The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

A major reorganisation in 2004, however, saw the Club devolve responsibility for these functions [the Rules, The Open and golf development] to a newly-formed group of companies, known as The R&A.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was founded on 14 May 1754 with the first Challenge for the Silver Club. Evolving over 250 colourful years of British history, it has grown from a small society of no fixed abode into a club whose membership of around 2,500 extends worldwide.

 From the late 19th century, the Club increasingly came to be regarded as a governing authority, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. Between 1897 and 2003 it developed three distinct areas of responsibility, namely the administration of the Rules of Golf in conjunction with the USGA, the running of The Open Championship and other key golfing events, and the development of the game in existing and emerging golfing nations.

A major reorganisation in 2004, however, saw the Club devolve responsibility for these functions to a newly-formed group of companies, known as The R&A.

Today, the Club has four objectives:

  • To be a members’ golf club, having a clubhouse with high-quality facilities and reasonable access to first-class golfing facilities for day-to-day play, including competitions and matches, and for two Meetings of the members to be held in the Spring and Autumn.
  • To maintain the position of St Andrews as the Home of Golf and to assist the Trustees and the Management Committee of the St Andrews Links Trust in the development of appropriate golfing facilities.
  • To provide temporary accommodation for members of the Club and others.
  • To acquire and preserve records and artefacts relating to the history of the game of golf either directly or indirectly.

Early History of the Club

An entry from the minute book dated 4 May 1766 shows that the ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen’ had formed a society and that the members were meeting regularly to take part in the ‘very healthfull exercise of the golf’ - and with that, a club was formed...

The Captaincy

The office of Captain was a duty that was awarded to the winner of the Challenge for the Silver Club.  Possibly around 1806, with the introduction of the Gold Medal, the Captaincy became an elected office and the Challenge for the Silver Club became a symbolic, rather than a real competition.

The Club and Links

The relationship between The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Old Course has often been misunderstood.  The Club does not own the Old or, indeed, any of the courses in St Andrews. To this day, the links remain in public hands.

Spring and Autumn Meetings

Originally the Challenge for the Silver Club was played in May. From 1760, however, it began to be contested in the Autumn. The accompanying ball was a grand social occasion, the attendees and their dress often receiving reports in the local press.

Competition for Medals

For the first fifty years of the Society’s existence, the Silver Club was the only permanent trophy. The Gold Medal was first played for in 1806. Over the years, more competitions would follow, some as seemingly far-fetched as the Brazil Nut and the Kangaroo's Paw.

Royal Captains

Six members of the Royal Family have captained The Royal and Ancient Golf Club over its 250-year history including Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. The last was Andrew, Duke of York, who, in 2004, added a gold ball to the silver club, just as his relatives had done before him.

Collections

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club is the custodian of a distinguished collection, comprising paintings, maps, trophies and medals, as well as clubs and balls. The Club began collecting formally in 1864.  We are pleased to show a range of selected items from the collection.

The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse

The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse is an iconic image, recognisable to golfers worldwide.  Yet it is very different to the building unveiled in the middle of the 19th century.  Each elevation has changed over time, a result of the expansions undertaken to meet the needs of the ever-growing membership.