The town of Musselburgh could see a substantial boost to its economy after ambitious plans have been unveiled for a £10m regeneration of the Old Course – a six-time host of the Open Championship.
The historic links layout, which sits inside Musselburgh Racecourse, is the oldest continuously-played golf course in the world and, over the next six-seven years – should the plans be granted – upgrades will be made to the facilities, infrastructure and marketing of the course.
Musselburgh boasts five Open champions, including the Parks, and with this regeneration, an extra 15,000 tourists could head to the town and make it rival some of its neighbours further down the East Lothian coast.
The investors behind the plan are Blue Thistle Limited, an Edinburgh-based investment vehicle, with director Robin McGregor saying it’s time Musselburgh was properly recognised as the heritage golf location it is.
“It’s completely overlooked,” McGregor told bunkered.co.uk about the situation surrounding the current course. “The issue is that there’s nothing there for people to connect with.
“You go, you look, you hear the story and then you leave a bit confused because there’s nothing there telling the story and getting people involved emotionally. That’s what we want to change.”
The investors are liaising closely with Tom Mackenzie of famed architects Mackenzie & Ebert in their aim to give visitors – and members of the two attached clubs – something that is authentic and gives the feel of golf in the 19th century but with 21st techniques to bring the agronomy to an Open venue standard.
The first hole is described by McGregor as ‘not fun to play’ and will be altered significantly. As will the ninth, with a whole new green in the pipeline to make it more playable.
Blue Thistle Ltd also want to see the return of the ‘Pandy’ bunker which, short for pandemonium, was a huge hazard that used to determine many on Open Championship but was sadly lost to time, like many of the original features.
All of this, as well as tapping into the thriving hickory golf market, make the investors believe they are capable of putting Musselburgh on the map and McGregor has urged the local community to get behind the project.
“The town of Musselburgh needs an economic shot in the arm,” he added. “This is not just about golfers. This is about the town, East Lothian and Scotland. There are clear benefits here for everyone and we want to have some community involvement. There’s nothing at the moment that says to the world, ‘Musselburgh did all this for the game of golf’.
“We look forward to discussing this further with the new councillors. We know that by other examples, if you bring golf tourists in an area then there are spin-off benefits. We know the demand we think can be created – in the region of another 15,000 golf tourists to the Musselburgh area every year once the plans are fully developed – and that’s a significant increase to the local economy.”