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Historic golf plaque is teed up for spot in housing site

A section of the historic Leith Links golf course where the rules of the game were first drawn up is to be preserved as part of a new housing estate.

A little-known piece of grass featuring the second hole, third tee and a memorial plaque currently stands within the old Whyte and Mackay bottling plant.

Campaigners were concerned the monument would be lost when the site becomes a housing development. But the managing director of Teague Homes today assured residents this was not the case.

"We had actually suggested this as part of the plan," said Shane Teague. "We are happy to have this as a feature of the development - even though there isn't much to see." The monument will become part of a landscaped area within the new scheme.

Before Whyte and Mackay closed down, the feature was a popular attraction on tours of the plant, especially with Japanese tourists. The five-hole course on Leith Links dates back to 1744, when the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith were to be presented with a silver club from the city. In order for the gift to be handed over, a set of playing rules had to be formally recorded.

Members of the Leith Rules Golf Society say it is likely the rules of the game were already in place by way of verbal agreements, but the rules officially written down are the oldest in the world. They included instructions to play each shot honestly and not aim at a competitor's ball, as well as the first suggestions of rules such as the player whose ball lies furthest from the hole plays first, and that objects such as sticks and leaves should not be removed unless on the green.

Pat Denzler, secretary of the Leith Rules Golf Society, said the monument was important in helping to preserve the links' golfing heritage.

"It's a very under-celebrated fact," she said. "I couldn't believe it when I found out, and very few people were aware of this."

Leith Links Community Council secretary, Margaret Moffett, added: "There's a lot of history across the links and particularly at that specific spot, and of course we didn't want that to be lost."

The proposal to develop the empty plant as part of the Edinburgh City local plan was warmly welcomed at a meeting last week as part of a larger regeneration of the area.

Teague bought the site from the whisky giants three years ago and has since made numerous approaches to the council to develop on the land.

Before Whyte and Mackay took over in the 1960s, the huge building was used as the Edinburgh headquarters of British Ropes.

Under the proposals, Leith Links would be joined to the waterfront via a new park at the docklands.

The development is seen as the catalyst for the revamp of Salamander Street area, Leith's traditional red light district. Now the overall plan has been approved, individual applications - including a more detailed plan from Teague Homes - will be submitted in due course.

Source: Adam Morris, Evening News, Tuesday, 24th April, 2007