New Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Drives in
21 Sep 2023
by Royal & Ancient

Neil Donaldson drives in (R&A Photo)
Neil Donaldson drives in (R&A Photo)

The traditional driving-in ceremony for the new Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews took place on the 1st tee of the Old Course.

Neil Donaldson started his year in office with a drive at precisely 8 a.m. as a cannon fired alongside the tee.

A large crowd, including Past Captains of the Club, gathered to watch the ceremony.

As Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Mr Donaldson will serve in an ambassadorial role for The R&A to support its work in developing golf around the world and will attend its professional and amateur championships.

After hitting his tee shot, Mr Donaldson said, “It is quite an experience to hit a drive from the first tee of the Old Course with so many people watching. I must admit to feeling a little nervous but I really enjoyed it and was pleased to hit a decent shot.

“It is very special to have so many of my family and friends here as well as past Captains of the club, my fellow members and people of the town.

“I am honoured to serve as Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and proud to be an ambassador for the club and for The R&A as it carries out its responsibilities to the game around the world.”

A successful businessman for more than 45 years, Mr Donaldson has enjoyed a long career in the timber industry and served in senior executive and non-executive roles in a number of companies.

He is currently President of the James Donaldson Group, one of Scotland’s largest privately owned and family run companies, and is the fifth generation of the family to be involved in the business. He has received two lifetime achievement awards from the timber industry.

Mr Donaldson (68) is a former Chairman of investment trust Baillie Gifford Shin Nippon and of the Securities Trust of Scotland. He is on the board of the Old Course Ltd, which oversees the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, and was previously Chairman of Crieff Hydro for ten years. He is also involved in a number of charities, including the Donaldson Leadership Academy, which he founded in 2008.

Born in Perth and raised in Fife, Mr. Donaldson was educated at Merchiston Castle School and Heriot-Watt University, where he obtained a Masters in Business Studies and Marketing.

He became a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1992 and has served on a number of Committees, including as Chairman of the Club Committee, Deputy Chairman of the General Committee, Chairman of the Heritage Committee, and was the first Chairman of the Nominations Sub-Committee. He also served on the board of the then-British Golf Museum.

A keen golfer, Mr Donaldson’s current handicap index is 13.4 and next year will mark his fiftieth year as a member of Lundin Golf Club. He is also a member of Vila Sol in Portugal.

Mr Donaldson lives in St Andrews with his wife Val and has three children and eight grandchildren. Among his other pursuits are salmon fishing and skiing.

In the past, the Club Captaincy was bestowed on the winner of the annual Challenge for the Silver Club but by the early 19th Century the Captaincy had become an elected office. Part of the tradition is that the new Captain buys his golf ball back from the caddie who retrieves and returns it with a gold sovereign.

This year saw the presentation of the first sovereign to bear the head of His Majesty King Charles III. Anthony Clark, who has caddied at the links since 2015, successfully returned the ball to Mr Donaldson.

“I didn’t see the tee shot at all,” he said. “I saw it running and then looked sideways, and they were running towards me. I looked back, and lo and behold the ball was coming right for me. My years of cricket came in handy, and I just got down and stopped it. I’m very happy. This is the first sovereign with the King on it, and it will be going on my mantelpiece.”

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