A Brief History
of the Society
The Royal British Club Golfing Society owes its origin to the wish in 1973 of the Club’s Honorary Treasurer d’Arcy Orders to increase Club activities and thereby augment its income. He wrote to a fellow Committee member Alan Jones, knowing he was a dedicated golfer, and suggested the formation of a Club Golfing Society. Such a Society could then hold social functions at the Royal British Club’s (R.B.C.’s) premises in Lisbon.
Alan Jones immediately supported the idea, offered to arrange for his company,Cel-Cat to donate a trophy and d’Arcy agreed to provide a cup himself. (Both these original trophies continue to be played for to this day). Alan and d’Arcy elected themselves Captain and Honorary Secretary/Treasurer respectively! They decided that membership would be open to all members of the R.B.C. and that to encourage golfers of all standards to join, all competitions would be Stableford.
The Inaugural Meeting was held at Estoril Golf Club on 4th April, 1974. Twenty-two members – including one lady member- competed for the Cel-Cat Cup and it is interesting to note that the green fee was Esc. 150 and the dinner afterwards cost Esc. 120 per head including wines and coffee. The Society even made a small profit on the evening. Three weeks later the 25th April Revolution occurred which led to a period of political upheaval and uncertainty in Portugal.
Despite this the d’Arcy Orders Cup was played for later in 1974, and in 1975 both original trophies were competed for. But from 1976 the political situation became even more unsettled, and many expatriates left Portugal. Some of those remaining felt it inadvisable to be seen indulging in the capitalist pastime of golf, particularly when it was played in office hours so on occasions there were insufficient competitors. Winners, therefore, did not always receive the trophies as it was agreed that unless a minimum of eight competed, none would be awarded.
By 1982, the political situation had improved. Members discarded their inhibitions, returned to the golf course, and persuaded their companies to donate trophies. As a result, it became possible to hold nine meetings per annum, later increased to ten. Also, in 1982 the Committee of the R.B.C. offered to pass over the Peter Dawson Bowl, previously the Club’s Billiard Trophy. This was most appropriate as Peter Dawson, OBE, had been Portuguese Amateur Golf Champion in 1951. This large solid silver bowl has been keenly played for each year since its presentation. But returning to the past, other trophies were added: Newstead & Porter gave a cup to be competed for by those with handicaps of 19 and over, the winner holding the cup until the next meeting. In 1983 Alan Jones donated a cup for an annual Eclectic and in 1989 the Society put up a Grand Prix Shield for the member with the most points achieved in competitions during the year, based on 7 points for the first place, 6 for second, 5 for third etc. The latter two are all still competed for, the Newstead & Porter Cup has been replaced by The Ron Newstead Cup.
Over the years of course, some trophies have been discontinued when the member connected with the donor company left Portugal or the companies themselves did not want to continue with their sponsorship. But these have always been replaced by individuals or organisations wishing to be linked with the Society. (Past and current sponsors can be deduced from the list of prizes awarded included in this booklet).
In 2015, golf professional Gordon Young generously suggested that he sponsor a “Master Class" and a knock-out Putting Competition for the Gordon Young Putter Trophy. In addition, he kindly offered a free golf lesson to each “winner” of the monthly Cow Bell prize to allow members to enhance their golf skills.
On the social side of things, in the Society´s infancy, lunch preceded each meeting, thus allowing working members to spend the morning in their office. This then changed to lunch after each meeting at different hostelries chosen by the Captain.
Early in 1984, in a circular, members were invited “to bring wives, preferably your own, to the post competition lunch”. As this proved a very enjoyable occasion, in June a special Ladies Luncheon was arranged. This time the circular read: “It is hoped that members will bring their ladies – one each – to the venue to be announced.” Gradually, the Society attracted more and more lady golfers, nowadays about a third of its playing members are ladies and others are members in the non-playing spouse category.
During 1985 a rule was introduced as follows: “to prevent Alan Jones winning all the Cups, the handicap of a member winning a competition shall be reduced by 2 at the next meeting at which he competes.” Alan Jones had won s even cups in the space of three years and received numerous prizes as runner-up. (Today with a much larger membership and proper regulation of handicaps by the authorities at Estoril Golf Club this rule is no longer enforced.)
Also, in 1985 it appeared that mid-week meetings were not convenient for some working members and the experiment of holding some of the meetings on Saturday mornings was tried. Members would play their normal Saturday morning golf, not necessarily with other members of the Society, and hand in a signed card by 12 noon. This arrangement endured for a year or so and was then discontinued.
In 1986 non-members of the R.B.C. were permitted to join the Society and numbers soon rose to nearly fifty. In 1992 pressure began to be applied from the RBC that membership of its Golfing Society should again be restricted to members of the Club. In 1996 therefore, the rule was re-introduced that all Society members should also be members of the R.B.C with a new proviso that numbers should be limited to cerca 60 Playing Members. This continues to be the case and the fact that nowadays the R.B.C has members of so many different nationalities is reflected in the Society’s multinational membership.
Every society worth its salt has a society tie and the R.B.C.G.S. is no exception. Such things are expensive to produce but once again in 1988 d’Arcy came to the rescue. A friend of his manufactured ties and had about a hundred in stock that he could not sell. They had been made for The Brigade of Gurkhas but unfortunately the order of the green, black and red stripes was incorrect. These rejects were snapped up cheaply by the Society but by 2000 supplies were exhausted.
On the administrative front, from 1974 until 1986 d’Arcy acted as Honorary Secretary/Treasurer, but from 1987 each Captain assumed all responsibilities and when necessary, asked for help from members. In 1999 it was decided to appoint an official Vice-Captain –since then one has been appointed yearly, the serving Captain having consulted the Past Captains as to suitable future candidates. The Vice-Captain’s principal duty is to check the cards at the end of each competition as well as offering moral support to his Captain!
Over the years the Society has issued invitations or received challenges from other groups of golfers. One such was in March 1985 when H.M. Queen Elizabeth came to Portugal for her second official visit. To commemorate this, members of the Society invited fifteen golfers from the Royal Yacht Britannia to play in a match which the R.B.C.G.S. managed to win. In 1988 the Society received a challenge from the Association of Barmen of Portugal through the then Captain Reg Rochford. This was played annually for some years, the fixture then fell into abeyance, but is now very much part of the Society’s calendar. The Barmen have some excellent players, and the Society is usually hard pushed to win as can be seen in the Winners List! Various British golf clubs have been opponents, in the 1990s Ron Newstead organised matches against The Bath Overseas Golfing Society, in 2001 & 2002 the Society took on members of Witney Lakes and in 2003 managed to defeat a team from The Berkshire.
In 1996 the Society Captain presented a trophy to be competed for between R.B.C.G.S. members, Tagus Golf Society members and Pings (Portugal Iberlant Nato Golf Society). Since then, this has usually taken place most years. 12 players represent each society, the eight best scores from each group are normally used to ascertain who is the winner. (A list of who won which year can also be found included in the booklet)
In 1999 the Society celebrated its Silver Jubilee. That year’s Captain decided that this merited special celebrations and a special competition, the Silver Jubilee Plate. For the first time members “went away” for two days of golf at Marvão. The Stableford scores over the two days were taken into account for an Eclectic competition that determined the winner of this new trophy. Since then, it has been played for once a year and has become a popular Society fixture. After two years away at Marvão other venues have included Montebelo, Benamor and Quinta do Peru Golf Clubs but for some years now it has been played at Estoril and the best scores from the Peter Dawson Bowl and Rankin Brothers & Sons trophy are combined to ascertain who is the winner.
In 2003 the Captain introduced a Wet Ball fund whereby each player who lost a ball in the water was asked to put one euro into a tin, the money collected at the end of the year going to a charity of the Captain’s choice. This was expanded into the Lost Ball fund and many worthy local charities have benefited from the donations.
But as in the beginning, nowadays normal Society meetings take place at Estoril. These are generally followed by a convivial lunch and prize-giving in the clubhouse. Playing members are often joined by their spouses and guests are always welcome, both at lunch and to play in the competition beforehand, space permitting. A few sponsors prefer to have an evening meal or lunch elsewhere and most members enjoy the occasional change of scene. Captains communicate via email and survey software forms for subscriptions and tournament sign-ups, where members pay via online banking or Multibanco.
During their term of office each Captain is invited to attend meetings of the RBC's Executive Committee and in particular the AGM in the year following their captaincy. The Captain is required to prepare a short report on competitions played throughout the year. He/She also reports on the state of the Golfing Society´s membership and finances to Past Captains and for inclusion in the RBC´s Annual Report of Accounts.
The early history of the Society as described here is based entirely on d’Arcy Orders’ account published in 1994. I have merely endeavoured to bring it up to date.
Carol Rankin Mason – December 2020