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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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

A Royal club in the United States?

Whether being a geographic exception or whether having been part of the British Empire at one point in the past would allow a club in the U.S. to have a royal designation is something that only Queen Elizabeth II could decide.  To date, so far as we know, she hasn’t been asked.

Clearly, for a United States sporting club to receive the royal designation, it would first have to have an association with or have done something for the Royal Family.  Then the club would have to make a request and satisfy other criteria.

The only club with a recent royal association in the U.S., at least that comes to mind, is Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Wellington (West Palm Beach), Florida.  The current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, played a charity polo match there in 1985.  He returned in 1988 for a second match, this time to raise funds the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Africa.

Palm Beach Polo has passed the first hurdle, having a past connection with the Royal Family.

However, it is not the only club in the U.S. to have been visited by a member of the Royal Family.  Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, played golf at Palo Alto Hills during a 1997 visit to the U.S.. He has also teed it up at Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C.

The Duke of Windsor, who abdicated the throne in 1939, was a regular visitor to wealthy areas of the U.S. including Palm Beach and the Hamptons, to name two.  He did play at least two rounds of golf at National Golf Club in Southhampton. He also played at Piping Rock.  And he was filmed at a course near Washington, D.C. He even wrote the foreword for a golf book by Percy Boomer.

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The Duke of Windsor probably played the most U.S. golf of any Royal Family member. It’s unknown how his association with a golf club would be treated by Queen Elizabeth II.  His abdication paved the way for her father to become king and for her to become queen.

Now, any of those clubs would have to go through the process of requesting as the other clubs did.  Then the wait is on.

Some golf clubs, like Royal Birkdale, received royal status in a short time and without an explanation of why they were chosen.  Others, like Royal Mayfair, had royal associations for decades before requesting a title.

Wrapping it all up

Once Queen Victoria and her sons got involved, more and more clubs became royal. The tradition has been carried on by Queen Elizabeth II.  Today, royal golf clubs span the globe, from the U.K. to Malaysia, from Canada to Australia, from Scotland to South Africa. Since Prince Andrew is a past Captain of the R&A, there may be no end in sight for adding new clubs to the list.  Will one of them eventually be in the U.S.?  Only the queen knows for sure.

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Ours is a game that was originally played on the waste lands between agricultural field and the sea, useless links land of negligible value. As with all things, the game has changed and so have our playing fields. Royal golf is but one variation of the modern game.