R&A chief Martin Slumbers to stand down with golf at crossroads

Martin Slumbers
Martin Slumbers will help his predecessor settle into the role - PA/Jane Barlow

Martin Slumbers will stand down as R&A chief executive at the end of the year. With the professional male game at a critical juncture, the Englishman will leave one of the most powerful roles in the sport – and the hunt for a successor is already under way.

Despite the timing of Wednesday’s announcement – with the merger negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund on an apparent knife edge – Slumbers’s departure will create ripples through the corridors of power.

But at 63, the former investment banker had trailed the likely date of his retirement ever since he took over the St Andrews hot seat from Peter Dawson in 2015.

Slumbers signalled his intention to do “five to 10 years” in the position and October will be the decade anniversary of when he was unveiled as Dawson’s successor, before shadowing his predecessor.

The aim is to present his replacement with the same comfortable transition and an executive head-hunting team has been detailed.

“It has been a privilege to serve golf at the highest level. It is a role that I have been proud to carry out on behalf of the R&A’s employees, the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and all our global partners,” Slumbers said, via a statement.

“In any career, there is a time to allow the next generation to have its turn. I am grateful to have had the honour, for nearly a decade, to have been the custodian of all that the R&A and the game of golf more broadly represents.”

Slumbers will leave a positive legacy at the governing body. When he assumed control it had been announced the Royal and Ancient – the 270-year-old Fife club from which the R&A grew – would at last allow females to join and Slumbers ensured all the other Open venues followed suit, threatening courses such as Muirfield with being expelled from the rota of the British major.

As well as Slumbers conducting what the R&A called “a paradigm shift in the approach to the commercial affairs” that has allowed “a substantial increase in investment into amateur golf around the world”, his reign also witnessed the R&A merge with the Ladies Golf Union and effectively take control of the Women’s Open and effect a dramatic rise in prize money.

If all these can be seen as inevitable steps into the modern era then the move from the R&A, in conjunction with the US Golf Association, to fix the distance issue might be viewed as Slumbers’s revolutionary parting shot. With the majority of the professional game against the overhauling of the rules, Slumbers has been key in pushing through new regulations that will reduce the drives of the big-hitters by up to 20 yards when they are first introduced in 2028.

On the LIV saga, Slumbers has tried to play a cagey game, refusing to criticise the source of the Saudi finance, but making no secret of his backing to the traditional tours and the status quo. Slumbers has emphasised his and the R&A’s desire for the parties to reach a deal in these talks that could unite the sport and help heal the divisions.

Slumbers is well respected throughout the game, with Tommy Fleetwood one of the first to send his good wishes. “Martin has been great,” the world No 15 said. “It’s a big role and there have been some big decisions made, whether it be with equipment or where the tours go next, but we can all be very grateful for the service he has put in.”

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