The Royal & Ancient is a private golf club and the governing body of golf throughout the world - with the exception of USA. It controls the Rules of Golf and runs major golf championships, including the Open Championship .
The R&A does not own any of the golf courses in St Andrews. Instead, the land is public and owned by the people of St Andrews and run for them by the St Andrews Links Trust.
The club's origins lie with the "22 Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife" who presented a silver club to be competed for over the links of St Andrews on 14 May 1754 . Referred to as the Society of St Andrews Golfers, their motives were two-fold; to enjoy the sport and the conviviality which always followed, but also by staging an annual contest for a significant trophy they hoped to restore the reputation of St Andrews as the home of golf and therefore increase visitor numbers. The annual Challenge followed the example established 10 years earlier by the Gentlemen Golfers at Leith, later to become known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and generally recognised as the world's oldest golf club.
Beneath the names of the 22 original contributors, the first written record of what was to become The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, reads: "the Noblemen and Gentlemen above named being admired of the Ancient and healthful exercise of the Golf, and at the same time having the interest and prosperity of the ancient city of St Andrews at heart, being the Alma Mater of the Golf, did in the year of our Lord 1754 contribute for a Silver club having a St Andrew engraved on the head thereof to be played for on the Links of St Andrews upon the fourteenth day of May said year, and yearly in time coming ..."
In the following years, the Edinburgh golfers moved twice in their quest for less crowded playing conditions than the five holes at Leith where they started. This extended period of change coincided with the strengthening reputation of St Andrews as the home of golf, enhanced by the granting of royal patronage by King William IV in 1834 (giving them the title of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club) and the building of the imposing clubhouse in 1854.
The club's role as the world's foremost club, was cemented in 1897 when the rapid growth of the game led to a general demand for a uniform code of rules rather than the use of local regulations. Leading clubs turned to the R&A for guidance and the first Rules of Golf Committee was appointed.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club continues to hold a pre-eminent
position in the worldwide administration of the game. There are eleven
championships and international matches which come under the auspices
of the R&A, the most famous of which is the greatest prize in golf,
the Open Championship.