Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Through the Ages

St. Andrews is a wee seacoast town in Scotland, located on the east coast of Fife. The population of St. Andrews is less than 20,000 and if you’re not a golfer, there is a chance that you would have never heard of it. However, to a golf lover, the name of St. Andrews is synonymous with the sport itself, as St. Andrews is considered to be the home of golf.

Golf in Scotland – The Origins

When looking at the history of this distinguished sport, one can’t help noticing the impact Scotland has had on it. Every civilization that has been has had a game involving a ball and something to hit it with. Scotland has been known to have molded the game into its current shape back in the 15th century. Even the term ‘golf’ was first used by the Scottish in an act of Parliament in 1457, under the rule of King James II.

St. Andrews has been a golfing hub for many years, ever since the people began to play it. Golf was developed by the Scottish people in the town of St. Andrews, which is why it has been referred to as the home of golf.  The aforementioned Act of Parliament declared the game of golf illegal, as the king felt it was taking the people’s minds off archery, then the primary activity. It was only when James IV came into power and took a liking to golf, did the sport become legal again.

St Andrews Golf Club

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club

The game grew in popularity over the next two centuries and the golfers of St. Andrews decided to form an organization. Thus, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was born in 1754, though it was then called the Society of St. Andrews Golfers. Its current name was decided in the 19th century when King William IV was its patron.

The importance of St. Andrews in golf history can be judged by the fact that the Royal and Ancient Golf Club is the sport’s governing body across the world, excluding the United States of America and Mexico. The rules of golf were laid down by the society in 1897 and they also have the inception of the golf rankings to their credit.

The standard for a golf course is now eighteen holes which can also be accredited to St. Andrews. Initially, the golf courses in St. Andrews had 22 holes but the players decided to cut them down to 18 and they are still at eighteen to date.

St Andrews 18th hole marker

The Modern Period

Golf grew into a universally popular game with various tournaments and championships being conducted annually. The game spread across the world, across the continents during the British rule over much of it. St. Andrews began to be revered as the home of golf by the golf fans. St. Andrews is still a destination for many golfers and fans each year, many of them thinking of it as a pilgrimage. One of the four major golfing championships, the Open Championship (the British Open to all non-Brits) is held every fifth year in St. Andrews and attracts all the leading professional men’s golfers.

St Andrews Golf Club

Little would those founders of the Society of St. Andrews Golfers have known about the impact that they would make on golf. St. Andrews has been the epitome of golf for over six centuries and it doesn’t look like fading anytime soon.

Images by Hermann Kaser, tiarescott, Marc Climent
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