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Royal Blackheath Golf Club

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History

The oldest golf club

Royal Blackheath Golf Club has a long and illustrious history of which we are incredibly proud. We can trace our past back to the very beginnings of golf in England when the sport was brought here from Scotland.

Legend has it that, more than 400 years ago, Blackheath Golf Club was instituted and in 1608 became the first ever golf club. There is no evidence of this but the legend itself is older than most golf clubs. What is unquestionable is that Royal Blackheath is the oldest golf club in England.

Fittingly, our clubhouse is a piece of living history too. Eltham Lodge became home to the Club in the 1920s and has its own fascinating story.

Our heritage means a lot to us. As we can trace our past right back through the history of golf in England, we feel incredibly close to our beloved sport, and are honoured still to offer golfers an exceptional golfing experience so many centuries later.

Our Golf Club Timeline

1603

King James VI of Scotland becomes James I, the first Stuart King of England, settling at Greenwich Palace in London. The new court brought the exotic game of golf with them from Scotland; there is evidence of golf being played at Blackheath from the very start of the reign of James I.

1608

Blackheath Golf Club was formally instituted, making it the oldest golf club in England. We’re proud of our Scottish heritage to this day and celebrate it in style at ‘Wee Dinners’ in our main dining hall.

1664

Our clubhouse, Eltham Lodge was built. Originally created as a home to Sir John Shaw (banker to Charles I), the beautiful building became home to Royal Blackheath Golf Club in 1924 when the Club moved from Blackheath.

1766

Alexander Duncan becomes the first Captain of Blackheath Golf Club.

1792

The first playing of what is now known as the Spring Medal. This is the oldest golfing medal in the world and is credited as giving the name to medal golf.

1847

The Club created the concept of an ‘open’ competition, with the Boys Open Medal. This predates the Open Championship by 13 years.

1857

Blackheath win the first ever inter-club golf match by winning the Grand Foursomes Tournament at St Andrews beating the Royal & Ancient in the final. The trophy, the first time a silver claret jug was used as a golfing trophy, takes pride of place in the Club‘s museum.

1920

Originally designed and created in 1892 by Thomas Dunn, the course was added to by the celebrated golfer James Braid, a member of the Great Triumvirate of exceptional British golfers of the era.

1924

Royal Blackheath Golf Club moves from the heath to its current home in Eltham.

2016

The Club purchases its freehold from The Crown Estate and invests in the updating of the course under the direction of Ken Moodie.

2021

Royal Blackheath hosts the inaugural Open Royal Blackheath Trophy. The first open handicap competition with men and women competing against each other over the same course.

Golf at Blackheath Through the Centuries

At the end of the 16th century, when it became obvious that Queen Elizabeth I of England would never marry, James VI of Scotland was recognised as being heir presumptive to the throne of England. Elizabeth died in 1603, and accordingly James VI of Scotland proceeded with his Scottish court to London, taking up residence at the Royal Palace in Greenwich (Elizabeth I's birthplace) as James I of England. 

Since the sport had by then been played in Scotland for some 150 years, James's entourage would inevitably have contained a number of golfers and, by climbing to the higher ground at Blackheath above the palace, these courtiers were able to find the space they needed in which to pursue their sport. We have documentary evidence that they did indeed play, and of one royal player in particular - Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales and James I's son, who is known to have been golfing in 1606.

Although the crowns of England and Scotland were now held by James, the two countries were not to be fully united for another 100 years and the old hatred between them was still strong, which meant that the Scots tended to keep their own company in London. Their common interest in the sport of golf (few, if any, Englishmen at the time would ever have seen golf, let alone played it themselves) would have given them the ideal vehicle with which to do so!

These are the circumstances which first brought golf to Blackheath, and it was from these Scottish nobility and their followers that the golfers of Blackheath are descended. We are, by birth, a Scottish club.

Blackheath Golf Club is known wherever golf is played as having been instituted in 1608. Whilst we know that golf was being played on Blackheath prior to that time by individuals with a uniquely common bond to all intents and purposes a 'club' - no documentary evidence of this inception date has yet been unearthed (and no explanation offered for the selection of 1608 rather than 1603) since the Club's accounts prior to 1787, and the minutes prior to 1800, are missing. 

The Club's own artefacts evidence its existence as early as 1745, and the Edinburgh Almanac which has listed the dates of formation of the leading golfing societies since the early 1800s - records Blackheath as having been established "prior to 1745" from as long ago as 1830.


No less an authority than the grandson of Charles Darwin, Bernard Darwin, golf correspondent of The Times for 46 years, Past Captain of the Royal & Ancient and the most revered of all golf writers, began his introduction to a guide to the Club published in the 1940s with the following words: "The Royal Blackheath Golf Club, as all the world knows, is the oldest golf club in the world."

We are justifiably proud of our longevity, history and tradition.

To find out more about the Club's major trophies please click here

History of Eltham Lodge

We’re delighted to call the spectacular Eltham Lodge our clubhouse. This marvellous Grade I-listed building dates back to 1664, and no expense was spared in its construction. The Lodge was originally built for the high profile banker to King Charles I, Sir John Shaw, by Hugh May, both ardent royalists during the tumultuous period of the mid-17th Century.

May was one of the four leading architects of his day in England, having studied in Holland. His inspiration for the Lodge were three still-famous buildings in The Hague that he had studied in exile: the Sebastiaandoolen, the Mauritshuis and the Huygenshuis. As such, the Lodge was a forerunner to the later Georgian architectural styles that became popular in Britain.

Between 1750 and 1755, renovations were made to Eltham Lodge to modernise the building, though many of the original features remain. Of course, the building has changed and evolved over the years, with the changing fortunes of its owners, but today it remains a stunning example of historic British architecture, and a fitting home for England’s oldest golf club.

To find out more about Eltham Lodge click here

Museum

Our clubhouse is also home to our highly regarded golf museum. The museum contains numerous trophies, artefacts and memorabilia, and is a must-visit for any lover of golf.





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