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KEEPER OF the FLAME

July 16, 1990
July 16, 1990

Table of Contents
July 16, 1990

Wimbledon
Midseason Report
Golf

KEEPER OF the FLAME

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is the game's vigilant custodian

"It's not allowed, is it? To peek into the trophy room?" The two English women Glance anxiously at Tom Wallace, the stern-looking hall porter, who watches from his post behind a waist-high desk. The door behind them is one-third open, providing a glimpse of glass cases, ancient golf clubs and storied medals.

This is an article from the July 16, 1990 issue

"Go ahead!" says Wallace with a gallant wave. The Englishwomen break out in smiles.

A gentleman in a blazer, waiting at the desk, watches the ladies nudge the door open—an inch at a time, as if they still expect to be rebuked—and turns to Wallace.

"Not sacred territory anymore?"

"Ah, nooo," Wallace says. "The public's been in there now. The portraits have all fallen off the walls."

It's not just the Englishwomen. Everyone who visits the Scottish coastal town of St. Andrews wants a peek into the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The building's exterior is so familiar from photographs—the gray stone that looks as if smokers have been breathing on it for centuries, the sturdy gables and chimneys, the whimsical wind vanes, the big round clock, the stark background of sky and sea. But the interior...that is less well known. Tourists may catch a glimpse of chandelier or fireplace through the club's tall bay windows, but only the unusually bold will cup their hands around their eyes and press against the glass.

So when one does venture inside, there is a tendency at first to rush, to seize images and impressions: giant portraits in gilded frames, dark corridors, high ceilings, light the color of limestone falling from tall windows.

"It's a dreamy kind of place," says Grant Spaeth, the president of the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and a member of the R&A. "You lose track of time."

"There isn't a setting anywhere remotely like it," says another American member, former USGA president Sandy Tatum.

When strangers come—that's how the club refers to outsiders, as strangers—they pad about the rooms, speak in whispers and practically genuflect at the door of the Big Room.

"Oh dear, how can I put it?" says Wallace. "It's awe, I think. And delight to have been allowed in."

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is many things. It is a building, a gentlemen's club, a private museum, an international rules-making body, a stager of golf tournaments—most notably the British Open—and a mystique.

It is not, curiously enough, a golf course. The famous Old Course at St. Andrews, over which the Open will be contested next week, is on the R&A's doorstep, but it is operated as a public course by the St. Andrews Links Trust.

Most strangers are surprised to learn that the R&A isn't even the only golf club associated with the Old Course. The St. Andrews Golf Club has its rooms across the 18th green from the R&A, between the Tom Morris Golf Shop and Rusack's Hotel. Another club, the St. Andrews Thistle Club, is nomadic—it meets on the Old Course and at other locations—and a fourth, the St. Andrews Ladies Putting Club, gathers regularly for competitions on the putting green northwest of the Swilcan Burn, the creek that meanders across the Old Course. Finally, halfway down the 18th fairway, there is the New Club, only 88 years old.

"The number of letters I used to get saying, 'I want to play your golf course,' " growls former R&A secretary Keith Mackenzie. "Here we are, the ruling body of golf, and we haven't even got a bloody golf course!"

But then, the R&A doesn't have that many resident golfers, either. The roster lists 1,800 Ordinary Members, but only 40 or 50 live in or near St. Andrews. For most of the year, the R&A is a ghost club, springing to life only during the spring and autumn "meetings," when members flood in from around the world to conduct club business, socialize and compete for various medals and trophies.

"Then it's pandemonium," says Wallace.

Brigadoon? No, the Scottish village in the musical slept for 100 years between appearances. Members of the R&A merely sleep through the after-dinner speeches at the biannual meetings.

Another misconception is that the R&A is the world's oldest golf club. It is not. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, est. 1744, has that distinction by a comfortable 10 years. And yet another myth is that the R&A was the first club to be designated "Royal." That honor belongs to the upstart Royal Perth Golfing Society, given the imprimatur by King William IV in 1833. The St. Andrews golfers had to throw a dignified tantrum before the king would relent and honor them similarly a year later.

The facts are these: Golf was played at St. Andrews for hundreds of years before a club of any kind was formed. The original course consisted of 22 holes of linksland, 11 out and 11 back, believed to stretch from near the St. Andrews Cathedral wall west to the Eden Estuary, a distance of 1¾ miles. Although it was privately owned, the noblemen, lairds and gentlemen who golfed shared the course with sheep, cows, rabbits, horseback riders, archers and strolling minstrels.

Chafing at the lack of class distinctions, 22 nobles, lairds and gentlemen joined in 1754 to form the Society of St. Andrews Golfers. (Laird is a Scottish word that applied not only to lords but to any man who owned an estate. The founders of the society also included a professor or two from the University of St. Andrews.) Borrowing from the practice of the Honourable Company, the new St. Andrews club started an annual competition and put up a silver golf club as the trophy; the winner was declared captain for a year, and a silver replica of his feather ball was attached to the silver club.

Borrowing further—this time from freemasonry—the club adopted a number of secret rituals, some of which survive today. One ceremony requires new members at the autumn dinner to touch their lips reverently to the golf ball replicas on the silver clubs—a delicate business that actor and R&A member Sean Connery calls "kissing the captains' balls."

Another tradition is the "driving in." For maybe 50 years, the R&A got its captains through competition, but that method produced some very young captains—schoolboys, practically—and eliminated distinguished hackers from consideration. In 1806, the captaincy—then and now a largely ceremonial office—became elective, and skill with a rut iron was no longer necessary. To maintain the prestige of the silver club, a new tradition was established: On the last day of the Autumn Meeting, at 8 a.m., the captain-elect "drives in" by striking a shot from the 1st tee of the Old Course, directly below the bay windows of the R&A clubhouse, accompanied by a blast from a nearby cannon. With this one blow, the new man "wins" the Queen Adelaide Medal and gets to attach a ball with his name on it to the silver club. To add to the pageantry, the club's "honorary professional"—who was once Old Tom Morris, the beloved clubmaker and greenskeeper and winner of four Open titles in the mid-1800s—tees the ball up for the nervous honoree, and a score or so of caddies trot out toward the Swilcan Burn to await the stroke. The caddie who retrieves the ball receives a gold sovereign as a reward.

Fear of foozling has unnerved more than one captain-elect. In 1922, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, drove in with a shot off the nose of his club that scattered bystanders and struck a fence 50 yards away. Since the caddies were arrayed 150 yards back, it was a clubmaker who pounced on the ball and got the traditional sovereign, worth about $150 today.

"The caddies were livid," says R.A.L. (Bobby) Burnet, historian and librarian to the R&A. "The prince had had a stiffener, as he confessed later, but that was deemed no excuse. In 1930, his brother the Duke of York, later George VI, was driving in, and the caddies had good memories. I think it was [British golf writer] Bernard Darwin who wrote, 'The lieges stood disloyally close.' Of course, the duke then hit it over their heads with a good hard swing, and they had to run back a hundred yards to get the ball."

The rest of the essential history of the R&A can be summed up briefly. The club was nomadic for a century, meeting in various taverns in St. Andrews—Bailie Glass's House and the Black Bull, for certain—before settling in 1835 at the Union Club, sharing those premises with the Archers' Club. (Silverware stamped UNION CLUB is still used in the R&A's dining room.) The current clubhouse was built in 1854 and added to in 1900, the upper two stories being used now for administrative offices.

In 1893, the club purchased the Old Course from the laird who owned the land, one James Cheape of Strathtyrum. The St. Andrews Town Council, worried that townspeople would no longer be able to use the linksland as a public green, appealed to Parliament and had the course made property of the town.

At about the same time, the R&A built the New Course on land leased from the Town Council and adjoining the Old. The New Course, pursuant to the Links Act of 1894, is also held by the town as "public recreation ground." The R&A retains the privilege of reserving every other tee time on the New Course and gets to hold its twice-yearly meetings on the Old in exchange for maintaining those two and the newer, also adjacent, Jubilee and Eden courses.

The R&A has another history, of course—one full of shouts and cannon fire, as the portraits on the walls testify. Members have fired at Napoleon, fallen at Khartoum, marched with the Black Watch, died in trenches at the Somme, flown Spitfires for the RAF and walked on the moon. (Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong and America's first man in space, Alan Shepard, are R&A members.) Generals and admirals have put their feet up in the Big Room; crowned heads have lunched on cold ham and tongue in the dining room; and the presidents of small nations have showered in the basement. ("Somebody built the best showers in Britain down there," says Spaeth.)

Alistair Cooke, the suave host and page-turner of television's Masterpiece Theatre and an R&A member since 1969, once felt the full weight of the club's illustrious past. Asked in 1974 to address the U.S. House of Representatives on the 200th anniversary of the First Continental Congress, Cooke accepted and sent "abject apologies" to the R&A, which expected him to speak at its Annual Dinner the same day.

Keith Mackenzie wrote back: "It is a pity that you will not be following in the footsteps of Francis Ouimet and Robert Tyre Jones. But it is splendid that you should be following in the footsteps of Lafayette and Churchill. However, a senior member asks me to remind you that we are 20 years more ancient than the First Continental Congress, and maybe you should get your priorities straight."

Duly chastised, Cooke did his turn at St. Andrews a year later. "It's a very liquid occasion," Cooke says of the Annual Dinner, which is a black-tie affair. "Guys have a couple of snorts at their hotels first. Then they meet for drinks at 6:30. Then it's dinner at 8:00 with good wines, the captain makes some after-dinner remarks, guests are introduced, a member gets up and introduces me for half an hour.... It was 10 minutes to midnight before I ever got up! Half of them were quietly asleep or already keeled over."

The perils of after-dinner speaking, according to Cooke, are nothing compared with the pressures that accompany the club competitions. "It's very scary when you play in the Autumn Medal—especially when you're a freak like me, who is there solely because he's supposed to be an urbane...something. A friend of mine said all these fellows were inside in their stuffed leather chairs, and someone said, 'Good god! It's Alistair Cooke! What's he doing there?' And they all bounded up to the window to watch."

If nothing else, membership in the R&A is a bargain. When a candidate is approved, he is billed ¬¨¬®¬¨¬£144 as an entrance fee—about $245 at current exchange rates. Dues? Home Members, meaning residents of the British Isles, pay an "annual subscription" of ¬¨¬®¬¨¬£133.20; for Overseas Members, including Americans, it's a paltry ¬¨¬®¬¨¬£72.

Certain reduced rates also apply. Forty-year members pay £10 per annum; 50-year members pay £5; and 60-year members pay nil, since they are, by then, mistaken for furniture. Of the 1,800 memberships, 1,050 are reserved for Home Members. Of the 750 Overseas Members, no more than 275 can come from the U.S. The American roster, which is top-heavy with current and former officers of the USGA, also includes golf architects Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones, golf writers Herbert Warren Wind and George Peper, Dennis the Menace artist Hank Ketcham, ABC-TV executive Roone Arledge, Brigadier General Francis Roberts, International Management Group CEO Mark McCormack, amateur golfers Charlie Coe and Jay Sigel, and Prescott Bush Jr., brother of the U.S. President.

No professional golfer can be an Ordinary Member, but the R&A has made Honorary Members of Kel Nagle, Arnold Palmer, Gene Sarazen, Peter Thomson, Roberto DeVicenzo and, most recently, Jack Nicklaus. Tom Watson, with five British Open titles to his name, is apparently deemed too young.

"To become a member, the one thing you don't do is promote yourself," notes George Wilson, the R&A's deputy secretary. "You must be proposed and seconded by existing members of the club, normally from your own nation. Golfing ability, while it is taken into account, is not a great factor. The club looks more for a degree of enthusiasm for golf, as well as a sense of stewardship, since we are the body responsible for husbanding this great game."

As of late, there has been one further requirement: staying power. The waiting period for overseas candidates averages 14 years; for Home Members it's a dismal 20 years.

"It was two or three years ago when we realized there was a membership crisis," says Wilson. "There was a stage where you were just getting old boys around. We wanted an injection of 50-year-olds rather than 80-year-olds, because there's no point in becoming a member when you're too old to enjoy it."

To make room for these youngsters, the R&A created a new category of membership: Supernumerary. These are Ordinary Members over the age of 60 who retain all the privileges of membership except the right to play in club competitions. Yet another category—House Membership—exists for those poor wretches who live nearby and have been listed in the Candidates Book for a year or more. To soften their purgatory, the R&A extends limited club privileges, although not the right to wear the club tie, club blazer buttons or any item bearing the club crest.

For that, they must wait.

There is a sense, when one tours the R&A, that the most esteemed members are neither the old ones nor the young ones, but rather the dead ones. At least, that's what one gets from a relaxed walk-around with Bobby Burnet. The club librarian, who retired as a teacher and Shakespearean scholar 10 years ago to catalog the R&A's holdings, begins with a warning: "I'm accustomed to talking for anywhere between a quarter of an hour to half an hour on any subject, so please don't think it rude to interrupt at any time and ask to move on."

The tour begins in the ground-floor Trophy Room, also called the South Room, which overlooks a small parking lot and eight wide stone steps leading down to the 18th green of the Old Course. One's eye is drawn first to a display case housing the club's principal medals and trophies, including two of the fabled silver clubs, laden with fruitlike clusters of captains' balls.

"There are a number of these clubs, and the current club is downstairs in a vault," says Burnet. "What we have here is actually one replica and one genuine club. I normally point out that this club, the oldest one, 1754, shows the development of the golf ball. You have a clutch of feather balls, a clutch of gutta-percha balls [made with a tough plastic that is derived from Malaysian latex] and beyond that, the first core-wound ball with a cover.

"The gutta-percha ball made all the difference to golf because the game would have died out if a cheaper ball hadn't come in. The feather ball cost three to five shillings, which made it more expensive than the club. A man could make only three of them in a day. You made a leather case and then stuffed more than a top-hatful of feathers into it. It was a most exhausting process because eventually you were using a chest brace with a long awl, getting the last feathers in by pushing against a wall. You were killing yourself two ways: You were inhaling feathers and you were damaging your chest case.

"This made the game very expensive, and various clubs became defunct around 1817. The transition to the gutta-percha ball took place around 1848, and that made golf available to the Scottish workingman. It had a huge impact in Scotland. There were 20 golf clubs in 1850 and about 35 by 1864."

Well, you get the idea. To Burnet, the R&A's trophies and artifacts are more than icons; they are windows on the 18th and 19th centuries. The Silver Boomerang, the Calcutta Cup, the Queen Victoria Jubilee Vase, the Canadian Silver Beaver, the Kangaroo's Paw—"It's also a cigar lighter"—the Bombay Medal, the Silver Cross of St. Andrew....

Here is the Open Championship Belt, won three times in succession by Young Tom Morris, son of Old Tom. Here is the Open Championship Cup, introduced in 1872 and also won by Young Tom. Here are clubs used by Allan Robertson (the first great professional golfer but a member of the St. Andrews Golf Club), British Amateur champion Freddie Tait, famed clubmaker and Open champion Willie Auchterlonie, the turn-of-the-century triumvirate of Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor and James Braid, Open champions all.... Here are track irons, water niblicks, baffy spoons. Behold the heavily grooved mashie-niblick with which Jock Hutchison won the 1921 Open. "He was using that and spinning the ball back on very, very fast greens," says Burnet. "The notice banning corrugated and grooved clubs appeared in the Standard-Citizen alongside the results; it was as quick as that."

Some of the exhibits will move next door to the recently opened British Golf Museum, Burnet says, "but we must avoid moving anything that has strong R&A associations."

The tour moves on to the Big Room, a high-ceilinged, chandeliered chamber dotted with leather club chairs and small round tables. This is the room with the tall bay windows overlooking the 1st tee of the Old Course. Hardwood lockers make an elegant wainscot beneath the R&A's prize portraits, which lean out from the walls in massive frames.

"Once a year, on St. Andrew's Day, November 30, the general public is let in here," says Burnet. "All kinds of things are put away; it's practically gutted. The place used to be open on sufferance, more or less—'Come in, but don't bother us.' The latest of the three American captains, [former USGA president] Bill Campbell, 1987, made a point of coming into the Big Room and greeting people, saying, 'I'm captain of the club. How do you do?' Very fine man, of course. Now there's a deputation of House Committee to be in the room to receive people."

The portraits. Where to begin?

Queen Elizabeth II, patron of the club: "It's considered to be a pretty good painting," Burnet says. "They move it into the Committee Room when they're cleaning around here, and she looks absolutely marvelous at ground level, when you're looking eye-to-eye."

John Whyte-Melville, captain of the club, 1823: "Quite clearly, as a portrait it's absolutely magnificent. The only complaint might be that the man in the portrait is straight and handsome, whereas John Whyte-Melville was short and fat and very ugly. This is an idealized Victorian study of the man."

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII: "He is supposed to have said about it, 'It's a very nice picture of a pair of shoes.' " The face on the full-length portrait is largely obscured in shadow.

Old Tom Morris: "Old Tom is supposed to have said, 'He got the checks in the bonnet right.' "

A story behind every portrait. As Burnet moves around the room, the characters practically leap from the frames. Two-time British Amateur champion Freddie Tait, killed in 1900 in the Boer War: "Chivalrous, you might say simple, in his approach," says Burnet. "Playing one round of the Amateur Championship, the other fellow was in a bad lie and complained. So Freddie went across and kicked the ball into a better lie." Sir John Low, a general in the Indian Army: "At age 90, in 1878, he used to ride around on a white pony and dismount to play his shots. He had a caddie to carry his stool for him, and he'd sit on that until it was his turn to putt."

Burnet pauses to look around. Two members chat quietly over coffee by the window; a housekeeper with a tray moves soundlessly past the door.

"Virtually all the time, there's hardly a soul about," he says, sounding apologetic. "Hardly anyone about."

There is no portrait of a Cheape.

One history of the R&A says the club "declined" the gift of a portrait of Morris Cheape just after World War II, but the reason is not given. Merely mention the name Cheape around R&A officials and there is a flaring of nostrils and a rolling of eyes.

The St. Andrews Links Act of 1894 makes five clear provisions "for the protection of James Cheape and his successors, proprietors of the estate of Strathtyrum." The document guarantees the Cheapes the exclusive right to excavate seashells on the Old Course; pledges that no buildings will be allowed on the links, other than small "wooden erections as shelters for golfers"; and grants the Cheape family and their guests the right to play golf on the links "without payment of any rates and in all time coming."

Since the signing of that document, the relationship between the R&A and the Cheapes has often been contentious. When someone at the R&A was tardy in forwarding the late Sander Cheape his tickets for the '70 British Open at St. Andrews, Cheape collared club secretary Mackenzie and threatened to exercise his shell-digging rights on the 16th fairway of the Old Course. At other times, Cheape allegedly threatened to claim unreasonable tee times on the Old Course. "What happens if it's the Open?" Mackenzie fretted. "What if he says, 'I have three chaps I want to play with,' and Nicklaus is about to tee off?"

Another sore point is the famous painting The Golfers, which resides at Strathtyrum. According to those who have seen it, the work is badly in need of restoration. The R&A has long coveted the painting by Charles Lees and would like to hang it in the Big Room alongside the club's other heavily insured treasures. Sander Cheape steadfastly refused to let it out of the house and even spurned Mackenzie's offer to have the painting restored at the club's expense.

"He was a very difficult man, not a lovable person," says Burnet.

Cheape's widow, Glades, now in her 80's, lives on at the Cheape mansion, which is set well back behind gates on the main road out of St. Andrews. She has a "friendly relationship" with the R&A, says Michael Bonallack, the current club secretary, but she's very "conscious of the Cheapes' rights under the Links Act."

The secretary's office wasn't always upstairs, says Mackenzie, who held the post from 1967 to 1984. You just think nothing has changed. When Brigadier Eric Brickman had the job, from 1952 to '67, his desk wasn't up on that wonderful perch overlooking the Old Course. The secretary toiled below in an old lounge near the locker room.

"Every member who had to spend a penny in the loo said, 'Let's go see Brick.' He couldn't get any work done," says Mackenzie. "He finally said the hell with it."

If you want to know about changes at the R&A, you go to this man. It was Mackenzie who ushered the R&A into the age of television, who rescued the British Open from anachronism, who saw the R&A's role writ larger in the world.

"The whole setup of the R&A, it's very big business now," he says, savoring coffee and a cigarette in the Trophy Room. "When I started, in 1967, we were a very small band. I had a deputy secretary for rules, and an accountant. There were four or five girls in the office." His eyes get big. "And the Open! In my first year, the total crowd for the Open at Hoylake was under 30,000. For the week! This year, they're talking a quarter of a million people for St. Andrews."

Meeting Mackenzie, it is hard to picture him as an agent of change. He is a heavy, large-featured man with a gravel-pit voice and a Churchillian glare. Imagine a figure out of P.G. Wodehouse, a retired colonial officer with a gout-ravaged foot raised on a pillow, The Times in one hand, claret in the other. Except for the gout, that's Mackenzie.

"Regular Army, I was with the Gurkhas in India (cough, cough), retired in '47 (harrrumph), 17 years with Burma Shell in India...found myself in Rhodesia (harrrumph)."

But this is the man who saw leader boards for the first time in 1967, at the U.S. Open at Baltusrol, and took the idea back to Scotland. To Mackenzie, the job was almost a lark. He became secretary through an advertisement in The Times of London, making the application, as he puts it, "tongue in cheek." To his surprise, he got the job. "And it was the happiest 17 years I ever had."

"There are jealousies," Mackenzie admits. "I'm not saying the R&A is universally admired. There are people in various organizations saying, 'Why in the hell should the R&A have these powers?' "

Implying what? A challenge to the R&A's rulemaking authority? A schism? A putsch?

Mackenzie shakes his head. "The lines of communication and trust are so ingrained now. We'd have to do something blatantly stupid."

Besides, the rules aren't written by a few old boys nodding over their toddies in the Big Room. The Rules of Golf Committee consists of 12 R&A members, elected by the club, plus 11 representatives of national golf unions and associations worldwide. Every four years, representatives of the R&A and the USGA meet to review the rules, make changes and adjudicate their differences.

"We don't think we have a divine right to go on as sole arbiter of golf worldwide," says Bonallack. "But somebody's got to make the rules. We are looked on and we see ourselves as the custodians of the game." Bonallack, a five-time British Amateur champion, is signing documents at one of the long tables in his office above the Big Room.

The work might go easier at a proper desk, he concedes, but six years as secretary have not convinced him that a change is needed. "This is how I found it when I moved in, and I think it's the same as my predecessor found it," Bonallack says. Even the old carpet, with its stomach-turning Victorian pattern, strikes Bonallack as worthy of keeping. "You'd have to be pretty good with words to describe it."

Bonallack is a big man of middle years, unhurried but never ponderous. He dresses for work in a blue blazer, light slacks, a blue tie and a golf-club tie clip. "This is probably the best office in the world," he says.

Apart from the indescribable carpet, he is probably right. The spacious room opens on a canopied balcony overlooking the Old Course and the sea. Overwrought iron and a 19th-century telescope suggest the bridge of a Jules Verne moonship.

"Trouble is," Bonallack says, "you hardly get to look out." That's the CEO in him talking. With 22 fulltime employees, not counting domestic staff, the R&A is still a relative minnow—an official of the USGA, which has about 150 employees, once looked at the R&A's organizational chart and asked, "Where's the rest?"—but even those numbers are too many for a sedate old gentlemen's club. The Open Championship staff, numbering eight, works out of a building a short walk away.

The British Open is the R&A's engine these days, the source of its most significant revenues and the most visible celebration of its mission. Unlike the USGA, which stages the U.S. Open through the committees and resources of host clubs, the R&A rents tournament venues outright. The Championship staff sells the tickets, puts up the grandstands, licenses the concessionaires, prints the programs and, when the show is over, keeps the profits.

"The biggest difference is what we do with the money generated by the Open," Bonallack says. "That money cannot go back for the use of the members. It's got to be used for the good of the game."

Typically, the profits go for grants: money to build and staff the British Golf Museum, subsidies for golf unions in developing countries, payment for coaching, interest-free loans for builders of new golf courses and practice grounds. "Czechoslovakia needs clubs and golf balls and shoes. Hungary wants a mower," Bonallack says.

One mower?

"They only have one nine-hole course."

Those who journey to St. Andrews next week for the Open should note this: There will be caps, sweaters, towels and shirts for sale, and all of these will have Open logos or crests on them with the words OLD COURSE ST. ANDREWS printed boldly. But there will be no caps, sweaters, towels or shirts with ROYAL & ANCIENT GOLF CLUB OF ST. ANDREWS On them, not even a discreet R&A on a visor or sleeve.

It isn't done.

Nor will the Open itself be sold to the highest bidder. "It will never be the So-and-So British Open Championship," vows Bonallack. "There will never be a sponsor's name attached to it."

The clubhouse, streaked and gray as the sky on so many Scottish mornings, testifies to that resolve.

"That building sits there so perfectly," says Sandy Tatum, "and expresses such authority and integrity, it borders on the metaphysical."

"On quiet days," British golf writer and R&A member Pat Ward-Thomas wrote, "when nothing of moment is afoot and a few members drowse in their deep chairs, one might look through the tall windows and dream awhile. So peaceful is the scene...that it is hard to believe that almost every great golfer in the game's history has stood on the tee below and looked down the long fall of fairway to the hills beyond; and that on an upper floor the processes of guidance and government are constantly underway."

The portraits have not, in fact, fallen off the walls. The R&A endures.

PHOTOThe R&A clubhouse looms over the Old Course.TWO PHOTOSLANE STEWARTOld Tom Morris (above) can still be found hanging around the Big Room (opposite).TWO PHOTOSLANE STEWARTThe R&A's precious metals include the captains' balls and the Open cup and belt.TWO PHOTOSLANE STEWARTBonallack looks after the club, which first adopted the rules of golf in 1754 (below).TWO PHOTOSLANE STEWARTMembership has its privileges, including wood lockers and a handy mail scale (left).PHOTOLANE STEWARTWillie Park, the first (in 1860) Open champ, landed a choice spot.TWO PHOTOSLANE STEWARTMackenzie leaned on the R&A to make the Open a premier event.PHOTOLANE STEWARTThe cure for St. Andrews' cap-and-umbrella weather is a spot of Scotch.PHOTOLANE STEWARTAfter a day on the links, quiet and comfort await within the clubhouse.