Preserving Golf's Heritage

The R&A's Heritage Department safeguards 600 years of golfing history from their base in St Andrews. Responsible for the collections of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and British Golf Museum, the Museum & Heritage Curators care for around 1,400 golf clubs, 700 golf balls and 1,000 trophies and medals dating from the late 17th century to the present day.

As guardians of golf’s heritage, the curatorial staff display, interpret and care for a diverse collection of international significance and, in promoting the history of the game, seek to engage with the widest possible audience.

These form just part of the collections.  In addition, valuable works of art, historical Rules of Golf books, Club minutes and archive material, clothing, film and audio archives, golf equipment and more all fall within their collections care remit.

Day-to-day, the Heritage team also plan new exhibitions, ensure that Club and Championship trophies are available for display in St Andrews and at championship venues and carry out historical research, both for the public and internally for other departments.

Establishing and maintaining links with other museums and golfing organisations plays an increasing role and provides an opportunity to reach audiences overseas.  Bobby JonesIn the USA, the Atlanta History Center in Georgia and the World Golf Hall of Fame in Florida are institutions with which the Heritage Department has long-standing relations, lending objects and material from the film archive for their displays. 

More recently the promotion of golf’s heritage has extended to China; an exhibition entitled ‘The R&A and the Heart of the Game’ was launched at the Pine Valley Golf & Country Club, near Beijing, in 2008.  Mission Hills Golf Club, also in China, was the venue for an outdoor panel display about The R&A, staged to coincide with the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

Over the past few years the Heritage Department has developed a significant film archive dating back to the 19th century.  Much of it has been restored and digitised, including the earliest surviving footage of a golf match, which was shot on Kinora in 1898.  In 2009, the restoration of two Kinora reels, featuring George Duncan and Sandy Herd, merited a prestigious Focal Award.

Twenty years on from the opening of the British Golf Museum, the work and demands of the curatorial department continue to grow.