Royal Golf Clubs Series - Royal Captains of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews
The office of Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club was initially a responsibility awarded to the winner of the “Challenge for the Silver Club”. In about 1806 the Captaincy became an elected office and the Challenge for the Silver Club became a symbolic, rather than a real competition.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club have had 6 Royal Captains and 3 of them have later inherited the throne.
1863 - Edward, Prince of Wales – (later King Edward VII)
Following the Prince’s marriage to Princess Alexandra of Demark the club invited him to be its Patron. He accepted the invitation but also said that he would be Captain of the Club for the following year. The ‘Driving in ceremony’ would be at the autumn meeting but the Prince was unable to attend.
He was therefore represented by John Melville who drove the first ball. This by custom entitled the Prince to the Silver Club and the Adelaide Medal. This set precedence and henceforth the ceremonial drive became a key part of the induction of the new captain.
The tradition has continued so that with a single drive the new captain wins the Silver Club and the Queen Adelaide Medal.
1876 - Prince Leopold
Prince Leopold was invited to be an Honorary Member of the club in1875. He was the eighth child and youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was a hemophiliac and was encouraged by his doctors to play golf. In 1876 he was invited to be Club Captain.
The Prince was the first member of the Royal family to visit St Andrews since King Charles II about 200 years previously. His eldest brother had been Captain but was unable to attend as explained above.
He had no problem driving on the first tee; the ball flew over the heads of the crowd and well down the fairway. His visit was very well received and he returned to resign the office the following year. In 1861 he became Duke of Albany but died in 1884.
1922 - Edward, Prince of Wales - (Later King Edward VIII)
Edward, Prince of Wales was the eldest son of George V and Queen Mary. He was a keen golfer keen golfer having a handicap of 15. He had been invited to be an Honorary Member of the R&A in 1913.
In 1922 he was invited to be the next Captain. On the day it was raining heavily, but some 6,000 spectators were present to witness the Prince drive into office. The drive was not spectacular, blame the weather! The ball was retrieved by a ball maker William Petrie.
The Prince gave him a gold sovereign, rather more than the traditional silver coin. Edward then presented the club with a reproduction of the 1754 Silver Club to celebrate his year in office.
1930 Albert, Duke of York - (Later King George VI)
Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of George V and Queen Mary. He was a keen golfer and an excellent tennis player. In 1923 he had accepted an invitation from the R & A to be an Honorary Member. Steel shafts had been approved for use In 1929.
The Duke became Captain in 1930 and drove into office in fine style. The ritual of teeing up of the ball was performed by Andra’ Kirkaldy, honorary professional of the R & A. The Duke then drove the ball straight down the fairway some 200 yards. It was noted that it was the first Captain’s drive using a steel-shafted club.
The ball was retrieved by John Wilson after a high-spirited stampede by the caddies earning him the traditional golf sovereign. The Duke succeeded his brother to become King in 1936. He died in 1952 and his eldest daughter followed becoming Queen Elizabeth ii.
1937 – Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary. He was invited to be an Honorary Member in 1935. Two years later he was appointed Captain of the Club and came to St Andrews for the Autumn Meeting. The ‘driving off’ ceremony resulted in a short drive of about 100 yards.
He then played in the medal with the previous Captain. He happened to be Sir John Simon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Probably nervous as most golfers are on St Andrews first tee, the Prince once again found the initial drive somewhat intimidating. Sadly he died in a plane crash 5 years later.
2004 - Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew was invited to join the club in 1992. He served on the Amateur Status Committee from 1999 to 2003, the first royal to be a committee member. He was Captain during the 250th anniversary year 2004. A painting was commissioned by the Club to mark the anniversary. It features the Duke of York driving into office in the traditional manner.
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