The Golfers by Charles Lees
The Golfers: A Grand Match played over the Links of St Andrews on the day of the Annual Meeting of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, to give the painting its full title, is one of the most famous images of the sport. It was painted during the years 1846 and 1847 and shows a two ball foursome in which Sir David Baird and Sir Ralph Anstruther challenged Major Hugh Lyon Playfair and John Campbell of Glen Saddell.
The painting captures the essence of golf and shows many of the leading players of the mid-nineteenth century, a time when the game was still almost exclusively Scottish. Above all, the painter has caught that agonising moment familiar to all golfers, whether in 1847 or today - will Playfair’s ball drop into the hole? We will never know the answer, but we do know that we are looking at a great picture.
The artist, Charles Lees, was born in 1800 in Cupar, ten miles west of St Andrews. He studied under Sir Henry Raeburn, Scotland’s leading portrait painter of the day, becoming a noted portrait painter himself and a specialist in painting sporting subjects.
Three oil sketches for The Golfers are in the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland. The 2002 purchase of Charles Lees’ masterpiece makes the Scottish national collection of golfing paintings one of the finest in the world.
The Golfers could not have been acquired for the people of Scotland without the help of The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, The Strathtyrum Trust and other generous supporters.