The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

Although The Open this year will be held at Royal Birkdale it is, still of course, run by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, The R&A. It has been running the event since 1860, which is an awfully long time in anyone’s estimation, 'The Kilted Caddie'explains

Gary PlayerA good friend in his first year at University has a wonderful story about joining. He was working up north in a fishing lodge in the summer vac and befriended a lovely retired gent and his wife. Anyway, it turns out this lovely retired gent was a significant member of the R&A and invites Donald down to dinner at the start of Michaelmas term. After eating and over a large brandy he hears the immortal words ‘I would like to put you up for the club’. Donald was speechless, which was rare.

Donald used to take me for lunch sometimes and it was always an occasion. One time was particularly funny. We were in the lounge afterwards and our attention was drawn to two older gentlemen who were perched at either end of a chaise longue, eyes closed and in a semi conscious state. The great thing was that there was still some sort of communication going on between them in the form of a kind of a high society grunting exchange. One would go ‘hmm,hmm,hmm’ which amazingly arose the other to a higher level of consciousness and elicited a similar but different response. It was absolutely marvellous.

I do like some of the R&A traditions, and was involved a couple of years back in the ‘driving in’ of the new captain. At dawn on a cold September morning I stood alongside my fellow caddies in the hope of winning a gold sovereign which goes to the caddie who retrieves the drive off the first tee hit by the new captain. A cannon is fired and a fight for the ball ensues. Members of The R&A surround the first tee and it’s a marvellous occasion and spectacle. The Captain ‘wins’ the Silver Club and the Adelaide medal for his one shot. What a wheeze. Two prizes for a single shot.

In my student days, the annual match against The R&A was always to be looked forward to. Two rounds and a large lunch and house gins included. The funniest thing was seeing my captain, Dave Turner, have one house gin too many and tumble down the steps onto the first tee of The Old. Excellent stuff and clever gamesmanship I may add. Dave was a canny golfer but not that afternoon.

Memories, memories. And The R&A is very much part of that.


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