Role is a real honour, says new R&A captain

Chris Hilton drives in as the new captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
Chris Hilton drives in as the new captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

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

Chris Hilton started his year in office with a drive 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 Hilton will serve in an ambassadorial role for The R&A to support its work in developing golf around the world and will attend R&A championships in the professional and amateur game.

After hitting his tee shot, Mr Hilton said: “I was a little apprehensive before the tee shot this morning so I was pleased to make a decent swing at the ball as the cannon went off. It’s a wonderful tradition and it was nice to see so many people around the first tee.

“It is a huge honour to be the captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and I look forward to representing the club and The R&A in the year ahead.”

A renowned maritime lawyer, Mr Hilton was a board member throughout the establishment of what is now the global firm Eversheds Sutherland, leading its early international development and heading its shipping law department until his retirement in 2010.

Mr Hilton has held various non-executive roles, including serving as vice-chairman of the council of Newcastle University, where he received an honorary fellowship, and was chairman of Newcastle Building Society. He is currently a director of a Luxembourg-regulated marine insurance company and of a Cardiff-based ship owning company with a significant presence in China. He also chairs a board of pension scheme trustees.

Mr Hilton became a member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 2000 and chaired the rules committee from 2011 to 2015 when he played an important role in developing the rules modernisation initiative with the USGA. He is currently a member of the general committee.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Mr Hilton is a past captain of his home club, The Northumberland, and is a member of The Golf House Club, Elie, the New Club of St Andrews and Bamburgh Castle Golf Club. He is also a member of the Senior Golfers’ Society and has served as the captain and president of the Quayside Golfing Society.

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he has been based for most of his life, Mr Hilton was educated at Fettes College, Cambridge University and, as a Rotary Foundation scholar, Adelaide University.

Aged 68, Mr Hilton is married to wife, Liz, and has a son, Michael, and daughter, Caroline. An avid golfer, Mr Hilton plays to a handicap of eight.

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.

Oliver Mennie, in his fourth season as a caddie on the links, successfully returned the ball for the second year in a row.

“It was a case of being in the right place at the right time again,” said Mennie. “I’m absolutely chuffed to bits to have returned the ball to the new captain again.”