This early Alex Patrick of Leven wood club has a hickory shaft circa the early 1920s. This “Patent Applied For” Perfector Driver model has a distinct rounded sole and compact head. The original hash marks on the face are mainly worn away, and there is very little loft on this club, making it a challenge from anywhere but a tee. There is an original stamped shaft; the length is 43 3/4”.
Alexander Patrick served an apprenticeship in Leven with his father, John, a cabinetmaker who turned to making clubs, and he inherited the business in 1866 when his father succumbed in the cholera epidemic of that year. From 1886-91, he served as head pro at the Royal Wimbledon GC; James Kinnell stayed behind to look after the Leven operation in Patrick’s absence. The Club advertised in the Field and received ten applications for the position. At the time, there are several applicants which included Willie Park Jr. of Musselburgh and the Professionals from Hoylake, North Berwick, Southport, and Dunbar as well as John Butchart of the London Scottish Golf Club. The high standard of applicant pool reflected the high esteem in which the Club was held throughout the country.
The Committee unanimously agreed in October 1886 to hire Alexander Patrick of Leven who became the Head Professional with a salary of 30 shillings per week accompanied by a free shop.
He was given leave of absence in July and August of 1887 (to play in professional tournaments) on condition that his brother take his place.
In 1891 Alexander Patrick advised the Club that he wished to return to Leven and recommended to the Committee that he be permanently replaced by his brother, David, who he assured the Committee would carry on everything he did. David’s salary was cut dramatically and he was made greenskeeper rather than professional. Alex’s association with the club seems to have been a happy one as he ultimately called his house in Leven, Wimbledon Villa.
Patrick’s early cleek mark was a spur, later, a lady walking through a horseshoe carrying water from a well. At a later point the business was sold to David Sellars (Patrick retired after the First World War), who continued to trade using the Alex Patrick name (as the advertisement from a 1927 tradeshow illustrates) but the business was bankrupted in 1936 when Sellars died.
Alex Patrick died in 1932.
Volume 10 of Golf Illustrated carried an article reporting…
LARGE ORDERS FROM INDIA AND THE COLONIES TO PATRICK OF LEVEN
The spread of our game in India is even more remarkable than in the Colonies on account of the breaking heart turf difficulty. Still wherever at all possible links have been laid out in all quarters with wonderfully deft skill and difficulties have seemed only to intensify the fervor During the year now we are drawing to the close we have the pleasure of frequently referring to the delightfully gratifying success that has attended the several tournaments some of which were carried through on a really extensive scale A fair Corruption of this boom is afforded by an order of quite exceptional magnitude received from India last week by the well-known Leven club maker Alexander Patrick and rather singularly this was followed by the very similar extent of such quarters of the world the Australia and New Zealand It is certainly not our wish to exalt the goods of any one maker we ought to be and probably and are glad we have so many good ones but it is pleasant to find our folk out there placing their orders with well-known home businesses and among these Patrick is certainly entitled to an honored place not only on account of the excellence of his workmanship but of the fact that is the second oldest business in the trade.
ABOUT GOLF IN LEVEN
Leven’s journey to the prestigious place it now occupies on the world’s golfing map began on February 29, 1820, when 15 golfers drew up the constitution of Innerleven Golfing Society.
A silver medal costing £3 was bought for play over 15 holes at Dubbieside, now buried beneath the site of the present Methil Power Station. Dubbieside then consisted of five holes but was soon extended to nine.
Originally members of Innerleven Golfing Society were required to wear a jacket of King Charles tartan when competing for any prize but, by 1861, this rule had been rescinded.
The members also drew up the Rules of the Game for Dubbieside – before the R&A rules became universal – and the 12 written rules bear a remarkable similarity to those of the present day.
The club initially prospered. By 1829, membership stood at 55 and, in 1825, membership was sufficiently strong enough that it was able to refuse admission to one applicant.
By 1833, however, some members were objecting to paying the quarterly subscription of one shilling (five new pence in today’s money) and it was decided that only those members playing at the April and October meetings would have to contribute.
The Dubbieside Links, in 1848, was reputedly the place where Allan Robertson and Old Tom Morris first saw play with the Gutta Percha ball, the replacement of the feathery. The Spring Meeting Dinner of that year heard the first performance of the song, “In praise of Gutta Percha.’’
By 1866 the Industrial Revolution had begun to affect play over the original links and the building of railway lines encroached on the ground and at the Autumn Meeting of 1867, “because of the diminishing breadth of green,’’ the club decided to play on “the popular green at Leven.’’
The club made a contribution to Leven Golf Club of £10 because “they had brought the Links into fine condition.’’ When Lundin Mill GC was formed in 1868 the nine holes then in play were extended to take in the area south of the railway line up to the sand dunes of Lundin Links.
At this time four clubs were playing over the same ground, Innerleven, Leven Thistle, Leven GC and Lundin Mill but the last two were soon to fail – Lundin in 1877 and Leven in 1884.
Innerleven was, in 1876, actually running the Links with contributions towards the upkeep from the other two Leven clubs. Happily the failures were only of a temporary nature.
Innerleven is reputedly also the first club to use sandboxes and one of its early prominent members, Charles Anderson of Fettykill, whose descendants still live in Leslie, invented the hole-cutter.
Innerleven’s first clubroom in Leven proper was in a building which had been a washing house. The owner, Matthew Elder, had converted it to a clubhouse and the two Leven clubs occupied the upper flat whilst the celebrated clubmaker, A. Patrick, had his workshop below. By 1881 the second lease period was running out and the members wanted a new clubhouse ready for 1883.
Perhaps they objected to Elders increasing the yearly rent to £5. A site was obtained adjacent to the existing building on the site of the present Leven Thistle clubhouse.
The original building was bought from Matthew Elder for £200 and leased to Alex Patrick. A new building was constructed at a total cost of £1,066 but, by the early 1890s, this was found to be insufficient for the members’ needs.
By 1892 active discussions were taking place with John Wilkie, a builder, to buy ground to the west of the Home hole and to build a new clubhouse. By 1894 this was completed and ready for occupation. The final cost of the house and furnishings was the immense sum of £4,400.
Golf had not been forgotten through all this building and re-locating and 1855 saw the club actively taking part in the organizing of a National Tournament, which finally took place in St Andrews in 1857.
The Innerleven representatives, David Wallace and David Marshall, were given strict instructions to “bring home the prize’’ but sadly the winners were based at Blackheath.
1870 saw the start of something that has grown throughout the years. The Standard Life Assurance Company, then proprietors of Lundin Estate, gifted a gold medal for amateur competition by members of Innerleven, Leven and Leven Thistle Golfing Society. Leven Golfing Society’s records show a list of invited clubs drawn up after 1870 which totals 52 and one can assume that the club’s official existence at the time of the inauguration of the tournament would have been on the list of invites.
With this proviso, the tournament can proudly claim to be the oldest open amateur stroke play competition in the world, predating Glasgow Golf Club’s Tennant Cup by some 10 years.
The competition was originally over 18 holes, the first winner being local player, James Elder, with a score of 85. Over the decades the Gold Medal has grown in stature and is now one of the most prestigious competitions in Scottish golf. Traditionally play for the Amateur Champion Medal took place on the second day of the club’s Summer Meeting. In present times early August sees the reservation of Leven Links for the `Standard Life Golf Medal.’
Proof that Innerleven was amongst the leading clubs of the day is shown by the invitation in 1886, of the R&A to participate in arranging the proposed Annual Amateur Championship and the next year the club was invited to send a representative to the newly formed Permanent Organizing Committee.
Despite being a leading club which in 1908 still sent a representative to the Amateur Championship Organizing Committee, the Council did not accept an invitation in October 1912 to join the Golf Union of Great Britain and Ireland. Perhaps it was this insularity which eventually led to the club’s demise.
At the beginning of the 20th century the membership was standing at about 200 and records show that financing both the house and the Links continually raised problems over the next 40-50 years.
The membership steadily declined and in the mid-1950s it was no more than 40. On July 6, 1956, the club made the first approach to Leven Golf Club, regarding amalgamation. Lengthy discussions took place and, on September 1, 1957, members of Leven Golf Club joined with those of Innerleven in the present clubhouse – as members of the newly constituted Leven Golfing Society.
Leven Golf Club had a long history itself, being founded on March 20, 1847. There are references to golf being played over three holes between the windmill of the salt works and the mouth of Scoonie Burn in the early 1800s. The above date is the earliest documented because on that was when Matthew Elder, in the name of a number of other gentlemen, presented the club an inscribed Silver Medal for annual play. This is the first record in the original minute book but the heading immediately prior that recording reads:
LEVEN GOLFING CLUB Instituted April 22nd 1846
The club played over ground to the east of the town owned by Christie of Durie and leased to a Mr. Thompson of Scoonie Farm as grazing ground.
In the early days the club had no rights over this ground – only the right to “play over the links.’’
For his permission Mr. Thompson was made the first honorary member and later was made the gift of a “chair for all his kindness to the club.’’
Like most golfing societies of the time members had no fixed home. After-meeting dinners and suppers took place in local hostelries – 1848 saw the club dining in the Star Inn and in 1849 the venue was Crawford’s Hotel.
The green fee for each meeting was 3d and as these meetings took place only twice a year the club’s income was not great. It was not until 1853 that the club was given permanent use of a room in Mr. Elder’s building – free for the first year.
In the same year the club agreed to take responsibility for the upkeep of a wooden bridge over Scoonie Burn but it had to finance that by asking members to subscribe individually.
The playing ground was nine holes to the Mile Dyke and the preparation, cleaning and continual extension of the links was undertaken by the members.
November 1850 saw a match with St. Andrews Golf Club in which the visitors were successful and, after dining in Crawford’s Hotel, “drove off for home in glorious style’’.
This was one of many matches and golfing occasions in which the club took part and there were regular matches with Elie, Wemyss, Crail, Edinburgh and Perth.
In 1865 the club was sufficiently established to ask Tom Morris to advise on the siting of bunkers. He returned in 1867, presumably in connection with the laying out of the links extension east of the Mile Dyke, and for this work he was paid £1 plus expenses.
The first competition over this extended course took place on September 28, 1868, and the winner was David Marshall with a score of 99. Around this time the Innerleven club moved from its original home at Dubbieside.
The running of the links gradually fell to Innerleven and this contributed to the coolness between the then three clubs – Leven Thistle having come into being in 1867.
The council in 1880 considered and refused a demand from Innerleven that the club’s proportion of the Green Baillie’s expenses for the upkeep of the green be increased.
Leven GC suffered tremendously from both the formation of Leven Thistle and the coming of Innerleven.
In April 1882 an AGM was cancelled as only the captain and the secretary attended. In 1883 the captain failed to appear and the club was dormant for a while but the officials had the foresight to pay a nominal amount and preserve their right to play over the links up to 1890 when a new lease was to be prepared. This was done without the participation of Leven Golf Club and an attempt to reform in 1893 failed when it was realized that the club would have no standing on the Links.
In 1908, when Lundin took sole occupancy the Links east of the Mile Dyke, another attempt at resuscitation took place. The superior of Leven and the Links, Christie of Durie, was approached and persuaded future organization should be the responsibility of a joint committee of three clubs and, in April 1909, Leven Golf Club was back in business. In 1910 the Anstruther Cross was designed as the new club’s championship medal.
The reforming of the club was bitterly opposed by the other two clubs and it was only the personal decision of the superior that Leven Golf Club was included as an equal partner in the lease negotiations that enabled the club to resuscitate. Leven Thistle, Innerleven, Lundin and Methil sent their apologies when invited to the inaugural dinner.
The first few years were far from easy. With a membership of about 130 the club found itself paying a third of the links upkeep along with the Innerleven which had 150 members and Leven Thistle 750.
In spring of 1914 the club informed the Links Joint Committee that it could no longer meet its obligations.
The Joint Committee expressed sympathy and suggested that the club pay up to December 1913 when a more equitable arrangement would be considered and this was reluctantly agreed. Outbreak of war made things very much worse with a third of membership serving in the forces.
After the Great War of 1914-18, the club picked up and a minute of May 1920 showed the finances improving.
By November 1921 the club felt that it could once more take part in the links organization and was considering buying Maple Lodge in Links Road as a clubhouse. In December 1923, the club had 200 members and was considering a new clubhouse in Balfour Street when Stormount House on Leven Promenade came on to the market. The club bought this in 1924 and stayed there until 1957 when the amalgamation took place.
The Town Council acquired the links in 1927 and the club was closely involved with the two other clubs in negotiating, not without difficulty, a new lease of the course.
In 1933 the club criticized the Scottish Golf Union for picking a national team on the eve of the Scottish Amateur Championship final as one of the finalists was not included, perhaps feeling that this put the disappointed gentleman at an unfair disadvantage.
The Second World War years naturally had an adverse effect on the club fortunes as members were lost to the services. Competitions were suspended and, although the club was fighting off approaches from the military authorities to requisition the building for use by the Polish army and the Home Guard, the latter was allowed to rent the top floor of the clubhouse.
Resumption of full club activities took place in 1946 and one of the first decisions taken was the appointment of a club professional – with no financial liability to the club. This appointment only lasted until April 1948.
When the links lease was revisited in 1951 the club considered that it could not continue to be a lessee and the members decided that the Town Council should run the links but wiser minds prevailed and within three months another general meeting had rescinded the previous position by a decisive majority.
Amalgamation was soon to be mooted and, with a great deal of misgiving and no small amount of opposition, the decision to merge with Innerleven Golf Club was taken, this being approved at an EGM in February 1957 by 56 votes to 13 with about 50% of the membership present.
The Stormount clubhouse was sold and, on September 1, 1957, the members located to the present building and Leven Golfing Society was born.
n.b. – information in this write up came from various Internet sources, including a history of Wimbledon GC