The strange case of the Sunningdale Captains Board

World War I caused a right royal problem for some of the patriotically minded members at Sunningdale Golf Club

Sunningdale Captains board
2012 Sunningdale Foursomes

How World War I caused a right royal problem for some of the patriotically minded members at Sunningdale Golf Club

Sunningdale Captains Board

Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein

Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein was one of the earliest members of Sunningdale Golf Club. He was elected captain of the club in 1910.

In 1913 he played the official first drive at nearby Camberley Heath Golf Club. He was a popular person locally and at his golf club.

He was a grandson of Queen Victoria. He was born and brought up in Windsor. He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1900.

But when the First World War broke out he went to Germany and took up a commission in the German army. The German Emperor excused him fighting duties and he spent his war in Berlin on administrative duties.

But this still left Sunningdale Golf Club in a conundrum.

When the First World War broke out, Sunningdale Golf Club established a fund to support Belgian refugees. A Belgian family was housed in the clubhouse for the duration, their expenses mainly paid for by the club. A club member offered to pay £2 to any employee or caddie of the club who enlisted, which the committee accepted. Sunningdale Golf Club was doing what it saw as its patriotic duty.

But Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein was still a member.

In the club suggestion book was the entry, written in September 1914 that: “If it is found that any Member of the Club has taken up arms against this county or its Allies his name at once be removed from the List of Members.” It was signed by 19 members. But the committee declined to act.

In April 1916 a more direct request was made in the suggestions book that: “Prince Albert’s name be erased from the list of Captains of the Club. I believe the feeling in the club is strongly in favour of this being done.”

Below it another member had replied: “Will the proposer of the above suggestion kindly explain how the erasure of Prince Albert’s name can alter the fact that that person was (possibly unfortunately) Captain of the Club?“

To which the proposer huffily replied: “I do not propose to answer conundrums put forward by individual members. As there is apparently a good deal of friendly feeling towards Germans among the members, I would ask the Committee to ignore my suggestion.”

It did.

Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein’s name remained on the Sunningdale Captains Board.

But in June 1918 came another entry: “We are surprised to find on our return from Active Service that the name of an alien Prince is still on the board of Captains. We suggest this should be remedied.”

This time the committee did act. But in a wonderful British compromise, it decided not to take the Prince’s name off the board. Instead it would have the board repainted, and omit the year 1910 from it.

There the matter lay until in 1927 a motion was passed at the AGM by a large majority to restore the Prince’s name to the Sunningdale Captains Board and to invite him to resume his membership.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.