World’s Largest Golf Library To Be Created In St Andrews

Alastair Johnson with his collection at his home (Photo: The R&A / Alastair Johnston)

Golf bibliophiles can rejoice. The world’s largest library of golf books is set to be created in St Andrews, Scotland. The key contribution to get it started comes courtesy of Alastair Johnston, for which the new collection will be named.

Johnston, the vice-chairman of IMG (International Management Group) is gifting his massive collection of golf volumes, numbering nearly 30,000, to The R&A in St Andrews.

Having started with IMG in 1969 and was well-known as the company’s liaison with Arnold Palmer, Johnston has selections that date back as far as 1566, covering all aspects of the sport.

His collection is so comprehensive (and growing at a rate of some 800 items a year) that the bibliography alone requires 900 pages in two volumes.

The R&A say they will continue to invest in the collection in order to maintain its standard as the best in the world.

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

He continued, “We are committed to nurturing the world-class status of the library and ensuring that Alastair’s legacy is maintained for the enjoyment of those who love this great sport.”

The library will remain at Johnston’s home in Cleveland while plans are made for its relocation to St Andrews, where it will be managed by the Museum and Heritage department of The R&A. It will follow a planned redevelopment of the museum galleries ahead of The 150th Open at St Andrews in 2021, cementing The R&A’s position as the global authority and repository for the history of golf.

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

“As a native Scot, I am thrilled that many unique publications will be returning to their rightful location in my homeland, which comports with the aspiration I made to assemble as complete a collection as possible with contributions from friends and generous strangers.  I hope that they, in turn, many of them luminaries in the world of golf in their own right, are gratified with its destiny.”

As a senior figurehead at IMG, Johnston developed a close relationship with The R&A through the company’s work on The Open and is also a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.