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.
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