For the first fifty years of the Society’s existence, the Silver Club was the only permanent trophy. The Gold Medal, which was presented by Club member John Murray Belshes, was first played for in 1806, following the Silver Club Challenge, with the rules stating that the winner would keep the medal until the following year. Inscribed ‘Prize to the Best Golfer of the St Andrews Club’, the original medal has the winner’s names engraved from 1806-1815. Subsequent winners’ names are engraved on additional medals, of which there are currently six.
Through John Murray Belshes, the Club had acquired the patronage of King William IV in 1834. Three years later, Belshes successfully acquired a medal from the King. Written confirmation was sent in January 1837 from Sir Henry Wheatley, Keeper of His Majesty’s Privy Purse. Wheatley wrote:
“I have the honour to transmit by the King’s command, a Gold Medal, with green ribbon, which his Majesty desires you will present in his name to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and which his Majesty wishes should be challenged and played for annually by the Society”.
The Gold and Royal Medals were played for separately until 1839. From 1840, the Royal Medal became the principal prize at the Autumn Meeting, with the Gold Medal being awarded as second prize.