RSGS celebrated its centenary in 2012. Our history is well described in a speech made by Staffan Widenfelt at the Royal Swedish Golfing Society's AGM on 1st March 2002 during our 90-year celebration.
“Fasten your seat-belts and turn your clocks back 90 years!
On the evening of 26 March 1912, 12 Swedes met at the Golfers' Club in Whitehall Court, a few hundred yards from here. They were invited to a meeting by Detlof von Braun to discuss a Swedish Golfing Society in London.
Just try to imagine for a moment that you were present.
Interest in sport was ever increasing. The previous Olympic Games had been held in London in 1908 and the Stockholm Olympic Games 1912 were just round the corner. Considerable sums of money had been donated by wealthy London-Swedes to the sports movement in Sweden and they were also represented on the committees for the Stockholm Olympic Games. National pride was riding high among the 4000 Swedes in London.
Only the previous year the new Swedish Church in Marylebone had been inaugurated, giving the congregation not only a new church, but meeting facilities for various societies, a Swedish school and a gym for the gymnasts. The Scandinavians were going different ways and we saw new formations. The union with Norway was dissolved in 1905 and as an indirect result the Swedish Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1906 - The Norwegians started theirs in 1905.
A few days before the meeting at the Golfers' Club, Captain Roald Amundsen sent home his famous telegram from Hobart, Tasmania: " Pole attained, 14-17 December, 1911. All well." The Norwegian flag was flying over the South Pole. At the weekend, the University Boat Race was to be cancelled owing to the flooding of both boats. The Cambridge boat sank at Harrod's wharf while the Oxford crew reached Chiswick Eyot, when their boat sank. But no one in their wildest dreams could imagine that the unsinkable Titanic should go under on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York a fortnight later. That catastrophe would overshadow everything else for a long time.
Let's return to The Golfers' Club and 26 of March 1912.
Who was the man who tried to form a Swedish Golfing Society in London? Detlof von Braun was 53 years of age, a "gymnastikdirektor", a Certified Physical Training Instructor from GCI, Gymnastiska Centralinstitutet in Stockholm. He was one of a large number who came to England to practice the new Swedish method of Physiotherapy, made famous in Britain by Dr.Henrik Kellgren. We also know that Detlof von Braun moved back to Sweden in 1927 and lived at Stocksund, outside Stockholm until he died in 1933 at the age of 73. From our members list of 1929-30 we can see that at the age of 70 he was still playing off handicap 7. Detlof was our President from 1912 until 1927 and for the rest of his life he was Honorary President. And who were the eleven London-Swedes he had invited to the inaugural meeting?
They came from different walks of life, but we can clearly distinguish two groups of people; Swedish businessmen in London and Swedish physiotherapists. No less than five of them were also among the founders of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce 5 years earlier; Carl Anton Löwenadler, predominant match trader and hon. secr. of the Chamber of Commerce for many years, Christer Granlund and Axel Råberg, from Swedish shipping industry in London, Carl Eberstein and Olof Reich, forest industry importers and agents. The other group were like Detlof von Braun, physiotherapists and often with a medical doctor's degree like C.A. Ryman. The others were Hjalmar Hedberg, C.G.Håkansson, E.Johansson, J.Söderberg and G.Zethrin.
Later in the year they were followed by Henrik Kellgren, Ernst Kellgren and Johan Svanberg. At the time, Svanberg had among his patients Sir Morton Stanley, best known for his meeting 40 years earlier with Dr. Livingstone at Lake Tanganyika. At the end of the first year the society had 20 members. Among the physiotherapists I must mention Dr Owe Erickson, probably our most talented golfer ever in the society, with numerous holes-in-one under his belt and playing off plus 1.
The first "President's Cup" from 1912 was retained by the winner, E.Johansson. The following year Detlof von Braun donated a new President's Cup, which is the one we still are playing for. The first competition ever in our society took place on 23 May 1912 and was won by C.A.Löwenadler. We can also see from our minutes that a bogey competition took place on 11 December. Only 3 golfers took part and they all tied at 11 down.
Göteborg's Golfklubb, this year, 2002, having their centennial celebration is first mentioned in our minutes in conjunction with our Spring Meeting at Chertsey Golf Club in Surrey 3 May 1914:- "The Amateur Champion of Sweden, E. Andersson of Gothenburg G.C. was also present at lunch and in the afternoon took part in a fourball match against A. Råberg and G. Zethrin." At their 20th anniversary in 1922, we donated a cup "Londonpokalen", which is the second oldest cup their members are playing for. The members of our society are invited to take part in this annual competition.
At the AGM in 1927 Detlov von Braun stood down as President and was elected Hon. President. He was succeeded by another founding member from 1912, Olof Reich, who presided for the next 11 years. Olof Reich took the society to Aldeburgh for the Spring Meeting in 1927. The society reserved their own private carriage for the journey from Liverpool Street Station to Aldeburgh. The Carriage was parked at Aldeburgh Station for the weekend and the members just walked across the street to The White Lion Hotel, next door to Wenthworth Hotel, where we are now staying. Today, The Royal Swedish Golfing Society is the oldest visiting society at Aldeburgh Golf Club.
Inge Berner, a timber agent, was a much loved President of our society for 21 years from 1938 to 1959. He finally stood down aged 84. In 1948 we had 42 members, 34 playing and 8 non-playing. In 1949 Otto Jonasson, the ship broker, suggested that a new captain should be elected on an annual basis. Some of you may remember that Otto Jonasson, just after the war, sold the first ship to the then unknown Aristotiles Onassis. That was later followed by many more deals between them. In 1959 , Torsten Landby, a timber importer, then aged 76, became president for the next 7 years. He was in turn followed by Carl Ödmark, another timber merchant, who presided 1966-1969.
At the AGM in 1964 it was decided that ladies should be invited to play as guests at our Autumn Meetings. A proposal that ladies should be offered membership of the society was narrowly rejected only by the President's casting vote. Cecil Robinson, head of Uddeholm Steel in Birmingham, became our next president in 1969. We were now around 90 members. A few years later, mainly thanks to Olof Grundberg, Anders father, a limit was introduced for how long a president should stay in office. Too often, they tended to be too old for the good of the society. Hugo von Heidenstam took over as president in 1977 and the ladies were finally invited as members of our society. At the Spring Meeting he presented the following snaps song:-
”Det var flickorna från Småland,
det var misserna fran Moon
och fruarna från Wimbledon
och Södra Kensingtoon.
Dom blev invalda bland gubbarna,
som flytt från house och home.
Nu får dom dela nubbarna och va' precis som dom.”
The new von Heidenstam ladies cup was very fittingly called "Till Quinnans pris och Ära".
In rapid succession then followed Olof Grundberg, Carl Hedin, Ingemar Lundegard, myself, Anders Grundberg, Jörgen Hellzen, Bengt-Arne Magnusson up to our present day President Ulf Brasen. In the first 45 years the society only had 3 presidents, while we have seen 12 during the following 45 years. So much for inflation! On the other hand, little or no activities took place for almost 10 years during the two world wars.
At the AGM in 1981 our name was changed to The Royal Swedish Golfing Society, since HRH Prince Bertil had agreed to become our Patron. Prince Bertil was a very good golfer. He was an honorary member of Royal Berkshire and he had many golfing friends here from the time he lived in London. In his honour, individual members contributed with donations for the Prins Bertil Cup, which we have been playing for since 1989.
I have mentioned our various presidents over 90 years, but the society has been most fortunate in having had a long string of devoted Hon. Secretaries, Treasurers and Captains and we have every reason to believe that the Society will remain strong and active for many, many years to come.
We are today 200 members, out of which on third are ladies and some 30 reside abroad. There are so many other aspects of our illustrious past that should be highlighted; our international meetings, the history around our many famous cups etc, but that would take too long and has to be left for a later occasion.
Our toast tonight is to all those who have tried so hard to keep our society together for 90 years and brought so much pleasure to the members over the years. In particular we commemorate Detlow von Braun and his eleven co-founders from 1912.
The toast is The Royal Swedish Golfing Society.