R&A gifted world’s biggest collection of golf books

Everything and anything that ever happened in the game of golf can be found between the covers of Alastair Johnston’s vast 30,000-volume collection of golf books and he is donating the whole lot to the R&A at St Andrews.

Johnston, former chairman of Scottish soccer club Rangers and vice chairman of management group IMG, bought his first golf book during an internship at IMG in 1969 and he has been accumulating ever since, adding as many as 800 titles per year.

His collection features works by many of golf’s most prominent writers, players, historians, architects and biographers, dating back hundreds of years.

“We are very grateful to Alastair for this generous gift,” Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said.

“We are excited to continue his vision and support his desire to display this collection in its entirety in Scotland. I can think of no more appropriate place than St Andrews to create the world’s most comprehensive library of golf books.”

Johnston, a native Glaswegian who now lives in Baltimore and is a member of the St Andrews club, will have the R&A library named in his honour.

“I am honoured that The R&A has accepted so gracefully the donation of my golf library,” he said.

“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.”

One of Johnston’s most treasured items is an original copy of the 1457 Scottish Acts of Parliament when the King banned golf because he feared it was taking time away from archery practice.

So enormous is Johnston’s collection that the latest edition of the bibliography, which he publishes annually, contains two volumes and totals nearly 1,000 pages.

The library will remain at Johnston’s home in Cleveland before being relocated to the Fife coast where it will be managed by the R&A’s Museum and Heritage department.

The museum at the ‘home of golf’ will be complete in time for the return of the British Open to the Old Course in 2021.

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