Competition for the Medals
For the first fifty years of the Society’s existence, the Silver Club was the only permanent trophy. The Gold Medal, which was presented by Club member John Murray Belshes, was first played for in 1806, following the Silver Club Challenge, with the rules stating that the winner would keep the medal until the following year. Inscribed ‘Prize to the Best Golfer of the St Andrews Club’, the original medal has the winner’s names engraved from 1806-1815. Subsequent winners’ names are engraved on additional medals, of which there are currently six.
Through John Murray Belshes, the Club had acquired the patronage of King William IV in 1834. Three years later, Belshes successfully acquired a medal from the King. Written confirmation was sent in January 1837 from Sir Henry Wheatley, Keeper of His Majesty’s Privy Purse. Wheatley wrote:
“I have the honour to transmit by the King’s command, a Gold Medal, with green ribbon, which his Majesty desires you will present in his name to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and which his Majesty wishes should be challenged and played for annually by the Society”.
The Gold and Royal Medals were played for separately until 1839. From 1840, the Royal Medal became the principal prize at the Autumn Meeting, with the Gold Medal being awarded as second prize.
Another medal was introduced by Belshes in 1836, when he was Club Captain. He presented the Club with a silver cross of St Andrews, to be played for at the Spring Meeting. His reasons were recorded in the minutes.
"As the Gold Medal was the only prize now given by the club and as there were numerous first rate players of the game of golf who competed for it, he conceived that it would tend to increase the interest in that game among these competitors were an additional prize competed for yearly”.
A second medal was added to the Spring Meeting in 1845. Gifted by the Bombay Golf Club, it was first played for in 1846. It was presented as the second prize, with the Silver Cross going to the winner.
George Glennie Medal
The fifth scratch medal was donated by Royal Blackheath Golf Club in 1880, in recognition of the services of Honorary Secretary and Treasurer, George Glennie. Glennie was a fine amateur player, whose score of 88 in the 1855 competition for the Royal Medal stood as a medal record of the Club for twenty-four years. He was Captain of the Club in 1884.
According to the rules, the medal would “be retained by the winner until a lower score shall be made upon the occasion of any future annual competition”. First played during the Autumn Meeting of 1881, it was awarded to Samuel Mure Fergusson on account of his having won the Royal Medal in 90 strokes, this being the lowest score in any of the competitions for the medals that day.
The following year the rules were revised and since then the medal has been awarded to the player whose combined scores at the Spring and Autumn Meetings are the lowest.