Royal Golf at Birkdale and Mayfair, but what about a ‘Royal Palm Beach’?

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /
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Royal golf clubs have a certain allure, summoning images of men in knickers and women in long skirts. The reality is a bit different.

Royal golf clubs – Birkdale and Porthcawl – are relatively fresh golf memories as golf memories go, courtesy of the Open Championship and Senior British Open. In addition to Birkdale and Porthcawl the course rota includes a number of other Royal clubs that foster familiarity with the royal golf moniker: Royal Troon, Royal St. George’s, Royal Liverpool and the like.

But how do clubs get to have the royal in front?  And would it be possible to have a royal sporting club in the U.S.?

In his Golf’s Royal Clubs, Scott McPherson traces the path 66 sporting clubs around the world trod, or trudged, to obtain their royal charter. The only way a club can receive the royal designation is from the reigning British monarch.  Today it would have to come via Queen Elizabeth II or her family members, with her consultation and consent.

One reason it makes perfect sense not to have a royal club in the U.S., is that after 1776, the U.S. was not under British rule. On the other hand, all the royal golf clubs, except two, are in locations that were at one time a part of the British Empire, even if they aren’t anymore, like Royal Selangor in Malaysia or Royal Port Alfred in South Africa. So the the abrupt American withdrawal from the 18th Century British Empire wouldn’t necessarily preclude a royal golf club in the 21st Century United States.

How did royal golf begin, you might be wondering. Oddly, not in Britain, not even in Scotland, the game’s ancestral home, but in that remote corner of the Empire, Australia.