EARLY talks have taken place over a £10 million plan to make Musselburgh Links – the oldest continuously-played golf course in the world – “great again”.
In February, the Courier revealed a proposition by Edinburgh-based Blue Thistle Ltd which would see the nine-hole, par-34 course “regenerated, restored and recreated to the style and reputation of its former glory”.
At that time, the plan failed to attract the support of Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club.
John Caldwell, the town’s independent councillor, who lost his seat at last week’s election, also voiced his opposition.
Regarded as the world’s oldest golf course and the oldest on which play has been continuous, Musselburgh Links, The Old Course is on Common Good land, surrounded by Musselburgh Racecourse, and is managed by the enjoyleisure charitable trust on behalf of East Lothian Council.
Ray Montgomery, the council’s head of infrastructure, said: “Representatives from Blue Thistle met with East Lothian Council regarding their proposed development of Musselburgh Links.
“This was at a very early stage and no negotiations have taken place. Musselburgh Old Course is Common Good land and as such is protected for the greater common good.”
Robin McGregor, director of Blue Thistle and former club secretary at Musselburgh Links, acquired private investment backing through binding shareholder agreements.
He has outlined proposals which would see £10 million spent over the next seven years to restore the course to its previous Open Championship condition and refurbish the accompanying facilities, with a plan to create 40 new jobs.
He said: “The Musselburgh Links course has an immensely important role in the history and development of the game Scotland gave to the world and it is our wish that it be recognised and returned to its former glory.
“The investment is in place to launch this project and our shareholders remain satisfied the business plan is well-positioned to give them a good return on investment over the medium to long term.
“Essentially, we wish to make Musselburgh great again.
“We have entered preliminary negotiations with East Lothian Council, who are custodians of the course, and outlined our proposition to them.
“Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll make more details available where locals can see how much we aim to transform the global perception of Musselburgh as a crown jewel in golf’s history.
“Musselburgh Links can act as an economic catalyst to spearhead a national and international campaign that further enhances tourism in East Lothian.
“A re-invigorated historical sporting icon of this stature is, we believe, crucial to achieving that.”
Fellow director Dominique von Prondzynski said: “My father is the main investor behind these proposals and was enthralled by the Musselburgh story when I first related it to him. He has visited the golf course and sees the potential for not just the course but the local area.
“As a company we are looking for a return on investment but will work with existing stakeholders, local businesses and groups to maximise the opportunities this kind of development brings.”
Blue Thistle is working with partners including golf architects MacKenzie and Ebert, Jay Dobson, Agronomist NDTS, and branding experts H&A Design.
Musselburgh Old Course hosted six Open Championships from 1874 to 1889. Documents prove that golf was played on Musselburgh Links as early as 1672, although Mary Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567.
For more info on the plans, visit letsmakemusselburgh greatagain.com