Open Golf Champion Plays Innerleithen
On the 22nd September 1886 a meeting was held in the Traquair Arms Hotel ‘for the purpose of forming a golf club’. A distinguished list of patrons was recorded and a Committee of management formed. An area of ground at The Common was rented at £4 per annum. The Innerleithen Golf Club was in being and members paid an annual subscription of 5/- (25p in today’s money). Who amongst those early members would have imagined that almost 20years later an Open Champion would play the course!
On 21st August 1907 Harry Vardon, at that time 4 times winner of the British Open (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903) and one-time winner of the US Open (1900) played a match against Alexander Herd. The Times of the following day recorded that Herd ‘gained a very fine victory’ over Vardon in a 36 hole match. (Four times round the 9 holes of the Innerleithen course.) The contest was to have taken place on 9th June but had to be postponed due to unfavourable weather. Both players showed good form in the first 18 holes with Vardon finishing one stroke up. His score of 71 beat the former record for the course, held by Major Wolfe Murray, by three strokes. Although losing the day to Herd, Vardon went on to secure the British Open title again in 1911 and 1914.
Harry Vardon was the first international golf celebrity, and easily one of the game's most influential players. The grip he popularised is now known as the Vardon Grip (the overlapping grip) and the ‘Vardon Flyer’ golf ball may have represented the first equipment deal for a golfer. His instructional books continue, to this day, to influence golfers one of which, The Gist of Golf, is still considered a classic.
Born in the Channel Islands he took up golf in his teens and, inspired by his brother Tom's success as a professional, decided to dedicate himself, as well, to the game. He turned pro at age 20. His first big win was the 1896 British Open where he played in what would become his signature attire: knickers (reportedly the first golfer to play in knickers), dress shirt, tie and buttoned jacket. Vardon was struck by tuberculosis late in 1903 and this may have been the reason for his visit to Innerleithen to take waters at St Ronan’s Wells and experience the clean air of Leithen Valley.
Harry Vardon was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 as one of the Hall's inaugural class.
Innerleithen Community Trust
Vardon wearing his distinctive attire
Vardon and Herd play the Innerleithen course in 1907