152. R&A Clubhouse To Be Closed For 2023 Walker Cup

9th March 2023

Scottish golf magazine ‘Bunkered’ reported on 8th March that the iconic R&A clubhouse that sits behind the 1st tee of the Old Course will be closed during this year’s Walker Cup match and that building work on the new extension will still be ongoing.

Work started on a new basement changing room, increasing locker numbers from 120 to 450, adding an enlarged bag store and for the first time a separate women’s area, under the Club’s car park in October 2022. 

Planning permission for the project was originally granted by Fife Council in December 2020 but the work delayed until after the playing of the 150th Open Championship last July, which itself was pushed back a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The work is being carried out in two phases. The first of those was due for completion by 14th August, ahead of the Walker Cup match on 2nd-3rd September, allowing the re-opening of the clubhouse. Phase 2 was then to be completed by 31st December.

The biggest development to the building since its original construction in 1853 was placed in the hands of Robertson Construction Tayside Ltd but the project has been beset with delays. Phase 1 is now not expected to be completed before 22nd November, whilst Phase 2 is not scheduled to be finished before the end of March 2024.

The R&A has this week written to its members advising them that the ongoing refurbishment work would not be completed on time and that the facility would be closed for both the Walker Cup and the Club’s Autumn Meeting which commences shortly afterwards.

In the email The R&A explained that the main causes for the delay have been the “extensive underpinning” of the building’s south walls. The extent of work required was not anticipated during the tender stages, with structural weaknesses found in the staircase requiring “remediation” and admitted that “This is clearly disappointing news but we can assure you that the ramifications and re-scheduling of works have been researched in detail.”

The timetable was clearly too tight given the age of the building and the nature of the work proposed and the various parties under-estimated the degree of contingency necessary.

I wonder how The R&A would have reacted if another GB&I hosting club had commenced such work and then failed to complete it so close to hosting the Walker Cup ?

Whilst the condition of the course is of primary importance the existence of a screened building site just a few yards away from a closed clubhouse and 18th green will be an embarrassment to The R&A.

I am sure the players (and to a lesser degree their families and all of the supporters) will still thoroughly enjoy the occasion. However, they will no doubt be equally disappointed that they will now miss out on the opportunity for a once in a lifetime visit to the clubhouse and panoramic photos up the 18th fairway.

Members have been using nearby Forgan House on The Links road as the club’s temporary clubhouse and it appears the Walker Cup teams will now have to follow suit.


Copyright © Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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