A RARE and historic painting of caddies playing golf at Musselburgh Links is due to go under the hammer next month for between £300,000 and £500,000.

A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers, by the Scottish painter Charles Lees, is among the leading works at Bonhams Scottish Art Sale in Edinburgh on Wednesday, October 11, at 2pm.

Fife-born Lees (1800-1880) first found fame as a portrait painter but in the 1840s turned increasingly to depicting recreational sporting scenes mainly golfing, curling and, strangely, chess.

He painted the celebrated A Grand Match Played Over St Andrews Links, described as the most famous golf painting in the world, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Musselburgh Links is the oldest operational golf course in the world, having been in use for at least 555 years. It is one of three contenders for the original ground on which the game of golf began to be played in Scotland, probably in the mid-14th century.

In 2011, Bonhams sold Two Boys with golf clubs and a dog on Musselburgh Links by William Douglas for £82,500. It now hangs in the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews.

Painted in 1859, A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers, which was once owned by banking heir Paul Mellon, the American billionaire collector of British art, shows the view from the course to the north-west, possibly at the eighth or ninth hole.

In the mid-19th century, golf was a game for the gentry, if only because of the cost of the equipment. In the evenings, however, the caddies who carried the clubs – loose rather than in bags – were allowed to play among themselves. It is such a scene that Lees depicts in A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links.

These evening matches were important for the democratisation of the sport in Scotland and produced the early heroes of the modern game.

Chris Brickley, Bonhams head of Scottish art in Edinburgh, said: "Historic golfing pictures rarely come to the market and A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers is a particularly fine example.

"The complex and accomplished poses of the figures succinctly capture the action and drama and focus the viewer's attention on different areas of the canvas as the players putt and drive on the north-western Links – very much as they might do today."

By 1914, Walter Brown of Canada had inherited the painting from his father who had purchased it from the Royal Scottish Academy exhibition in 1860. Mr Mellon acquired it in the 1930s.

The painting was then gifted to George Warren Wycoff senior, who was the vice president and governor of T Mellon & Sons, Pittsburgh, and personal representative of Mr Mellon on the board of the National Gallery in Washington, then acquired by descent.

Six Open Championships were played at Musselburgh between 1874 and 1889. Local hero Mungo Park won The Open there in 1874, and his legendary brother Willie's rivalry with the great Old Tom Morris was one of the most keenly-contested in golf history. Willie's son, Willie Jr, was also an Open winner and the family established a celebrated clubmaking and course designing business in the town.

The hole cutter invented at Musselburgh in 1829, which was four and a quarter inches in diameter, became the worldwide standard in 1891, having found favour with the game's governing body the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.