and playing with the iron.

8.   All loose impediments within twelve inches of the ball may he lifted when the ball lies on the green. The putting-green may be cleared within twenty yards of the hole.

9.   When the balls lie within six inches of each other, the one nearest the hole shall be lifted, and placed, after playing the other, as near as possible, to its former position.

10. Whatever happens to a ball in playing, such as striking a person, or cattle, or any animal, it shall be considered a rub of the green and submitted to.

11. If any player move his ball previous to striking it, he shall lose a stroke, and no pressing of the green whatever shall be allowed, under penalty of losing a stroke.

12. New holes shall be made on the medal day at places agreed on by the Committee.

13. No speaking or shearing the ground to a player allowed. When a party is playing, a breach of this rule shall forfeit sixpence for each offence.

14. Members may be admitted into the club at any time during the year by the recommendation of the Committee.

15. Any member being in arrears shall not be allowed to play.

16. Each member shall provide himself with a copy of these rules.

17.       All disputes to be settled by Committee.

('Shearing the ground‘ is a phrase which we have not met before. Rule 3 is also peculiar Prestonpans.)

Possibly the old club might have vanished out of sight altogether but for Mr. John Edgar, one of the original members, and a good player, who still survives. On our first visit to the green a few years ago, we found that he kept the flags of the holes in his office, from which we adjourned to have two rounds, the ‘provost’ carrying the whole paraphernalia under his arms. Had the precaution not been taken to remove these after the game, they would never have been seen again, so low had the condition of golf sunk at the Salt Pans. The club in 1893 became a little lively. 

In November 1894 a movement for the enlargement of the course was started, and a deputation of the golfers, consisting of Captain Dewar, Provost Edgar, Dr. McEwan, Messrs. E. Johnston, (secretary) John Sandilands, D. Adams, John Bower, Thomas McWalter, C. Lamb, John Kay, and William Wilson, waited on the trustees of the Schaw Bequest, by whom the ground is held for behoof of various beneficiaries, to get the course extended by including thirty-six acres of ground on the opposite side of the road from the old course.

 This request was granted, and a new course made, consisting of four holes on the old ground (13 acres), and eight holes on the new ground (33 acres). At a meeting in February 1895 it was resolved to ‘reconstitute the club as at 1st January last,’ with the adoption of the old rules, subject to any revision that might be rendered necessary. The first match over the new course took place on 18th May 1895. The starting point is in the new ground close to Prestonpans. After the first hole, the player crosses the road and plays the four holes of the old course, then passes back over the road to play the remaining seven holes in the new ground, finishing near where he started

The Scotsman May 20th 1895



The new course laid out by the Thorntree Golf Club was played over for the first time on Saturday, excepting the fields at the extreme East and West ends where the grass is too young to admit of play. As yet only nine holes are available, including four on the old links. Various couples and foursomes were played, and although the putting greens were in pretty good order and other parts rough as yet, good scoring was made in some instances. The best scores for the day were made by Richard Ormiston and William Robertson – the former doing two rounds of the nine holes in 44 and 45 strokes, the latter making a good second with three strokes addidional. Dr Clouston and party from Edinburgh played two rounds of a foursome with good results. It is expected the new course will be tested by strangers on Thursday.

The distances of the holes are as follow:-

1.   270 yards; 2. 265 ; 3. 310 ; 4. 120; 5. 260; 6. 200; 7. 260; 8. 300; 9.  310 ; 10. 325 ; 11. 260; and 12. 250 ;

making a total of 3130 yards for the twelve holes.

Scotsman July 2nd 1897



The members of the ladies Thorntree golf club held their monthly competition for a gold brooch at Preston links yesterday under very favourable conditions. The play was entirely on the new course. On comparison of cards the results were as follows :- Mrs Kay, 82 less 10 = 72, Medalist , Miss Greenfield, 78 less 5 =73 ,Miss A. Ross, 81 less 3 = 78, Mrs White, 78 plus 4 = 82, Miss Foreman, 88 less 3 = 85.

Scotsman July 12th 1897



The club handicap competition among the members of the Thorntree golf club was held at Preston links on Saturday, when seventeen competitors took part. Two rounds, or eighteen holes, were played on the new course with the following results :- Andrew Munro, 84 plus 2 = 86, Richard Cowper, 103 less 15 = 88, Alexander Inglis, 101 less 10 = 91, Alexander Mitchell, 106 less 15 = 91, William Wright, 108 less = 96, John Borland, 109 less 12 = 97, George Clark, 103 less 5 = 98, Robert Fraser, 109 less 10 = 99, John McLennan, 106 less 7 = 99. A handsome consolation prize was won by Richard Clark.

Scotsman December 13th 1904 


Probable Termination

Of An

Old East Lothian Course


 “At the present moment the old Thorntree Club at Prestonpans appears to be on its death-bed.  For some time past it has not enjoyed that measure of good health which has been so lavishly bestowed on some of its neighbours along the coast of the “Holy Land of golf,” but the blush of its rose renewed with every spring was always sufficient to dispel any suggestion of decay, at least in recent years.  About a year ago, however, the collier came along with his pick and shovel, and, not content with stealing the rose, like the false lover,he seems to have uprooted the old tree itself.  The garden ground along the coastline of East Lothian being already well stocked with golfing plant, the Thorntree Club is in imminent danger of dying a most unnatural death.  A few years ago the Forth Collieries (1903), Limited, resolved to reopen the old Prestonlinks coal pit, and to lay down plant machinery for working what is known as the Crown Pit, extending about three quarters of a mile beneath the Firth of Forth.  For this purpose and in order that they might construct a railway to the pit head the company acquired by lease a portion of the links played over by the Thorntree golfers, with the result that they have been dispossessed.” 

Open Competitions


( Courtesy of the local heritage society )


The idea of bringing the golfers of the various county clubs together in friendly rivalry was first put forward by the Tantallon Club in the year 1864. A report of the first county tournament, which was held at GulIane on September 26th of that year, appears in the Haddingtonshire Courier of September 30th. with the following preamble:-

We doubt much whether the golfing strength of East Lothian has ever yet been fully developed or displayed. Possessing at least four excellent play links - GulIane. North Berwick. Dunbar and Prestonpans and no fewer than six clubs, the golfers of East Lothian ought to have taken a higher rank than they have yet done amongst the devotees of this - the king of outdoor games.
The object of the gathering was evidently to bring out the golfing strength of the county, and to encourage match play.


In the GulIane county tournament four clubs competed - the East Lothian. Dirleton Castle. Tantallon and the Thorntree. Each club was represented by four players. These were balloted against each other in pairs, and in the order of the ballot the match was worked out to the final round. Each competitor contributed 5s. as a sweepstake and the sum thus raised was the prize of the tournament. John Gourlay of Musselburgh was. by mutual consent, chosen umpire and discharged the duties to the satisfaction of all concerned. Willie Park of Musselburgh was also present. The gathering brought a harvest of riches to the local caddies and was the most interesting that "the oldest inhabitant' had yet witnessed on the green. Subjoined are the results of the various matches in this tournament:-

First Round

1. J R Whitecross (Tantallon) beat R Tait (Thorntree) by 11 holes.
2. Rob Hay (Thorntree) beat J CalIander (E. Lothian) by I hole.

Second Round
1. W Craven (Dirleton Castle) beat D Croall (Tantallon) by 2 holes.
2. D Smith (Tantallon) beat R Hay (Thorntree) by 4 holes.
3. W Carse (Thorntree) beat R Howden (E. Lothian) by 4 holes.
4. A Nicol (Thorntree) beat J R Whitecross (Tantallon) by 2 holes.

Third Round
1. A Nicol (Thorntree) beat D Smith (Tantallon) by 2 holes.
2. W Carse (Thorntree) beat W Craven (Dirleton Castle) by 2 holes.

Fourth Round

Messrs Nicol and Carse divided.

The county competition thus initiated by the Tantallon Club was not continued. But soon after the formation of the Luffness Club in 1867 the Early of Wemyss (then Lord Elcho) presented a massive silver cup for annual competition among the clubs of the county. This bears the name of the County Cup and is the most coveted of all our county trophies. Each club sends four players. these four being generally the best representatives of their various clubs. When the clubs have been balloted against each other, the competition goes on in foursomes, two of the one club against two of the other, until the final round determines the destiny of the cup for the year. The scores of both foursomes are. of course, taken into account in deciding each match.
The first competition for the County Cup was held at Luffness on October 17th. 1868. when twenty-four competitors, representing six clubs, appeared. The draw was as follows:-East Lothian v Tantallon : Dunbar v Thorntree : Luffness v Haddington.
The final lay between Thorntree and Luffness and the former won by five holes, both couples defeating their opponents. Lord Elcho. Sir Hew Dalrymple. Mr Hope of Luffness and many others followed with interest the fortunes of the various clubs.

The club is at present without a course and competitions are played at Gullane Old Course (WWG1909)

Haddington Advertiser August 1st 1913

The Golf Course


Probably owing to the remonstances of the inexpert who found hunting tiresome and expensive ( Lost Ball ) the splendid crop of hay on the golf course has been “ Gathered In.”

The energetic secretary of the Thorntree club tells us that the “ green is now in splendid condition,” and that they held the monthly competition for the Adams Cup on Saturday under glorious weather conditions. An exceedingly satisfactory number of members competed with the result :- Alec Edmond, 95 less 16 = 79, Andrew Munro, 86 Scr,

So far there seems to be no commencement of the promised clubhouse. It is said that the estimates have been accepted. The want of this shelter militates against the appearance of strangers.

Haddington Advertiser February 20th 1914

The Golf Course


The course itself is much more playable and the energetic secretary of the Thorntree Club ( Mr A. Munro ) is arranging for a grand tournament for which a large entry is expected. A number of new entrants desirous of joining. The new golf house is an attraction. The painters are now in possession of the building, so there is a reasonable expectation of occupation partly if not wholly this week.

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