One of the world’s most revered golf clubs is hosting a public exhibition of a diverse collection of gifts it has received from the Royal ‘family’.
As part of a year-long celebration in 2016 to mark 400 years of golf being played in the town, Royal Dornoch Golf Club held the biggest gathering of royal golf clubs ever organised.
Of the 66 clubs around the world with the royal title, 56 accepted the invitation to visit the Highlands and join the celebrations, with around 300 people arriving in the Sutherland town from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the Czech Republic. The R&A, golf’s governing body, confirmed it is as the biggest gathering of Royal clubs.
Their gifts to the hosts have now been turned into a temporary exhibition.
Amongst the collection of flags, paintings, silver salvers and golfing items, are some unusual pieces of memorabilia, including a symbol of Maori chieftainship, a cocktail recipe and a bull whip.
As part of the display, a collection of pictures and video recordings from the year of celebrations are also being shown on a TV monitor.
The club envisages it will be the first in a series of exhibitions that eventually will be held in a purpose-built area of a planned new clubhouse.
Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch Golf Club general manager, said: “The visit of the royal clubs last year was a huge success and a real highlight of the 400 year celebrations.
“A legacy of that gathering is the collection of gifts we received from around the world. We felt it was important that the gifts should be seen by as many people as possible and the idea of a public exhibition came from there.
“There are some outstanding historical pieces, and some unusual items as well, so I think people will find the collection extremely interesting and informative.”
One of the most distinctive items in the collection is a ‘mere’, a Maori broad-bladed weapon made from pounamu, or greenstone. Pounamu is highly prized by Maori and the mere pounamu as the weapon of a chief was the most revered of all Maori weapons.
Gifting a mere is a sign of respect and good faith and before leaving New Zealand it was blessed and given the name Tamaki Makaurau, the Maori name for Auckland. It lies in a box lined with Royal Dornoch’s tartan, also called Auckland.
The bull whip was donated by Royal Adelaide Golf Club in Australia and is inscribed ‘To Faster Golf’, a humorous addition to the debate on speeding up play.
The donation from the Royal Worlington and Newmarket Golf Club in Suffolk comes in the shape of a pink jug, the club’s emblem, which derives from a drink of the same name. Originally produced in 1934, the story goes that a member was giving a party on two consecutive days. When most of the drink for both parties was consumed on the first day, a cocktail was made from the leftovers and served in cranberry glass jugs.
It consists of a bottle of champagne, two measures of brandy, two measures of Benedictine, a small measure of Pimms No 1, topped with ice and lemon.
Research on Dornoch’s history shows that the first known reference of golf being played in the town is in 1616 when John, the 13th Earl of Sutherland, was sent to school in the town and his expenses included ten pounds annually for “bowes, arroes, golff clubbes, and balls, with other necessars for his [Lordship’s] exercise”.
The golf club was formed in 1877 and was granted a Royal charter in 1906 by King Edward VII, a close friend of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland and a frequent visitor to the area. The royal connection has since helped enhance the club’s reputation worldwide.