The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews

History of the Club

The history of the Club is closely linked to the fortunes of the ancient city of St Andrews. Golf was believed to be a popular pastime when Scotland’s first university was founded there in 1413. The resting place of the relics of St Andrew, the city was also the country's religious capital.

But the reformation destroyed its religious significance, the under-funded university was in danger of being moved to Perth and the huge cathedral, once attended by Robert the Bruce, lay in ruins when "22 Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife" presented a silver club to be competed for over the links of St Andrews on 14 May 1754.

Their motives were two-fold; to enjoy the sport and the conviviality which always followed, but also by staging an annual contest for a significant trophy they hoped to restore the reputation of St Andrews as the home of golf and stimulate a return to the glory days when royalty and religious leaders were regular visitors.

In bold and elegant script, beneath the names of the 22 original contributors, the first written record of what was to become The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, reads: "the Noblemen and Gentlemen above named being admired of the Ancient and healthful exercise of the Golf, and at the same time having the interest and prosperity of the ancient city of St Andrews at heart, being the Alma Mater of the Golf, did in the year of our Lord 1754 contribute for a Silver club having a St Andrew engraved on the head thereof to be played for on the Links of St Andrews upon the fourteenth day of May said year, and yearly in time coming ..."

The annual Challenge followed the example established 10 years earlier by the Gentlemen Golfers at Leith, later to become known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and generally recognised as the world's oldest golf club.

Yet in the years ahead the Edinburgh golfers moved twice in their quest for less crowded playing conditions than the five holes at Leith where they started. This extended period of change coincided with the strengthening reputation of St Andrews as the home of golf, enhanced by the granting of royal patronage by King William IV in 1834 and the building of an imposing clubhouse 20 years later.

By the end of the 19th century golf clubs throughout Britain looked naturally to St Andrews for guidance and the members of the Club somewhat reluctantly agreed to take command of the rules of the game. This was to be the first step towards becoming golf's most powerful authority.

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