Golf was first played on Therfield Heath in 1624 (and possibly two decades earlier) when the first English Golfer, 1st Earl of Buckingham, George Villiers played and where King James VI selected Royston to build his hunting lodge, turning Royston into the Falkland Palace of the south.
Two centuries later, two Cambridge Undergraduates thought that the Therfield chalk hills would be an excellent location for a course that could be used by fellow students, making it possibly the oldest 18 hole golf course outside of Scotland.
These two students were Andrew Murray ( later Lord Dunedin) and George Gosset, both very keen golfers who came over with a bag of clubs each, a hole cutter and set about arranging their golf course by establishing the holes by position and distance according to their striking of a golf ball.
The course was well received and the Cambridge club soon had 17 members, paying a 2/6 (2 shillings and 6 pence) annual subscription. However, the course unfortunately only lasted two years when in 1871 it was felt that 12 miles from Cambridge to Royston was too far.
In 1890 local townsfolk promoted the reconstitution of the club and course. This time it was with the encouragement of the Conservators and the help of two gentlemen from the new formed Cambridge University golf Club. The course that was designed followed much of the original eighteen holes set out in 1869. This was the prelude to the establishment of Royston Golf Club on the 1st May 1892.
Notably the club’s professional in 1893 was Andrew Kirkaldy. He played many times in the Open between 1888 and 1899, finishing second twice, third three times and fourth twice. He was subsequently one of the pioneers of professional golf in the USA before returning to Scotland after serving with distinction in the first world war to become head professional for the R&A. The course has gradually evolved since these early days, more particularly over the past thirty years, with changes in layout to increase length and avoid playing over the Therfield road. However the essential character has been successfully preserved, allowing players today to experience more than 125 years of golfing history.
Royston town itself is steeped in history, after growing up around the crossing of two ancient highways. In Norman times, a lady called Rosia marked this famous crossroads with a wayside cross that was erected on a stone base. This became the site of a settlement known as ‘Rosia’s Cross’ where the carefully preserved stone base can still be seen today in the centre of the town crossing. The derivation, it is believed, of the name Royston.