Lieutenant F. G. Tait

10th January 2016

Lieutenant F.G. (Frederick Guthrie) Tait was a leading golfer at the end of the 19th Century. A hugely charismatic man he starred alongside Johnny Ball, Harold Hilton, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor. At a time when amateurs and pros played together a lot their combined popularity helped to grow the game in Great Britain and Ireland.

So why haven’t most people heard of him ? Well sadly he only played competitive golf for 9 years before he was tragically killed aged 30 serving his country in the Second Boer War. Despite this his happy demeanour, good sportsmanship and attacking, winning play made him a national hero and left a golfing legacy that endures to this day.

Freddie Tait & Amateur Champ Trophy

Freddie Tait with The Amateur Championship Trophy in 1898

So let’s take a look at the life of this important historical figure: –

1. Freddie Tait was born just under 150 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland on 11th January 1870.

2. His father, Peter, was an Edinburgh University professor and fanatical golfer. As such the family spent most of their summer holidays in nearby St. Andrews. He started playing golf aged 5 and along with his three brothers learned to play the game on the Old Course. The family would often play up to five rounds a day starting at 6.00am. Professor Tait, known as ‘The Governor’ by Freddie, undertook many of the earliest experiments on the physics of golf using his son to produce the ball striking data he required.

3. After completing his education at the Edinburgh Academy he joined the Royal Military College at Sandhurst – where it is said he introduced golf – and became an infantry soldier, eventually serving with the 2nd Battalion of The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). He clearly had some flexibility with his employment and when he was not guarding Queen Victoria during her Balmoral stays he appears to have been able to play golf at will, be it friendlies, competitive matches or tournaments.

Freddie Tait Black Watch

4. He became a member of the Royal & Ancient G.C. of St. Andrews in early 1890 just after he had turned 20. Thereafter he repeatedly set new Old Course scoring records. A 77 in 1890, a 72 in 1894 and then in 1897 a remarkable 69.  From an early age he kept detailed records of all his matches, detailing his scores and play as well as the course conditions and his opponent’s play.

5. He was a 6 foot tall powerful man and one of the longest hitters of his era. He became famous nationwide when on 11th January 1893 he produced a record breaking drive of 341 yards on the 13th hole of the Old Course. His gutta-percha ball flew 250 yards and ran a further 91 yards on the frozen fairway.  This more than exceeded his Father’s “scientifically proven” maximum drive distance.

6. In total he won 28 tournaments between 1893 and 1899, many of them on the Old Course in Royal & Ancient Golf Club competitions. He also won three St. George’s Challenge Cups at Royal St. George’s. In his final 1899 season he won the Prestwick Silver Medal, the St. George’s, the three major Medals at the Royal & Ancient, the Calcutta Cup and was runner-up in the Amateur. In July 1899 he shot a new course record 63 at the old Archerfield Links. This was clearly a man at the top of his game come the turn of the century.

7. His greatest golfing achievements were his two Amateur Championship victories. Having reached the semi-finals in 1893, 1894 and 1895 his first victory came in 1896 when he beat Harold Hilton 8&7 in the final at Royal St. George’s. This was the first year the final was played over 36 holes and Tait went into the Championship as favourite having won the stroke play St. George’s Challenge Cup played immediately before it. Nevertheless his first win was hard fought; the draw seeing him have to beat John Laidlay, John Ball and Horace Hutchinson, all previous multiple Amateur champions, before facing Hilton.

Freddie Tait & Harold Hilton

Freddie Tait tees off against Harold Hilton in The Amateur Championship of 1896

In 1898 Tait beat S. Mure Ferguson 7&5 at Hoylake.  In the fourth round Tait found himself up against local favourite Harold Hilton. The ‘match of the week’ turned into an anti-climax with Tait easily winning 6&5. In the next round he played another Hoylake member, Jack Graham, whose family he happened to be staying with. Tait was fortunate to win by 1 hole, Graham missing two late putts, one of which Hilton kindly described as “about the shortest I have ever seen missed in a Championship”. He was equally lucky in the semi-final where his mixed play saw him taken to the 20th hole.  Despite a comfortable win in the final he endeared himself to the locals with his humble victory speech: “Thank you for the way in which you have received my fluky win. I ought to have been beaten twice yesterday, but I got off. I played better today but I really don’t deserve the Championship”.

Freddie Tait & Mure Ferguson

Freddie Tait with Mure Ferguson at Hoylake in1898

Tait’s record in the Amateur is the second best of those who have played 30 or more matches, beaten only by American Frank Stranahan. Between 1892 and 1899 he played in 8 Amateurs competing in 36 matches. He won 30 and lost 6 giving him a win percentage of 83.3% (Stranahan’s being 86%).

8. In what Bernard Darwin later described as “the greatest, most prostratingly exciting” match he ever saw Freddie Tait lost the final of the 1899 Amateur Championship, his last of course, to Johnny Ball. Played at Prestwick G.C. Tait again beat Hilton, this time by 1 hole in the quarter finals, on the way to the final. It was the final everyone wanted – Scotland versus England with the two most popular and respected figures in amateur golf going head to head. Tait led by 3 holes after the morning 18, albeit he had been 5 Up after 14.  Ball was level by the 6th in the afternoon and went 1 Up with just two holes to play.  On the 17th, the ‘Alps Hole’, Tait failed to carry the sandhills and ended up in the large cross bunker short of the green.  Due to heavy rain the bunker was full of water (see below). However, Tait managed to get the floating gutta-percha ball out of the water and half the hole; Ball having been just short of the green in two himself.  Tait then won the 18th to take the final to extra holes. Sadly for Tait Ball holed out for birdie on the 1st from seven feet whilst he missed from a similar distance.

Freedie Tait 17th Prestwick 1899

Freddie Tait ponders his approach to Prestwick’s 17th with Ball on the steps (Photo: Getty Images).

9. He competed in eight Open Championships between 1891 and 1899. He missed the 1893 Open at Prestwick. He was the leading amateur six times with his best finish being third, which he achieved in both 1896 and 1897.

10. In 1898 he made a legendary bet that he could play from Royal St. George’s G.C. in Sandwich, Kent to the neighbouring Royal Cinque Ports G.C. 3.2 miles (5,652 yards) away in less than 40 teed strokes with the same ball. The two courses do not abut so some rough scrubland between the two also had to be overcome. It was agreed that when his ball struck the Cinque Ports clubhouse the cross-country shot count would end. With a gallery, some ball spotters and his dog ‘Nails’ helping him Tait achieved the feat in just 32 shots. Unfortunately his final shot went through a clubhouse window and as a result much of his winnings were paid over in compensation to the Club. Unusually he chose not to record the challenge in his diary but it was recorded for posterity in the R&A’s Golfer’s Handbook for many years.

11. Tait was well known for celebrating his golfing victories by playing his bagpipes loudly and marching up and down clubhouses and town centres across the country.  It was his friendliness and mischievous nature that the people of Scotland came to love.

12. His last competitive golf match took place at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s G.C. on 2nd October 1899. It was a 36-hole re-match against Johnny Ball, a member of Lytham. With 5 holes to play Ball was 3-Up but Tait fought back and finally won on the 18th. Just three weeks later his life would be turned on it’s head and he would off to war.

13. In October 1899 the Second Boer war broke out and on the 22nd, as a Lieutenant in the Black Watch, Tait travelled to Cape Town in South Africa to fight.  He was shot in the thigh of his left leg at the Battle of Magersfontein on 11th December. After recovering he returned to the front line in January to lead his platoon in the Battle of Koodoosburg Drift near Kimberley.  On 7th February 1900 he was shot dead leading a charge.

14. He and his fallen colleagues were ‘buried in a soldiers grave’ on the banks of the Riet River. In 1963 he was re-interred in the West End Cemetery in Kimberley by the War Graves Board. A plain marble cross simply records his name, and dates of birth and death. A memorial service was held for Tait at the Church of St. John The Evangelist on Princes Street, Edinburgh on 21st February 1900.  There is also a commemorative headstone in the church’s graveyard.

Freddie Tait Memorial Service

Freddie Tait Memorial Service Programme

Freddie Tait Edinburgh Headstone

Freddie Tait Commemorative Headstone in the Church of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh

15. There was a national outpouring of grief when the news of Tait’s death was received back home. Another amateur golfer of the day John L. Low was asked to put together a remembrance book. ‘F.G. Tait – A Record; Being his Life, Letters and Golfing Diary’ was published in 1900. With the full cooperation of Tait’s family and everyone who knew him it was the first golf biography ever written and without question one of the most comprehensive. All of the profits from the sale of the book were donated to the Black Watch Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund.

16. Given his status in the game and in particular at St. Andrews his fellow Royal & Ancient G.C. members commissioned John Henry Larimer, the famous Scottish artist, to paint his portrait in 1901. It still hangs in the R&A clubhouse to this day.  The 16th hole of the Jubilee Course at St. Andrews is also named ‘Freddie Tait’ after him.

Freddie Tait R&A Portrait

Freddie Tait with his terrier dog ‘Nails’ and a Boy Caddie (Photo: R&A)

17. The St. Andrews Memorial Hospital in Abbey Walk, opened in 1902 and closed in 2009, was largely funded by monies raised in memory of Freddie Tait.

Freddie Tait Hospital Plaque

The St. Andrews Memorial Hospital Freddie Tait Wing Plaque

18. Tait was a founding member in 1894 of Luffness New G.C. in East Lothian. For many years his family allowed Luffness to display most of Freddie’s medals and other memorabilia in their clubhouse. The family tried to sell 36 of his medals in May 2009 but with an estimate of £120-180,000 they failed to sell at Convery Auctions. The National Library of Scotland acquired six Tait letters for £10,000 in the same auction. The medals were returned to their Luffness cabinet and remain there. The Club has an annual Freddie Tait foursomes stableford competition to start their season. The winners are allowed to wear some of the medals during a prize giving lunch afterwards.

19. In 1936 Lieutenant Tait’s putter was presented to the Kimberley Golf Club by J.H. Taylor who was touring with a group of UK professionals. Tait’s will had asked for his putter to be given to the club closest to the site of his death. Since 1937 the club has held an annual Freddie Tait Putter competition. In 1990, on the 90th anniversary of his death, The FG Tait Golf Museum was opened and then on the centenary in 2000 a Freddie Tait Golf Week was instigated.

20. In 1928 The Freddie Tait Cup was donated to the South African Golf Association by a touring British Amateur team who found themselves with surplus funds. From 1929 it has been awarded to the leading amateur at the South African Open, subject to them making the cut. This event normally concludes around the date of Tait’s birthday. South African greats Bobby Locke, Denis Hutchison, Dale Hayes, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelmann have all won it in the past.

Freddie Tait Cameron Moralee 2016

Cameron Moralee with The Freddie Tait Cup in 2016 (Photo: Sunshine Tour)

Freddie Tait was a genuine national hero and a household name. Bernard Darwin, reflecting in 1933 said “I do not think I have ever seen any other golfer so adored by the crowd – no, not Harry Vardon or Bobby Jones in their primes.” He was clearly a superb golfer and a fans favourite. One can only wonder at what he may have achieved in the game if his life hadn’t been so cruelly ended by a shot through the heart when he was just 30 years old.


Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Women Members – The R&A and Augusta National GC

This is a rolling piece where I am trying to keep track of the women members of both The R&A and Augusta National Golf Club.

To date there are nine articles / updates below: –

25th September 2020

The R&A confirmed that Catriona Matthew OBE had accepted an invitation to become an honorary member of the club.

She joined the St. Andrews-based golf club alongside Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Nick Price.

Matthew (51) grew up and still lives in nearby North Berwick, Scotland.


Catriona Matthew (Photo: Golf Perthshire)

Matthew was the recipient of an R&A scholarship to support her undergraduate studies at the University of Stirling.

She was a member of the 1990, 1992 and 1994 GB&I Curtis Cup teams, won the Women’s British Open in 2009 and is the current European Solheim Cup captain (2019-21) having enjoyed an impressive 25 year professional playing career.


6th April 2019

The inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur revealed that the Club had recently taken on its sixth female member.

Heidi UEBERROTH (52) was seen sporting a green jacket on the grounds during the competition. Mrs. Ueberroth is a Director of the Pebble Beach Company and Electronic Arts. She is formerly an executive at the National Basketball Association. She is an accomplished golfer too.


Heidi Ueberroth



8th April 2018

I thought I should branch out and start keeping a track of the women members at Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC), the home of The Masters, too.

Like The R&A and other exclusive Clubs Augusta National does not as a rule make formal announcements concerning new members. Both Clubs did of course do so when admitting their first female members.

On 20th August 2012 Condoleezza RICE (b.14/11/54) and Darla MOORE (b. 01/08/54) were announced as the first two women to be admitted to the ANGC membership.

Chairman Billy Payne said at the time “These accomplished women share our passion for the game and both are well known and respected by our membership”.

Rice was very well known from her days in international politics, serving in high office under President George W. Bush. She was the 20th United States National Security Adviser (2001-05) and 66th Secretary of State (2005-09).


Condoleezza Rice

Darla Moore was a less well known South Carolina financier and philanthropist. A billionaire partner in private investment firm Rainwater Inc she was the first women to grace the front cover of Fortune magazine. Her husband, who passed away in September 2015, introduced her to the game and she was a long time friend of former ANGC Chairman William “Hootie” Johnson (1998-2006).


Darla Moore

Johnson was Chairman when the ANGC’s male only membership policies were first brought under the microscope in 2002 by Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO). The debate lasted for a few months but Johnson held firm. He said ” Our membership is single gender just as many organisations and clubs across America. These would include junior leagues, sororities, fraternities, boy scouts, girl scouts and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organise our clubs the way we wish”.

Following the uproar two members resigned and pressure on corporate sponsors led to the 2003 and 2004 Masters tournaments being broadcast without commercials.

The pressure for women members next came to prominence in 2011 when Chairman Billy Payne was asked to explain the Club’s decision not to offer Ginni Rometty, the recently appointed CEO of IBM, membership – every previous holder of this role having been been invited to join ANGC. IBM is a long term generous sponsor of The Masters and this arrangement was said to be part of the deal, as it is with other corporate partners Exxon Mobil and AT&T.

In 2011 the International Olympic Committee discussed ANGC’s male only membership as part of their considerations as to whether golf should be re-admitted to the 2016 Rio Games. The Olympic criteria included the words “sport practiced without discrimination”.

In 2012 two gender discrimination lawsuits brought by the NCWO against companies associated with ANGC led to $79m settlement payments and bans for the companies from entertaining at or in conjunction with facilities that discriminate on the basis or race or gender.

Not unexpectedly Virginia “Ginni” ROMETTY (b. 29/07/57) became the third women member of ANGC in 2014. She is the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. Understandably given her role Rometty is currently only an occasional golfer.


Ginni Rometty

Diana M. MURPHY, the recently retired 64th USGA President, was seen sporting a green jacket ahead of the 2018 Masters and is therefore believed to be the fourth women member of ANGC. Many former USGA President’s have been invited to join ANGC after completing their terms of office including her husband Reg Murphy who served as President between 1994-96. New ANGC Chairman Fred Ridley is himself a former USGA President. Mrs. Murphy has a background in finance having being the Managing Director of private equity firm Rocksolid Holdings LLC.


Diana Murphy

Finally Ana Patricia BOTÍN (57) was also reported to have joined Augusta National in early 2018. Botin is the Executive Chairman of Santander Bank, having taken over from her father Emilio. Her sister Carmen was married to Seve Ballesteros and coming from a golfing family she is a sound golfer.


Ana Botín



7th March 2018

Lally SEGARD (nee Vagliano), one of The R&A’s original female honorary members in February 2015, passed away aged 96 on 3rd March 2018.

Lally was one of France’s best amateur players winning numerous national and international titles. Amongst her honours she won the Girls British Open Amateur Championship (1937) and the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in (1950).


Lally Segard (Photo: Golf De Saint-Cloud)

After her playing career had ended she successfully turned her attention to administration holding senior roles at the French Golf Federation, European Golf Association and the World Amateur Golf Council.

The number of women’s honorary members therefore has now fallen back to 8.



20th February 2017

The R&A today announced that Bridget JACKSON MBE, Hon D.Sc. (Birmingham) and José María Olazábal had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Mrs. Jackson takes the number of current women honorary members to nine. The overall total is now eighteen.

Born in Birmingham, England in 1936, Jackson won the Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship in 1954 and two years later triumphed in the English Ladies Closed Championship and German Ladies Championship. She also won the Canadian Ladies Championship in 1967.

Bridget played in the Curtis Cup for Great Britain and Ireland on three occasions. Initially included as a reserve in the GB&I team for the 1958 Curtis Cup against the United States, the withdrawal of Philomena Garvey led to Jackson playing in the match for the first time, which was tied 4½ – 4½, at Brae Burn. Jackson would also play for GB&I in the Curtis Cup in 1964 and 1968, and the Vagliano Trophy match against the Continent of Europe on four occasions. In 1973 and 1975, she was the non-playing captain of winning GB&I teams in the Vagliano Trophy.

She was selected as an England international nine times. In 1964, Jackson was selected as playing captain by England to play in the first ever Espirito Santo Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships, winning a bronze medal. She also won the Home Internationals with England on six occasions.

Bridget Jackson (Photo: The R&A)

Following a successful playing career, Jackson became a talented golf administrator and was chair of the English Ladies Golf Association from 1971-72 and President from 1993-95. She became President of the Ladies’ Golf Union in 1998 and subsequently an Honorary Vice-President. She has also been President of Handsworth Golf Club and Royal St David’s Golf Club. She was made a MBE in 2003 for her services to women’s golf.

She said, “I am delighted to accept this invitation to become an Honorary Member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club. I have been fortunate to be involved in golf throughout my life and have always enjoyed being able to give something back to the game. I look forward to representing the club and playing my part in continuing its great tradition of supporting golf.”

Keith Macintosh, Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, said, “I am very pleased to welcome Bridget Jackson and José María Olazábal as Honorary Members of the Club. Bridget has graced the game for many years as a fine amateur golfer and exceptional administrator, while José María is one of golf’s outstanding champions and has achieved notable success throughout his career as a player and as Ryder Cup captain. Both of them thoroughly deserve this recognition.”

A number of new Ordinary Members have also recently been omitted but details are currently scarce.



25th January 2016 

Ewan Murray of The Guardian today reported on the fact that The R&A’s female members have no changing room inside the famous St Andrews clubhouse which opened in 1854.

Women members use recently refurbished facilities in Forgan House, an R&A-owned building 100 yards away on The Links street. The R&A have explained that this is simply down to a lack of space and they have no immediate plans to rectify the situation.

Personally I find it hard to believe that any new women members will have complained about the situation given the short distance between the two buildings. It also appears that The R&A have done everything they can to make their new facilities as comfortable as possible.

Here is a link to the full story in The Guardian – ‘St Andrews Women Members Still Have No Changing Room In Main Clubhouse’



4th May 2016

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) today announced, at the start of its Spring Meeting, that Sir Bob Charles ONZ, KNZM, CBE has become an Honorary Member.

Now 80 years old the New Zealander is best known for winning The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C. in 1963.

He is the Club’s 16th male Honorary Member. There are now 8 female Honorary Members. All of them are listed in my articles below.



7th December 2015

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) has today announced two new women Honorary Members.  As one would expect both ladies have made substantial contributions to golf as both players and administrators.

Marlene STEWART STREIT (CAN), aged 81, won 11 Canadian Ladies Open Amateurs, 9 Canadian Ladies Close Amateurs, 4 Canadian Ladies’ Seniors and 3 U.S. Senior Women’s Championships. She also won the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship in 1953, the U.S Women’s Amateur in 1956 and the Australian Women’s Amateur in 1963.  In 2004 she became Canada’s first member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Marlene Stewart Streit (Photo:

Judy BELL (USA), aged 79, played in two Curtis Cup teams, 1960 and 1962, and also captained the team in 1986 and 1988. In 1996 she became the first woman to be named President of the USGA and in 2001 was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.


Judy Bell (Photo: USGA)

In the same announcement it was stated that, ‘A further eight women have also become (Ordinary) Members of the Club’.  The Club’s protocol is not to reveal the names of Ordinary Members.  However, Golf Digest have reported that they include Diana MURPHY, the recently nominated new President of the USGA (the second women President after Judy Bell), Jay MOTTLE, the executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association, and Christie AUSTIN, a former USGA Executive Committee member.  Steve Scott in Scotland’s The Courier reported that Hazel IRVINE, a St. Andrews University graduate (and golfer) better known of course as a BBC sports presenter, and Diane BAILEY, the former amateur golfer and Curtis Cup captain and current President of the Ladies Golf Union, were also amongst the latest intake.

Since the original announcements in February both Honorary Member Louise SUGGS (7th August 2015) and Ordinary Member Patsy HANKINS (22nd October 2015) have sadly both died.

Therefore by my calculation the R&A now has 22 women members.

On 11th May 2015 Lady Angela BONALLACK became the first women member to represent the R&A in a match – she played in the annual friendly against the Links Trust. She also went on to win one of the R&A Spring Medals on 14th May 2015.

Claire DOWLING gave the 2015 new members address at the Annual Dinner held in September at the St. Andrews Fairmont Hotel. She now also sits on The Rules and Equipment Committee.



18th February 2015

On 10th February 2015 The R&A announced that Her Royal Highness (HRH) The Princess Royal (UK), Dame Laura DAVIES (UK), Renée POWELL (USA), Belle ROBERTSON MBE (UK), Lally SEGARD (FRA), Annika SÖRENSTAM (SWE) and Louise SUGGS (USA) had accepted invitations to become Honorary Members of the Club.

There was some irony in the inclusion of HRH The Princess Royal given her previous comments on the sport: “Golf seems to me to be an arduous way to go for a walk.  I prefer to take the dogs out”.

As an aside I can see Karrie WEBB (AUS) being added to this list relatively quickly after she retires from competitive play as her achievements and nationality clearly make her a worthy candidate too.

These seven ladies join the 15 male Honorary Members that the St. Andrews-based R&A already has. These include HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Duke of York, HRH The Duke of Kent, President George WH Bush, Peter Thompson CBE, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Roberto De Vicenzo, Tony Jacklin CBE, John Jacobs OBE, Peter Alliss and Sir Michael Bonallack.

This announcement followed The R&A’s historic vote in favour of admitting women as members in September 2014, overturning an all-male tradition that had been in existence for 260 years. The Club had been under pressure to reform itself from politicians and women campaign groups for a number of years prior to this.

On the same day a member communication from The R&A was leaked revealing that a further seven women had accepted invitations to become Ordinary Members. These were Lady Angela BONALLACK (UK), Claire DOWLING (IRE), Diane DUNLOP-HÉBERT (CAN), Patsy HANKINS (NZ), Martha LANG (US), Carol SEMPLE THOMPSON (USA) and Marion THANNHÄUSER (GER).

R&A Women Members

R&A Communication

In this communication Peter Dawson of The R&A stated that all of “These new (Ordinary) Members have made considerable contributions to the game of golf as players and / or administrators”. It also intimated that the Ordinary Members had been finalised before the Honorary ones thus suggesting that the second list contains the names of the first women members not the first as was understandably widely reported in the media.

At a press briefing last week The R&A’s Peter Dawson stated that no women had turned down invitations to join the existing 2,400 male members.

Traditionally the Club has bestowed Honorary membership on the Principal of St. Andrews University.  However, the current incumbent, Professor Louise Richardson was not included in the announcement.

Congratulations to the five R&A women members from Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I), HRH The Princess Royal, Dame Laura DAVIES, Lady Angela BONALLACK, Belle ROBERTSON and Claire DOWLING.


Copyright © 2015-2019 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.