The Golfers

19th July 2017

In the Packard Galleries, Palace House, one of the most celebrated paintings of golf is on display.

On loan from the National Galleries of Scotland, namely The Golfers, bynewmarket_0062 Charles Lees, produced in 1847. It is a timely reminder that the largest golf tournament in the world, the Open Championship is happening soon.

The Open was first held in 1860 and later this week Royal Birkdale, the home of nine previous Opens, is set to host this most prestigious of golf contests.  Only eight golfers competed in the inaugural event at Prestwick, whilst this year one hundred and fifty six players will tee off on Thursday 20 July 2017, after three practice days, in the battle for the famous Claret Jug.

The first twelve Opens (there was no event in 1871) were held at Prestwick before the event moved to the Old Course, St Andrews, considered the home of golf, in 1873.

The painting captures a match (which may have taken place) played over the

Charles Lees, The Golfers, © National Galleries of Scotland Charles Lees, The Golfers, © National Galleries of Scotland

links Old Course of St Andrews in October 1844 and is a very early record of this increasingly popular sport. Here we see portrayed a critical moment in the match on the 15th green between Sir David Baird (leaning forward with club in hand), and Sir Ralph Anstruther (bareheaded) against Major Hugh Lyon Playfair (just putted) and John Campbell of Glensaddel (shown smoking). Combining the contemporary interest in this sport with the Victorian love of large panoramic crowd scenes displaying a variety of figures, poses and expressions with a cliffhanging moment, it is not surprising that this painting has remained a popular, evocative and dramatic image of golf.

Charles Lees, The Golfers, © National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club 2002. Photography: Antonia Reeve.

Dr Patricia Hardy