Using iconic and priceless art as a medium, Alastair Loudon coordinates, in a trilogy, the evolutionary development of the modern game of golf: the gentry golfers involved in bringing the game to its maturity in the 19th century. The ‘modern game’ of golf is a game played to a common set of rules, over land specifically cultivated for 18 holes, using a 4¼ inch hole, and approved golf clubs and balls. There were 3 very distinct periods in 19th century Britain that had a profound effect on the game of golf: 1832, 1850 and the 1890s. Research into Scottish social history of those periods is captured in Gentry Links books.

1. Gentry Links: The Great Men of The Golfers

This provides a starting point, in the pre-photographic era, by grounding detailed research in a famous painting hitherto unexplored, involving the biographies of 52 characters identified in the most famous painting in golf , by Charles Lees, known by its abbreviated title, ‘The Golfers’. This book relates the wealth creation legacies of the gentry as a result of the political patronage of Henry Dundas ‘The Uncrowned King of Scotland’: how the Scots were able to accumulate vast sums, particularly through their appointments to the Honourable East India Company.

2. North Berwick, 1832, … and its Gentry Links

Another iconic, but little-known painting by Sir Francis Grant, PRA, created in 1832 (entitled historically, the Fathers of North Berwick Golf Club, and currently the First Meeting of North Berwick Golf Club, 1832) inspired further insight into this fascinating period of Scottish social history. Although an earlier painting, this second book is a sequel to Gentry Links: The Great Men of The Golfers because it supports the arguments developed in that book.  It also illustrates an earlier period of political patronage under Lord Milton, and the wealth creation opportunities for the aristocracy in the merchant marine of the Honourable East India Company.   Coincidentally, and most importantly, the gentry links of North Berwick of 1832 provide an explanation as to why Prestwick Golf Club became the Club that hosted the first, and subsequent 10 Open Championships.

3. Gentry Links ... to the Modern Game: The Bigger Picture

Medal Day at St Andrews, 1894, (Captain Driving Off), one of the most significant paintings in the collection of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, by artist Alexander H. Wardlow, hangs in the Big Room. The characters in the painting are the Scottish gentry golfers in 1894, joined by golfers from England, at a time when the Rules of Golf became a universal code. The symbolism of the painting is deep, reflecting a game that had become outward facing and growing beyond Scotland. Many gentry links are established, including those crossing the Atlantic. It is a fascinating study of patrons and purveyors in an era regarded as the aurora of professional golf. This was the bigger picture, both metaphorically, and literally.