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.
Queen Adelaide Medal
When King William IV died in 1837, his widow, Queen Adelaide, agreed to become Patroness of the Club. In 1838 she presented a medal to “be called the Royal Adelaide Medal and be worn in compliance with Her Majesty’s wishes by the Captain of the Club at all meetings”.
The first Captain to receive the medal was Onesipherous Tyndall Bruce, who was also the first English Captain of the Club. From 1853, the Queen Adelaide Medal was awarded to the Captain when he drove into office with his symbolic, single stroke.
Driving Into Office
The ceremony involving a single drive into office may date back to 1863, when Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), was Captain. Unable to attend the Autumn Meeting, it is likely that it was introduced to add a sense of ceremony to the occasion. Every Captain since has hit a single shot from the first tee of the Old Course, thus gaining the Silver Club and the Queen Adelaide Medal. While, traditionally, a silver ball had been presented by the Captain, the Prince of Wales presented a gold ball. Each subsequent Royal Captain has followed this practice.
Over the years the responsibilities of the Captain have increased and, in modern times, his role has expanded to that of ambassador for the game and a figurehead for the Club’s worldwide membership.