John Rattray Statue – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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John Rattray Statue

The man who helped establish the first rules of golf.  


Scotland is a country known for many historic inventions and creations, including crafting the ground rules for golf. 

In the 18th-century, officials from the port city of Leith asked the city of Edinburgh to contribute funds for a silver golf club for an upcoming tournament. The city of Edinburgh agreed, but on the condition that the league responsible for the competition placed the rules in writing.

John Rattray was a surgeon and an avid player of the game. He was also a member of the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, who maintained a five-hole course known as Leith Links. In April 1744, a list of 13 rules and regulations were crafted. 

Rattray would go onto win this first competition and was declared “Captain of the Goff.” Several centuries later on September 11th, 2019, a bronze statue with three accompanying stones and plaques was unveiled honoring Rattray. At the statue, visitors can read his backstory and see the full list of regulations. 

This statue is situated near the first hole, of a five-hole course, where the original Leith Links would have been located. It’s surrounded by mounds of marram grass, similar to a 17th-century golf course. It has been reported that both Charles I and James VII played more than a few rounds here

The monument was created by the renowned Scottish sculptor David Annand. Annand is known for his public works of art, including that of the poet Robert Fergusson in front of Cannongate Kirkyard and the bust of Hamish McHamish in St. Andrews.   

Know Before You Go

The statue is visible and freely accessible night or day, just inside the park at the corner of Links Place and Salamander Place.

To the right of the statue are three large interpretive stone tablets.

Leith Links no longer contains a golf course but does have vast areas for picnicking, playing tennis, and provides space for community gardening.

Due to overcrowding, the club known as The Honorable Company of Gentlemen moved further east to Mussleburgh in the late 1800's, & then again for the same reason, onto Gullane Links, Muirfield, where they exist to this day.

The original document containing the 13 rules can be found at the National Library of Scotland.

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