Royalty and Golf: Rank Still Has Privileges

The world is perceived as growing more democratic each day. So many present day democracies were monarchies one or two centuries ago, and most of the prominent ones that remain have lost their “Off with his head” powers. Few can send troops or declare war unilaterally anymore, but in the game of golf, the mention of royalty still adds zest to the clubhouse, equipment and membership fees. More than that, being honored by royalty still has the magic touch when it comes to one’s career.


I’ve never even seen a picture of the Queen Elizabeth Pitch-and-Putt Course in Vancouver, but it sounds marvelous. Canadians are so lucky to have such Tudorish and Windsorish titles in the west, and access to the melodious French language in the east (although I don’t see a Jean van de Velde  Country Club in the offing any time soon). The royal touch, though, has gone beyond lending luster to the Scottish game. Now, they’re playing it, and threatening to join the ranks of serious participants.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, excels in several sports (cricket, rugby, hockey and soccer), but his recent achievement of a four-handicap qualifies him to teach and play professionally. Imagine a sudden-death playoff in the British Open between Tiger Woods and the fourth in line for the British throne. The Duke is Patron to twelve Royal Golf Clubs, President to the Royal Household Golf Club, and has co-founded The Duke of York Young Champions Trophy.

As for the Queen herself, her handicap is unknown. She certainly is active in the honoring business, though. Recently, Darren Clarke was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. That’s pretty good – being made an officer without seeing combat, although those who’ve played St. Andrews might disagree. Rory McIllroy, also from North Ireland, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. A member? Well, after all, he only won the U.S. Open, not the real one, and he’s only twenty two. Don’t give him a swelled head. McIllroy did point out, quite appropriately, that the honor was special because so many who have received it have made such personal sacrifices. Neither golfer got to ask the question voiced by fellow recipient, actress Helena Bonham Carter, who was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire – “What is it that I get to command?” If you’ve seen her delightful “Twelfth Night,” you’d be inclined toward generosity.

One step higher, Nick Faldo has received knighthood for his six major wins, three Opens and three Masters. He is the second golf “knight” since Henry Cotton (1907-1987) was dubbed in 1988. Cotton got his Member of the Order of the British Empire by serving in the Royal Air Force and raising funds for the Red Cross. Shouldn’t he have been made an Officer?

The royal touch is not just being applied in the west, either. If you can tell me where the kingdom of Brunei (officially, The Kingdom of Brunei, Abode of Peace ) is located, I’ll give you a geography degree from Princeton. It’s on the tip of Borneo, and Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah binti Pengiran Salieh Abdul Rahaman has just appeared in person to urge on the new wave of Bruneian girls taking up the game. (Her Royal Highness, wife of the crown Prince, is technically a commoner, but what commoner gets to use words twice in her title?)

The successful worldwide invitation to come and play the courses of Thailand worked brilliantly, as soon as it was termed a royal invitation. The courses are other-worldly exquisite, the amenities are perfection, and attractive caddies in native dress patrol fairways and rough alike.

While I still think it’s a good idea to overthrow the tyranny of royalty, we in the U.S. should have thought to leave a little of its panache in place. I won a penmanship award once, and a couple of other things along the way – but I’m not in the Order of anything, and Command nothing worth mentioning.  More than one person, however, has told me that I’m being a royal pain.



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