The Golf Scene in St An­drews

The golf scene in St An­drews is a bit of a strange beast al­to­gether, with its plethora of clubs and so­ci­eties.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By The Kilted Cad­die

Golf in St An­drews is rather a mine­field for the unini­ti­ated and par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing play­ing on the Old Course. I am just about to pay £220 to the Links Trust for my lo­cal res­i­dents ticket, be­ing a per­ma­nent abider in town, as it’s the char­i­ta­ble body that was set up by Act of Par­lia­ment in 1974 to take con­trol of the golf here.

Os­ten­si­bly that is all I have to pay to en­joy the seven pub­lic courses in St An­drews and without in fact hav­ing to be a mem­ber of any club here. That’s quite a deal, es­pe­cially if you’re par­tial to play­ing the most iconic and his­toric golf course in the world. Imag­ine that priv­i­lege be­ing af­forded to the res­i­dents of Au­gusta? No, I would reckon there is about much chance of Au­gus­tians play­ing the Masters course as me be­ing put up for the

Royal and An­cient at the mo­ment.

I am in fact a mem­ber of the St An­drews Golf Club and my an­nual sub­scrip­tion is a very ac­cept­able £135, giv­ing me ac­cess to the most won­der­ful club­house over­look­ing the 18th green of the Old, a mar­vel­lous view of the West Sands and all the trap­pings of a good club. Now as mem­bers we have the op­por­tu­nity to play in a few tour­na­ments each year which are his­tor­i­cally played on the Old, but that is all. As res­i­dent links ticket hold­ers, we do have ac­cess to pref­er­en­tial bal­lot tee times on the Old, and in the­ory, we can pitch up of a morn­ing and put our names down in ‘free times’ which have not been booked. But these are rare.

Royal and An­cient mem­bers have a slight priv­i­lege here in that they are al­lot­ted daily times for Au­gust each year which they have to ap­ply for by the first of April. No joke here. Of course, they do have the full weeks of the Spring and Au­tumn Meet­ings, but it is a huge mis­con­cep­tion that the gents in that grand and iconic build­ing above the first tee can stroll out for a wee game or in­deed use their in­flu­ence on any ef­fect here. In­deed, any­one else for that mat­ter. A fa­mous story in­volves a lo­cal tak­ing the vis­it­ing Neil Arm­strong down and try­ing to see if this would sway the starter. But he an­swered with words along the lines of ‘hud yeer wheesht he may hae wakked o’ the moon but he’s nae gane ae wak onto the Old Course’. It is a re­ply in the neg­a­tive.

An in­ter­est­ing and eas­ily over­looked fact in St An­drews, given the furore over lady mem­ber­ship at the Royal and An­cient, is that there are still six sin­gle-gen­der golf clubs here. St An­drews, the New, the This­tle, St Reg­u­lus, St Rule and the St An­drews Ladies Putting Club. The lat­ter is an in­ter­est­ing club and ex­am­ple of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone awry. It was founded in 1867 and played over a short course de­signed by Old Tom Mor­ris. It was os­ten­si­bly cre­ated to pro­vide a safe haven for young ladies to par­take in the game away from the med­dling in­flu­ence of cad­dies who would hang out at the old putting green on the Bruce Em­bank­ment while wait­ing for their bag. So, the ladies were given a site which is now called ‘The Hi­malayas’ and sits to the right of the 2nd tee of the Old.

In 1900, there were 400 lady mem­bers and 200 as­so­ciate gen­tle­men mem­bers of The St An­drews Ladies Putting Club. How­ever, now there are no gen­tle­men. I don’t mean that as a gross and gen­eral in­dict­ment of hu­mankind, but the un­for­tu­nate fact is that

due to the Equal­i­ties Act of 2010, it has been thought pru­dent by the club to with­draw the ‘as­so­ciate gen­tle­men’ mem­ber­ship cat­e­gory. A bit of a shame all round, es­pe­cially for the then ex­ist­ing as­so­ciate gen­tle­men. I mean poor Ken Smith was turfed out of the club where he proudly held the course record with an in­cred­i­ble 34. The club’s web­site ex­plains that as a re­sult ‘of cur­rent leg­is­la­tion’ this is no longer avail­able.

This egal­i­tar­ian leg­is­la­tion has back­fired a bit more so how­ever and a bit more se­ri­ously so in my opin­ion across the way at the Royal and An­cient. This is why. Ladies, un­less they are Royal and An­cient mem­bers, are now no longer able to dine at the fine tables of For­gan House, the Royal and An­cient’s new lux­ury pad by the eigh­teenth green. This right has been quickly with­drawn, and I sup­pose you could say that it’s a bit of tit for tat. But it’s all very un­for­tu­nate that it’s come to this. I sup­pose the ladies could pile into St Rules for lunch and meet the gents for fag breaks out­side or some­thing like that?

I did drop by St Rule’s the other day and was met at the door by a very nice gent in­deed who I pre­sumed was the Man­ager. How­ever, when I en­quired if they had gen­tle­men as­so­ciate mem­bers I was met with a most res­o­lute ‘No’ and I had a dis­tinct feel­ing that he’d wished the ques­tion had not been asked. Now that’s a shame as I think the Kilted Cad­die could have made a bit of a splash there. I in­deed en­joy my game of bridge, and the book club would be well up my street.

Another ‘club’ in town that I re­ally want to get in­vited to is the group that plays an­nu­ally for the Lam­mas Cup. These twenty-four for­mer Madras School pupils play first thing on the Old Course, on the sec­ond Tues­day in Au­gust each year which the start of the Lam­mas Fair is. Now, this was ju­di­ciously cho­sen as it was the only day un­der the old Li­cens­ing Laws that the bars were open all day. They now have 6 al­lot­ted an­nual times on the Old for their match, and peo­ple come from all over the coun­try to play in it. The win­ner gets a rather dash­ing and splen­did tar­tan jacket to wear and a hand­some cup which re­sides in the Keys Bar. There is a des­ig­nated pub crawl af­ter the game which fol­lows a traditional path, and I think ends up in the Whey Pat? Or should I say they think it ends up in the Whey Pat? How­ever, this fact has al­ways been hard to pin down, let’s say.

Now, this re­ally does sound like the club for me?

A fa­mous story in­volves a lo­cal tak­ing the vis­it­ing Neil Arm­strong down and try­ing to see if this would sway the starter, but the leg­endary as­tro­naut re­ceived a neg­a­tive re­ply

The St An­drews Ladies Putting Club, founded in 1867 and played over a short course de­signed by Old Tom Mor­ris, is an ex­am­ple of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness gone awry

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