| 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 C

HK Golfer - - Contents - By The Kilted Cad­die

The R&A is a most in­di­vid­ual and quintessen­tially Bri­tish thing and has been run­ning The Open since 1860, which is an aw­fully long time in any­one’s es­ti­ma­tion.

Now The R&A is a most in­di­vid­ual and quintessen­tially Bri­tish thing. It is a law unto it­self and a very queer beast. It is elit­ist but suf­fi­ciently towny to get away with it. It has a most won­der­ful club­house and serves ex­cel­lent wines and mem­bers walk round bla­zored and proudly and pur­pose­fully. There are over 2,500 of them world­wide and women have just been al­lowed to join. So, I would say that if you were a sin­gle woman with a lik­ing for the game then what an op­por­tu­nity?

How­ever, it’s not easy to get into this es­tab­lish­ment. Well, un­less you’re ex­tremely lucky or charm­ing or fa­mous or I’m not quite sure what. Rich maybe. For you need to be in­vited to join and so that negates it for most of us.

I am to be hon­est much more en­am­oured of the St An­drews Golf Club which lies across the other side of the eigh­teenth green. It is open to any­one by ap­pli­ca­tion and costs un­der two hun­dred quid a year. It has snooker ta­bles, domi­noes nights, good de­cent food and beer at rea­son­able prices, and an out­door pa­tio look­ing onto the eigh­teenth of the Old Course.

Now, I am a cad­die in St An­drews, which is great fun and a job I never thought I would end up do­ing af­ter com­ing here as a young eco­nomics stu­dent over thirty years ago, but I am and I love it. How­ever, I know this lim­its my chances of get­ting in­vited to join The R&A. Even though I have friends who are mem­bers. It just won’t cut and I know it. Even though I played on the Uni­ver­sity golf team and know the BBC pro­duc­tion crew and have a good pal who works along­side Ru­pert Soames who is Win­ston Churchill’s grand­son. It’s not enough.

If I were a QC, Queens Coun­sel, (i.e. hav­ing taken silk) it would most prob­a­bly be a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. How­ever, I don’t want to take silk. I want to pick up rough and re­place div­ots and be with my com­mon man. But I do. And in­deed, I have a friend who is a QC who in fact turned down an of­fer from the es­teemed club. In fact, an­other friend, a doc­tor, did the same. Now what’s that all about?

So, here’s the deal. I will not turn it down should the R&A of­fer me a mem­ber­ship. Now this is writ­ten down in the an­nals of his­tory and I will wait pa­tiently.

A 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

“How­ever, it’s not easy to get into this es­tab­lish­ment. Well, un­less you’re ex­tremely lucky or charm­ing or fa­mous or I’m not quite sure what. Rich maybe.”

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.

Hall of Famer Tom Wat­son kisses

the Swilcan Bridge in front of The R&A Club­house on the 18th hole dur­ing his sec­ond round of the 2010 Bri­tish Open Golf, his last ap­pear­ance in an Open

Cham­pi­onship at St An­drews

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