Bruce Golding was born on 5th December 1947, the son of Tacius Golding and Enid Golding (nee Bent), both teachers. He was the third of four children, the second (the only girl) died shortly after birth. He was actually born in Clarendon at the home of his godmother, Mrs. Winnifred Stewart (who was the mother of Mrs. Percival Broderick) where his mother was staying in order to be close to her doctor. However, a few days after he was born he was taken to the family home at Ginger Ridge, St Catherine where his birth was officially registered.
In 1949 when he was only 2 years old his family moved to St. Faiths district near Browns Hall, St Catherine where he spent the next 5 years. At the age of 5 although still 2 years away from enrollment age, he started attending the Watermount Elementary School, the headmaster of which was the late early childhood education pioneer, Dr. D.R.B. Grant. In January 1954, he was sent to live for 6 months with his aunt at Skibo in Portland and attended the Skibo Elementary School where she was a teacher and her husband was the Headmaster. He returned to St Faiths in June 1954 and was enrolled at the Macca Tree Elementary School to which his father had been posted as Headmaster in 1923 immediately after graduating from Mico College. He was there for only 6 months as in January 1955 his mother accepted a teaching post at Alpha Academy in Kingston necessitating her along with the three children to relocate to Kingston. After arriving in Kingston, Golding was enrolled at the Alpha Primary School on South Camp Road. In his third year there he sat the Common Entrance examination in 1957 and although his grade was above the qualifying mark he was denied a free place on the grounds that he was not yet 10 years old and could therefore afford to wait another year. He refused to accept this and without the knowledge of his parents he went to St George's College armed with his Common Entrance scores and was in the process of explaining his plight to the Headmaster's secretary when the Headmaster himself, Fr. Edward Donahue, entered the office and overheard the conversation. He took Golding into his office and after listening to his story agreed to accept him as a first form student subject to his parents' willingness to pay tuition fees since he did not have a free place award from the Ministry of Education.
Golding spent 5 years at St George's College, successfully sitting the Senior Cambridge examinations in 1962 before he had reached the age of 15. He received a Grade II certificate with distinctions in Maths & English.
In 1963 he transferred to Jamaica College to pursue A Level studies. He successfully sat the A level examinations in 1966 in Economics, History and Religious Knowledge. From that early stage he demonstrated strong leadership qualities and after attending Jamaica College for only 1 ½ years he was appointed a school prefect (serving along with Dr. Peter Phillips). The following year he was appointed Headboy.
Golding entered the UWI in 1966 and graduated in 1969 with a BSc degree in Economics (2nd class Honours) majoring in Public Administration.
As a child Golding grew up in a political environment. He was only 2 years old (1949) when his father was first elected as a Member of the House of Representatives for West St Catherine, a seat that he retained for 22 years until his retirement in 1972. He was the first Speaker of the House in Independent Jamaica and also served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing.
From a very early age, Golding developed a keen interest in politics. He was very close to his father and started traveling with him to political meetings during the 1961 referendum campaign when he was just 12 years old. By the general elections of 1962, he had taken on responsibility for setting up and operating the public address system at public meetings. While a student at St George's College he would often go down to Parliament after school to listen to parliamentary debates.
Golding was pursuing his studies at the UWI when the 1967 elections were announced. The government had made substantial changes to the boundaries of his father's constituency removing several of his strongholds to create a new constituency. While at the University, Golding started getting reports that his father was likely to lose his seat. He suspended his studies in order to take charge of his father's campaign and this proved to be a critical factor in enabling the JLP to win that seat by 878 votes - a far cry from his father's usual majority of over 3,000 but a decisive victory given the boundary changes that had taken place.
Golding was by now firmly committed to political service. In 1968 he was elected Vice Chairman of the JLP Constituency Executive for West St Catherine. Edward Seaga, then Minister of Finance and Planning, recognized his ability and appointed him as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Lotteries Commission while he was still a university student.