|Headquarters||St Andrews, Fife, Scotland|
|Affiliations||United States Golf Association|
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is the oldest and most prestigious golf club in the world. It is based in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, and is regarded as the worldwide "Home of Golf". Formerly, it was also one of the governing authorities of the game, but in 2004 this role was handed over to a newly formed group of companies, collectively known as The R&A.
The organisation was founded in 1754 as the Society of St Andrews Golfers, a local golf club playing at St Andrews Links, but quickly grew in importance. In 1834, King William IV became its patron and the club became known under its present name. In 1897, the Society codified the rules of golf, and, gradually over the next 30 years, was invited to take control of the running of golf tournaments at other courses.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (but not The R&A) had a male-only membership policy; in 2012, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on the club to abandon this in favour of a non-discriminatory policy, as did Louise Richardson; the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews.
On 18 September 2014, the club voted in favour of admitting female members. In February 2015 the club's first female honorary members were announced - Anne, Princess Royal, Laura Davies, Renee Powell, Belle Robertson, Lally Segard, Annika Sörenstam and Louise Suggs. At that time the club also announced, "In addition to the honorary members, a number of women have been admitted as members of the club with more set to follow in the coming months." Also in 2015, Lady Bonallack became the first woman to take part in a match as a member of the club; specifically, she was the first woman to play in the club's annual match against the Links Trust.
The R&A is the ruling authority of golf throughout the world except the United States and Mexico, where this responsibility rests with the United States Golf Association (USGA). It works in collaboration with national amateur and professional golf organisations in more than 110 countries.
The R&A cooperates with the USGA in producing and regularly revising the "Rules of Golf", and the two bodies have issued the rules jointly since 1952. The "Rules of Golf" are revised on a four-year cycle and with the revision that became effective on 1 January 2012 for the first time a single common set of Rules applied throughout the world.
The two bodies also collaborate on the corresponding rule interpretative work, "Decisions on the Rules of Golf", which is reviewed on a two-year cycle. Additionally, the R&A is involved in formulating technical specifications for golfing equipment. Steve Otto is the technical director at the R&A. The R&A is based in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
The R&A organises 21 championships and international matches. After the Ladies' Golf Union, the former governing body for women's golf in Great Britain and Ireland, merged into The R&A in late 2016, The R&A took over organisation of all events formerly under the auspices of the LGU.
The R&A formerly organised the British Mid Amateur Championship for amateurs aged 25 and over. This tournament was introduced to provide an elite competition for golfers who never turn professional, as the main Amateur Championship is dominated by future professionals in their late teens and early twenties, but The R&A discontinued it after its 2007 edition. In 2016, the event was relaunched with the blessing of The R&A as a new event on the Mid Amateur Golf Tour, which began operation in 2011 as a Great Britain-only circuit for mid-amateur golfers, though with a lower age limit of 35 instead of 25.
The R&A is also involved in the organisation of the two World Amateur Team Championships - the Eisenhower Trophy for men and the Espirito Santo Trophy for women - through its role in the International Golf Federation.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews itself is now simply a golf club although membership is by invitation only. It has 2,400 members from all over the world. Although the clubhouse is situated just behind the first tee of the Old Course, the club does not own any of the St Andrews courses, despite the common misconception, and must share the tee times with members of other local clubs, residents and visitors alike. Responsibility for the management of the courses is undertaken by the St Andrews Links Trust, a charitable organization that owns and runs seven golf courses at St Andrews.