The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was founded in 1754 when the inaugural competition for a silver club, which had been donated by 22 ‘Noblemen and Gentlemen of Fife’, was played at St Andrews.
I’m not sure how familiar the readers of Lady Golfer are with the set up of the R&A and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which in 2004 became two separate organisations, and also what their objectives are?

From its inception the club developed three main objectives.

1) The administration of the rules 2) Running the Open Championship and other key events and 3) The development of the game in existing and emerging golfing nations.

In 2004 the R&A was formed to continue to operate the three objectives with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club becoming a separate entity.

Today the club has four objectives which are 1) To be a members’ golf club 2) To maintain the position of St Andrews as the Home of Golf 3) To provide temporary accommodation for members of the club and 4) To acquire and preserve records and artefacts relating to the history of the game.

What is often assumed, incorrectly, is that the R&A or the Golf Club own the Old Course. This is actually a public course and is run by the Links Trust.

Since 1754 until the present day there have not been any female members because they haven’t been allowed to be! That is all about to change, with 85 per cent of the current membership voting overwhelmingly in favour of admitting lady golfers for the first time.

I do fulfil Liz Kahn’s request, I will no longer be breaking the law! One person who has had a vested interest for many years is golf writer Liz Kahn who told me years ago that she had left a request in her will that, should she arrive at the pearly gates before me, I’m to scatter her ashes in the members’ room at St Andrews on the premise that that would be the only way she would ever be allowed in there!

To be fair they have hosted two Women’s British Opens since 2007 when the competitors were allowed to use the clubhouse. With the recent news, if I do fulfil Liz Kahn’s request, I will no longer be breaking the law!

Since St Andrews is a public course that hosts ladies as well as men’s tournaments, is known worldwide as The Home of Golf and the fact that the R&A is one of two ruling bodies who administer the rules and have stated that one of their main objectives is to develop the game, then surely they had been setting a poor example?

Whilst history and tradition have their place, I feel that at times the old-fashioned attitude that still persists in many clubs today isn’t helping the development of golf in the UK. It is no coincidence that in many countries within continental Europe, where the game is relatively new, there are far more women and juniors playing golf relative to the UK. In fact Sweden has at times almost reached parity, whereas in the UK the ratio of male to female golfers is approximately 8-1. There are no such things as men’s and ladies’ sections within most clubs in Europe. Rarely are there separate competitions. Usually everyone plays together, men, women and juniors.

There is talk of up to 15 women having their membership being fast tracked, surely at the top of the list should be Dame Laura Davies.

I had my doubts about the USGA’s decision earlier this year to play the US Women’s Open on the same course as the men but it turned out to be a huge success. The women felt a genuine sense of friendship, interest and support from the men who were about to embark on their final rounds. Michelle Wie, the women’s winner, credited Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley with helping her with their insights on how to play the course, and Jim Furyk’s caddy ‘Fluff’ Cowan caddied for teen sensation Lydia Ko.

The Ricoh is now played on mostly the same courses as the Open. Perhaps the time isn’t too far away when the R&A do what the USGA did – perhaps that’s a step too far but for now the vote is a huge step in the right direction to genuine equality.


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