The British Golf Museum

Richard Cavendish examines the history of the British Golf Museum.

St Andrews is an old, grey, dignified town by the North Sea, which guards with fierce pride and affection the Holy Grail of the golfing world – the hallowed Old Course of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Golfing pilgrims come humbly from the four corners of the earth to tread the sacred turf, in such numbers that the first players have to tee off at '7 o'clock in the morning and the last can be dimly discerned devotedly following the little white ball over fairway and bunker in the gloaming.

Assorted games played with balls and sticks evolved centuries ago in Holland and other foreign places, but the pastime honorifically called 'the Golf', rather as if it was a Highland chieftain of antique and illustrious lineage, had emerged in Scotland by the fifteenth century. The first recorded woman golfer was Mary, Queen of Scots, who was criticised for playing a cheerful round when told of the death of her detested husband, Darnley, in 1568.

The R & A itself, though not the world's oldest golf club, is the grandest and the most famous. Formed in 1754 by twenty-two noblemen and gentlemen of Fife, it took the title 'Royal and Ancient' in 1834 with the approval of William IV. As the nineteenth century wore on, it developed without any particular conscious intent into the premier club in Britain and, with the rapid spread of the game overseas, in the world.

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