Welcome to Leven Thistle Golf Club, known locally as The Thistle, where we are renowned as a competitive Golf Club made up of local Artisans who enjoy the Game of Golf on the Traditional Links.
Our motto Gouff Dings “A” (Golf means everything) is embraced equally now as it did all through our history as our competitive spirit and love of the Game of Golf still Hold True.
Like many clubs we went through some difficult times and committees worked hard to keep the club on an even keel and start a recovery from what was a low as recently as 2013 where we had just a hard-core of 280 members , down from 500 and a waiting list in the 1990’s.
Although we were a good club on a historic Links enjoying quality All Year Round Golf we just did not let the outside golfing world into our secret. A change of committee structure, new younger blood mixed with experience focused on changing that by marketing the club particularly on social media and local radio. We also encouraged members to introduce friends and workmates to sample The Thistle and play on our Links. This has proven to be successful, with year on year increases in membership by 10% to our current 537 and rising at 31st December 2017.
Leven Thistle's clubhouse has been extensively re-modelled in recent years. A large and comfortable lounge on the ground floor is the ideal place for a refreshing drink after your round. Gent's locker and changing facilities and a recently created Ladies locker room with changing facilities are also to be found on the ground floor.
On the upper floor you will find a spacious function hall and modern dinning hall with views over the course and the Firth of Forth.
1867 was an interesting year in the annals of golf in and around Leven. The Innerleven Club deserted the links of Dubbieside in 1867 commencing play on the "popular Leven links" and the Thistle Golf Club was formed the same year.
The club was instituted with the view of encouraging a love for the game among artisans. The artisans of Leven had played golf between Scoonie and the Mile Dyke long before 1867 but the movement of that year was the first attempt to form a club which was to establish the same relation with Innerleven as the St Andrews Club bore with the Royal and Ancient.
The membership for the first year was as small as the humble coin which constituted membership but artisans and young merchants soon crowded into the club and the Thistle records of membership and of play are records of uninterrupted progress.
Mr. J. T. Ireland was appointed Secretary in 1883 succeeding Mr. James Kerr, and in 1903, when he resigned, he stated that when he took office "the roll of members was not more than 70 : it was now over 600."
He did not underestimate the membership of 1883. At the annual meeting in 1884 he reported that there were 62 "good members on the roll." The reader should not assume that the word "good" meant there were some bad members. In addition to the 62, there were several members who could not consider Leven as a permanent abiding place and, being regarded as notaries of the ancient game who might resign their membership at any moment, they were not regarded as among the "good" members.
At the opening of the new clubhouse in April 1900, Dr. Crole, the Captain, gave an interesting glimpse at the beginning of the Club. He said:- "You may not be all aware that the Thistle Club had its beginning in such ancient history that no record has been kept of its formation. So far as I can find, the Club took shape in 1867, when the members used to meet in a small place of entertainment down at Riverside. From the Riverside, as the members increased, the Club gravitated to the more commodious place of entertainment, the Star Hotel.
At that time the membership stood at 30. From the Star the Club found quarters in the old clubhouse, which Mr Alexander Patrick. gave them the use of. That was in 1883, when the membership was about 70.
The days went on until the Innerleven Golf Club built their palatial buildings. The Thistle then reached what was said to be the summit of its ambition in buying the Innerleven Club's old clubhouse.
I am glad to say the Thistle has gone on increasing and lengthening its borders, and the membership is now 500 odds."
The reminiscences by Mr Alex Grandison, the first Captain of the Thistle, who enjoyed the distinction of being an honorary member of the Club, were as interesting and he stated:- "Dr Crole is quite right in his statement that the Club met at first in a 'place of entertainment at the Riverside'.
The place in question was a little public house which stood on the water side. At first about a dozen of us used to meet together - good fellows they were, but most of them have passed away. As time went on we went over every public house in Leven. The 'pubs', were not good places for business. The Club did not improve with the meetings in public houses; but, as often happened, things began to mend when they had reached their worst. A body of young men took the business out of the lands of the old men. Golf caught on, and we have one result in this excellent clubhouse. Locally the Club increased in popularity during the eighties, and in 1888 the membership was 136." From these reminiscences it can be seen that the club suffered for some years for want of a clubhouse. The social side of the Club was strengthened by the meetings in the old alehouse by the waterside and the other inns of the ancient old town, but the Royal and Ancient game did not receive the attention it deserved. In 1883, Mr Alex Patrick gave the Club the use of the hall in the old clubhouse, and in 1884 the question was raised of renting the hall as the headquarters if the Thistle.
The membership fee was low, and the members, men who struggled to make ends meet, rightly acted cautiously. In the beginning of 1885 the proposal to rent the hall permanently took shape and the following minute finds a place in the Club records:- "28th March 1887 - The meeting unanimously agreed to rent a golf hall at £3.10s a year, members wishing boxes requested to apply to Secretary for same."
The boxes in the hall were largely taken up, and the comforts of a clubhouse were greatly appreciated. So much so that in 1894, when the Innerleven clubhouse and the old clubhouse came on the market, it was agreed to acquire the properties. At a meeting of the Council on 28th March 1894, the Captain reported that they had been bought at a cost of £760. The old clubhouse was bought from the Thistle Club by Mr James Neaves, the price being £200.
With a membership increasing by the month, the clubhouse was soon too small for the club, and it was decided to make an extension, which was built to plans prepared by Messrs.A & A C Dewar, architects, Leven. At the annual meeting in December 1898 it was agreed to borrow £1,400 to meet the expenditure connected with the clubhouse extension. The extended clubhouse was opened by Sir John Gilmour, Bart of Lundin and Montrave, on 29th March 1900 which was fitting as he had the honour of presiding at the opening in 1880 of the Innerleven's first clubhouse, and in 1900 he found himself asking the members of the Thistle Club "to toast the monster that he had swallowed the wee house." In the course of the proceedings, Dr Crole stated that the extensions had cost £1,700, and adding this to the sum paid for the old clubhouse brought out a total of £2,400.
At the opening of the extended clubhouse in March 1900, a gilt key was presented to Sir John on behalf of the members of Leven Thistle Golf Club, and when the clubhouse underwent a refurbishment in 1983, the key was returned to the club by his grandson, also Sir John Gilmour upon the opening of the new lounge. The key is now played for along with the many other fine trophies of the club, of which the best known is undoubtedly the Baird Cup, the Club Championship trophy and it is customary for large crowds to follow the final of this championship, held in early June each yearTeam golf has always been held in high regard at Leven Thistle GC and evidence of this is the fine collection of photographs on display in the clubhouse. In particular the club has a very close association with St Andrews and Carnoustie Golf Clubs, the three clubs contesting the Lindsay Shield each year on a triangular basis. It is testament to the golfing ability in the clubs that the matches are played as a fifty a side format and only low handicap golfers are feature in the teams.
In his publication of 1886 entitled "Golf Songs and Recitations", David Jackson, Captain of Leven Thistle provides "A Call to the Thistle Golf Club, Leven to meet St Andrews Golf Club at Leven, 18th July 1885":
Ho! men of the Thistle, come rally again;
For, lo! they are come from a city afar
Who once did defeat us, and most cruelly beat us;
But we'll meet them again, whoever they are.
We bearded them last in their own lions den -
Though then we were vanquished, we'll never despair,
On our own golfing ground, we should thrash them all around;
Prepare for the tussle, my brave men, prepare.
Then, follow me men, with club and with cleek,
And hearts that are daring and fearless and true,
Drive steady, putt well, our majority swell,
And show what the men of the Thistle can do.
Leven Thistle has had many fine exponents of the game over the years, many proving themselves at the highest level, but undoubtedly the best known were Eric McRuvie, British Boys Champion in 1926 and a Walker Cup player in 1932 and 1934 and G Wilkie who won the Irish Open Amateur in 1903. Such a fine player was McRuvie that it was not unknown for him to have an audience of admiring members watching him during a medal round at Leven.
The game of golf and its associated camaraderie has always been held in high regard at Leven Thistle Indeed the club motto which is displayed on the club flag and above the beautiful Champions Board in the clubhouse is from the title of the David Jackson song of 1886, Gouff Dings A', the chorus of which reads thus:
For Gouff dings a', my boys, Gouff will aye ding a'
With joy we'll swing our clubs and cleek, and drive the counding ba'
Then over bunkers, braes, and bent, we'll gang out twa and twa,
With hearts elate and mind content - Oh Gouff Dings A'
Our 150 Year celebrations starting on the evening of the First medal March 2017 when we held a very successful Sportsman’s dinner with a Full house of 110 in attendance. This was followed with a golf day where a field of 160 celebrated by playing a members pairs competition on what is the Old Leven Links course which incorporates the first 5 holes from Leven then playing the last 4 holes at Lundin to turn for home at their clubhouse before playing the first 5 at Lundin then back onto Leven for the run in on the 13th, 14th, 15th and 18th. Thus completing a very demanding Par 70 course that was in place until the clubs split in 1909 to form the Leven and Lundin courses we know today.
The local clubs continue to play the Old Course annually in a stroke play event. Leven Thistle had the course on the extra day in 2017 and Lundin in 2018 celebrate their 150 years. This golf was followed by a riotous night in the Function Hall where local band The Ballroom Gitz glam rock tribute band played. A day to remember for many a year.
Celebrations were concluded at the end of September when we had a Grand Ball at Fairmont St Andrews with our friends from the clubs we have been associated with during our 150 years of golf.