R&A to create world's largest golf library after IMG exec Alastair Johnston gifts his nearly 30,000-volume collection

January 10, 2020

Darren Carroll

In his native Scotland, Alastair Johnston is best known for his involvement with the Glasgow Rangers Football Club. A past chairman and now a non-executive director of the soccer team he has supported all of his 71 years, Johnston’s working life has, by way of contrast, been in the more gentle world of golf. A long-ago graduate of Strathclyde University, Johnston is a vice chairman at International Management Group, where he was closely associated with the business career of the late Arnold Palmer.

Behind those parallel scenes, however, Johnston is notable for amassing what is surely the most extensive golf library on the planet. A collector since 1956—he joined IMG as an intern in 1969—the Scot’s U.S. home in Cleveland, Ohio, now contains almost 30,000 volumes. And it is still growing. Johnston currently adds up to 800 new items to the collection each year. The latest edition of the bibliography, which he publishes annually, contains two volumes and amounts to more than 900 pages.

And now all of those books are soon to be on the move. Plugging a long-time gap in what the Home of Golf offers its many annual visitors, Johnston’s prodigious collection has been gifted to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and will be housed in a soon-to-be decided location—what will be the Alastair J. Johnston library. Managed by the R&A’s Museum and Heritage department, the re-location will follow a planned redevelopment of the British Golf Museum (located across the road from the R&A clubhouse) galleries ahead of the 150th Open at St Andrews in 2021.

“I am honored that the R&A has accepted so gracefully the donation of my golf library,” Johnston said. “The commitment it is making to locate it in St Andrews, in the epicenter of the historical roots of the game of golf, and provide future guardianship of so much that has been printed about it over the last 400 years or so is very much appreciated.”


David Cannon/Getty Images

“We are very grateful to Alastair for this generous gift, added Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. “We are excited to continue his vision and support his desire to display this collection in its entirety in Scotland. I can think of no more appropriate place than St Andrews to create the world’s most comprehensive library of golf books. We are committed to nurturing the world-class status of the library and ensuring that Alastair’s legacy is maintained for the enjoyment of those who love this great sport.”