One of the world’s first and arguably world's most famous golf club, who’s been governing the game of golf for centuries.

When the R&A - as its members calls it - was founded in 1754, golf had been played at St. Andrews for at least 350 years already. In Scotland, golf was a very popular sport in the mid 15th century, and King James II even tried to legislate against it. The initiative to a club at St. Andrews was taken by 22 “noblemen and gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife”, and they called it the Society of St. Andrews Golfers. At this time, there was already a Company of Gentlemen Golfers founded in Edinburgh, which if not a club by today’s definition, at least was a group of golfers who competed regularly.

Rules of Golf
These two clubs had similar rules for the game, and became the leading authorities for the evolution of the game. This role would gradually be taken over completely by the R&A through the years, and by the end of 19th century, the R&A was the single authority on golf throughout the British commonwealth. At the end of the 19th century there were about 1000 clubs in Great Britain, and there were no official organization governing the rules of the game. In 1895, the senior clubs jointly asked the R&A to take a leading role, and two years later the club formed the Rules of Golf Committee. Since then the rules of the game has been cared for by the R&A, from 1952 together with the USGA, all over the world.

The Old Course
The course of R&A has always been The Old Course of St. Andrews. This was and still is the municipal course of the city, and is therefore public even today. In the beginning the course was played over 22 holes, or rather 11 holes played out and then back in again. Returning players had right of way. At this time, the players teed of on the green, as the rules required the tee shot to be within one club length of the hole. Obviously, this had an impact on the quality of the greens, but it would take until 1830s before separate tees were built, and also new holes were built in order to separate players going out and coming in. By then, the Old Course had been shortened to 18 holes, which still is the standard. Even though the course has been modernized, most holes remain unchanged, giving the players a certain feeling that they’re playing the holes backwards sometimes. The perhaps most famous hole of golf in the world is no. 17 at the Old Course, the Road Hole. The tee shot is blocked by stables and a stone wall from an adjacent hotel, making a par 4 something every golfer’s dream. Also, the clubhouse of the R&A is part of the course, making shots from inside the house sometimes necessary on the 18th.

Apart from governing the rules of the game, the R&A also organizes the British Open Championship of golf, and has so since 1871. The Open isn’t always played at the R&A, and it also involves many other clubs for the qualifying rounds.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has about 2400 members, and it is seen as a great honor to be invited as a member of this institution.

Editors Note:

In Septermber of 2014 The Royal and Ancient voted to allow women members for the first time in its 260-year history.

Reference: The club itself, Britannica

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