Opening of the course
The course was opened in 1882, had just nine holes and was for men only. The turf was imported from Cumbria, which may explain some of the more unusual plants seen today.
It was also one of the very first golf courses in England. It came close to challenging the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club of St Andrews in terms of prominence and was also the source of an authoritative set of rules of the game, which still apply today. In 1888 if you lost a ball at St Andrews, you lost the hole as well, but on the Royal course on the Isle of Wight you just dropped another ball and took a two-stroke penalty.
Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar was the first president, and Queen Victoria’s eldest son (later to become Edward VII) became a member in 1883. This meant that the golf club was given 'Royal' status.
Several other European princes and monarchs were involved, mainly because of the Island links with Queen Victoria at Osborne House. Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, was President of the Club until she died in 1940. As the popularity of the course increased, the Spithead Hotel roof was raised to cope with the influx of golfing guests.
Black’s Guide in 1899 commented that ‘the Sailing Club vies with the golf as an attraction to visitors of the better class. In short, Bembridge is a select rather than a popular resort’.