Golf’s Royal Clubs
Architect Scott Macpherson's book on the clubs honoured by the British Royal Family 1833-2013
22nd December 2014
Architect and author Scott Macpherson, a New Zealander now living and working in Scotland, had his first golf book St Andrews: The Evolution of the Old Course published in 2007. To mark the Diamond Jubilee of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, the R&A commissioned Scott to write another book about the golf clubs that have acquired their royal title from the British monarchy. The result is a lavishly photographed book crammed full of facts and figures about these special clubs, supported by course related items such as maps, scorecards and full design credit details.
It took four years of research, with the author visiting 57 of the 66 Royal clubs still in existence, to produce a wonderful account of just how close the links are between the game of golf and the British Royal family. Not that there’s always been such a harmonious relationship between the sport and the ruling sovereign, right enough. In Scotland, where the game first began, King James II outlawed ‘golfe’ by an Act of Parliament in 1457 – only to have King James IV take up the game forty-five years later after he’d signed the Treaty of Glasgow with Henry VII of England!
A number of the clubs listed have had members of the Royal family act as Club Captain or Club President and most of the clubs have had a Royal Patron, though patronage has never automatically given clubs the right to use the royal title and several prominent clubs have fallen foul of that fact down the years. The process of obtaining royal status has evolved over time and applications nowadays would be expected to include a history of the club, details of its administration and membership, recent reports and accounts and information on any other royal or government associations.
The standard of the club’s course has not always been a determining factor on whether royal title could be given though Home Office guidelines in the 1919 did state that “the status of the course is a most important factor, and the decision would perhaps depend largely on whether or not the club’s course is a championship one or in the championship class”. Nine-hole layouts like the one at Royal Worlington and Newmarket would probably have failed that particular test if it had been in operation when the club was added to the royal portfolio in 1895.
Royal Perth Golfing Society was the first to be given the royal prefix in 1833 and it remains one of only four royal clubs - along with the R&A, Royal Montrose and Royal Epping Forest - to play on a public course. Royal Cromer is the only club to receive its royal designation before it actually opened, with its status announced on Christmas Day in 1887, eight days before the club officially debuted on 2 January 1888. By way of contrast, it took Royal Lytham & St Annes five attempts before its royal title was finally conferred in 1926.
Some may be surprised to learn that, in more recent times, the reigning British monarch allowed Marianske Lazne Golf Club in the Czech Republic to use the royal title in March of 2003 and she repeated this investiture a decade later in April of 2013 when Homburger Golf Club in Germany was also given permission to use the royal title. It’s an interesting matter of golfing speculation now to try and figure out which of the many other esteemed golf clubs in Europe (and beyond) are currently lining up their application…
If you’ve read and enjoyed John de St. Jorre’s Legendary Golf Clubs of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, where seven of the twelve clubs featured have the Royal prefix, then you’ll love this book. It’s only available to purchase through the R&A at the moment (contact Catherine McGirk on +44 (0)1334 460153, email [email protected]) but it may become more widely available in due course. The ISBN to look out for is 978-0-9926240-2-6. Highly recommended as a worthy addition to any golf book library.Jim McCann
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