Drawing of golfer poised to take a swing
A 'notable
golfer', 1837.
Full golfer

Our major exhibition in 2010 provided fascinating facts about golf — such as why Scotland was a natural home for the sport. Opened in the summer that year, its extended run continued until 20 March 2011.


Discover why Scotland is so important to the story of golf by visiting the National Library of Scotland's exhibition.

'A swing through time' charts the social history of golf in Scotland and highlights the influences that made golf the game we know today.

Find out how an ordinary 'ball and stick' game took hold in Scotland and eventually transformed into what is now a billion-dollar industry.


Iconic golfing items

The exhibition coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship and features some of the most iconic documents and artefacts in golfing history. Among over 200 exhibits are:

Acts and regulations
The first 'Rules of golf', 1744.
Golf manuscript page

Groups of men and boys golfing
Golfing songsheet, 1887.
Full songsheet cover
  • The earliest 'Rules of golf', drawn up by Leith golfers in 1744
  • The first minute book of the world's oldest golf club - the Company of Gentlemen Golfers, now the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers
  • Diaries, letters and journals of golfers from 1574 to the present day, including:
    • The diary of 17th-century medical student Thomas Kincaid analysing his golf swing and describing an early handicapping system
    • A letter (1691) from Alexander Munro, Regent at St Andrews University, which gives an insight into golf equipment and reveals that St Andrews was already regarded as 'the metropolis of golfing'.
  • Perth Kirk Session minutes from 1604 recording a fine and a public reprimand for boys who missed church to play golf
  • The 1st printed book devoted entirely to golf - a mock heroic poem of 1743 called 'The Goff'.

See these and other key documents in our Golf in Scotland 1457-1744 web feature

Exhibits on loan for the exhibition include:

Two men playing around with golf clubs
'Musselburgh Links', 1886.
Larger painting
  • Sandy Lyle's Claret Jug, won at the Open in Sandwich in 1985
  • The Musselburgh Cup - over 260 years old and believed to be the world's oldest trophy still being played for
  • The Act of Parliament of 1457 banning golf and football
  • Paintings such as 'Golfers on the links at St Andrews', from around 1740, by courtesy of the British Golf Museum possibly the earliest picture to show golf being played in Britain
  • The golf bag and clubs used by Paul Lawrie when he won the Open at Carnoustie in 1999.

Visitors can follow the golf flags round the exhibition and answer fun questions as they go along.


Golf on film

Films from the Scottish Screen Archive at NLS show amateur golfers enjoying the game from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The British Golf Museum has provided footage feature Open winners from Harry Varden in 1914 to Tiger Woods in 2005.



'A swing through time: golf in Scotland'
9 December 2010 to 20 March 2011
George IV Bridge Building, Edinburgh


Past exhibitions page


Exhibitions page