A stunning donation from IMG vice chairman Alastair Johnston will see the globe's greatest collection of golf books assembled in St Andrews
In its near 30,000 volumes are some of the most important golf books ever written. It’s a collection so large its list of contents runs to the best part of 1,000 pages.
‘The Goff, An Heroi-Comical Poem in Three Cantos’ might not jump off the shelf to you but it was the first tome ever devoted to the sport – the work of Thomas Mathison as long ago as 1743.
‘‘The Lawes and Actes of Parliament’, meanwhile, was put to paper in Scotland in 1566 and contains the original printed reference to golf in history.
Everything else comes back to this point and soon it will be sitting in the largest golf library ever to be created.
The works are the personal collection of Alastair Johnston and he has gifted it all to the R&A in St Andrews.
Johnston started collecting golf books during an internship at IMG and his museum, found about 35 minutes from the company’s headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, houses artefacts from golf’s most prominent writers, architects, players and historians.
Those four rooms house not only books. Johnston has the last scorecard ever signed by Arnold Palmer at Augusta National, just months before his death, Gary Player’s staff bag from his Masters triumph in 1978 and Open pin flags going back to the early 60s. Johnston has nearly every golf magazine ever printed.
Adding up to 800 new items every year, the 71-year-old’s bibliography, which is published annually and lists his mammoth assemblage, is in two volumes and runs to more than 900 pages.
- The incredible wartime rules of Richmond Golf Club
- Meet the woman tearing up the golf club rule book
For historians at both the USGA and R&A, a visit to Johnston’s home has been to be at the epicentre of the sport’s development.
Now those books will be relocated to the Home of Golf, where they will be managed by the R&A’s Museum and Heritage Department in the Alastair J Johnston Library.
That will follow a redevelopment of their galleries ahead of the Open at St Andrews next year.
Johnston, IMG vice chairman and a non-executive director at Rangers, said: “I am honoured that The R&A has accepted so gracefully the donation of my golf library.
“The commitment it is making to locate it in St Andrews, in the epicentre of the historical roots of the game of golf and provide future guardianship of so much that has been printed about it over the last 400 years or so, is very much appreciated.
“As a native Scot, I am thrilled that many unique publications will be returning to their rightful location in my homeland, which comports with the aspiration I made to assemble as complete a collection as possible with contributions from friends and generous strangers.
“I hope that they, in turn, many of them luminaries in the world of golf in their own right, are gratified with its destiny.”