1505 Stirling Castle - The Royal Golfer (again)

James IV of Scotland

James IV of Scotland

Stirling was another haunt of James IV. The Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer record that he spent four shillings buying 12 golf balls on 22nd February 1506. Later that year, on 18 July, he spent two shillings buying two golf clubs. This is believed to be at Stirling.

According to the Stirling Smith Museum, a purchase of seven golf balls is also recorded in the accounts on 29 March 1506 for James IV for a game while staying at Stirling Castle, possibly for play in the Royal Park, close to where the Stirling Golf Club would later be formed in 1869.

The chapel at Stirling Castle dates from 1107-15 when King Alexander I endowed it.  James IV built the Forework (outer defences) in c1500 and the Great Hall in 1503 at the same time as he was known to be playing golf in Perth, and may well have done so at Stirling as well.

The King was not the only person playing golf at Stirling in 16th century. Alexander Ra was a Burgess in Stirling, who died in 1568. His estate inventory listed three dozen golf balls which were valued at 14 Scots shillings. Whether Alexander played golf or just supplied the balls to others is not known, but this and similar references indicate that golf was more widely played than just among the aristocracy.

A noteworthy incident in Stirling's history is that it is the site of one of the first man-powered flights, which was successful, in that the pilot survived. On 27th of September 1507, the King's chief alchemist, John Damian, believed to be an Italian called Giovanni Damiono, made a pair of wings from hen feathers and threw himself from the battlements of Stirling Castle, suffering only a broken leg in a fall of several hundred feet. 

Beyond the King’s Knot, and stretching far into the distance, lay the King’s Park. This was the royal hunting forest, where the king and his courtiers could hunt for red deer and wild boar. James V, who was a keen huntsman himself,  was crowned in the castle chapel aged 7.

Stirling GC Hole 5 17

Stirling Golf Club Hole 5 & 17 with Stirling Castle in background

The King's Park is extensive and Stirling Golf Club is situated within the park, where James IV may have played.