Renowned St Andrews golf historian Bobby Burnet dies aged 91

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Renowned golf historian, R.A.L. (Bobby) Burnet, who was the official historian to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, has died at the age of 91.

Bobby, as he was affectionately known, was originally appointed as the club’s honorary librarian in 1981 before assuming the role as its historian - a post he held until he retired in 1992.

A popular and respected figure in the world of golf, his views and opinions on the sport and its history were in great demand and much sought after.

In recognition of his dedicated service, he was elected as a life member of the club on his retirement from the R&A.

Born a son of the manse in Kilmarnock in 1920, he was educated at Glasgow Academy.

Unfortunately, plans to go on to university had to be put on hold following the outbreak of the Second World War during which he served in the Royal Navy and attained the rank of lieutenant.

On returning to civilian life, Mr Burnet went to Edinburgh University and graduated with a degree in English Literature.

He then went on to undertake teacher training and, after qualifying, joined the staff of Strathallan School in Perthshire, where he was to remain throughout his career.


An English master, he also served as a house master at Strathallan and was senior deputy headmaster when he eventually retired after 30 years’ service.

His career with the R&A included cataloguing historical golf documents and also books - many of them very rare - in its library collection.

He wrote a award-winning book on the Open Championship at St Andrews and also penned and published a paper that connected the work of Shakespeare with the margins of the Geneva Bible, which is now accepted by scholars.

Mr Burnet also wrote extensively for golf magazines and other publications worldwide.

A keen golfer, Mr Burnet was playing the game until a few days before he passed away at his home in Wales.

He was a member of Elie Golf House Club for more than 50 years, joining in 1947 and, to mark his long association with the East Neuk club, was made an honorary member in 1997.

He and his wife eventually left St Andrews, where they had resided for many years, to move firstly to England and then to Wales to be closer to other family members.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, Francis and David, and daughter, Margaret, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.