Confusion in Golf: Who the Heck are the R&A?

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Confusion in Golf: Who the Heck are the R&A?
(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Who are the R&A?

 

Easy answer? WRONG!

 

They are not The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, which dates back to its foundation in 1754, over 250 years ago.

 

Confused?

 

Are we confusing names like the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR? Isn't the R&A like the United States Golf Association (USGA)? Okay, one does not confuse the PGA TOUR and the USGA—right?

 

So why confuse the R&A with the European TOUR?

 

Isn't The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews the United Kingdom/European equivalent of the Augusta National Golf Club? So why did the R&A and the Augusta National Golf Club announce at the Masters that they joined with the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation to create an Asian Amateur Championship?

 

This championship will be conducted annually throughout Asia, commencing next fall in China, with the ultimate prize of a Masters invitation.

 

Oh maybe that is why—only Chairman Billy Payne and the Augusta National Golf Club give out invitations to the Masters. Rightly so.

 

Plus there is the International Golf Federation and the World Golf Foundation. What about all the golf tours? The Asian Tour, Canadian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Southern Africa Tour.

Guess what the association that runs the World Golf Championships (WGC) is called? The International Federation of PGA Tours.

 

Now we are all confused.

 

Let's keep it simple.

Way back, when the sailors walking up from the sea to the little town of St. Andrews, Scotland started hitting something nearly "round" (rock, piece of wood, nut) with something fairly "straight" (inverted shepherd's crook, stick) into some sort of "hole" (rabbit) the game of golf had its origins.

 

In Edinburgh, Scotland we know for sure that King James II banned ‘ye golf’ In March 1457 because archery practice was being neglected.

 

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was founded in 1754 over 250 years ago. The British Open was first played in 1860 at Prestwick close by to the north of this year's Open site Turnberry. The USGA was formed in 1894 and its championship, the United States Open, was first played in 1895.Founded in 1916, The PGA of America started their PGA Championship immediately in 1916. Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts held that first “Masters” tournament in 1934.

 

So who is the R&A and where do they fit on the landscape of golf organizations? The R&A takes its name from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Based in St. Andrews, the R&A has become a separate entity in 2004 to focus on its governance role and running the British Open Championship. Since 1952, it has jointly issued the Rules of Golf with the USGA.

 

Okay, so maybe it is only a legal sort of maneuver.

 

But think back to 1968 when the PGA TOUR broke off from the PGA of America. Big deal then, though much bigger deal now.

 

Okay, so what do all these golfing organizations have in common?

 

Three things—a worldwide economic downturn, the bid for golf to become part of the Olympics and drug testing initiatives.

 

Well, really only two because the drug testing or as known in the UK as anti-doping policies is a prerequisite for golf becoming an Olympic sport. The economic downturn is like the lowering tide that affects all boats and golf organizations.

 

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A recently commented:

 

"Obviously the economic situation impacts on the amount of money that the Open Championship can generate. With the forward contract position we have on television and some of our corporate supporters, the impact is considerably cushioned from the recession, at least in the early years, depending on how long this goes on."

 

"We all know that this is not a venue (Turnberry) that attracted 200,000 people. We had 115,000 people here in 1994, and we're sitting here despite this recession confident that there is huge interest in this championship and we should at least get to the number from 1994."

 

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a major sponsor of the Open dating back 150 years, are cutting back sponsorships of major sporting events by 90 per cent by the end of next year. The Open next year can consequently expect a much reduced allocation from this year's Open.

 

With a record that's now approaching 55 years, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) televising an uninterrupted Open Championship is in jeopardy with the contract expiring in 2011.

 

Prize money for the winner of the Open impacted by the change in exchange rates is set at $1,498,875, well below golf's biggest prize of $1,710,000 for the "non-Major" PLAYERS Championship hosted by the PGA TOUR.

 

Times are tough even for the players. Look at what is happening on the LPGA tour.

The role of the International Golf Federation is to promote golf as an Olympic sport and to act as the Federation for golf in the Olympic Games. To become an Olympic sport, golf and its competitors must be drug free.

 

There has to be a system in place to prove it took, hence the drug testing even at the Open, as Dawson promises:

 

"We will, as we stated last year, be conducting drug testing at this year's Open Championship. This is very much to be seen, if you like, as another week on Tour. We'll be using the European Tour anti-doping policies and procedures at the Open, which are now well tried and tested on Tour, and the players on the European Tour and certainly the players on the PGA Tour in America are now well accustomed to the drug testing."

 

Tim Finchem, the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR announced out of 1,000 tests conducted to date at PGA TOUR events there have been zero positive results.

 

No word yet from the R&A or the European Tour for that matter.

 

Now that we know who the R&A is and what is going on in the world of golf enjoy the Open at Turnberry.

 

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR, volunteering for the tournaments and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net

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