R&A CEO Martin Slumbers set to step down by end of 2024

Englishman has been driving force behind numerous exciting new initiatives
Martin Slumbers, pictured during a press conference at the 151st Open last year, is stepping down as The R&A's CEO later this year. Picture: The R&AMartin Slumbers, pictured during a press conference at the 151st Open last year, is stepping down as The R&A's CEO later this year. Picture: The R&A
Martin Slumbers, pictured during a press conference at the 151st Open last year, is stepping down as The R&A's CEO later this year. Picture: The R&A

Martin Slumbers, who has earned widespread praise for his leadership since succeeding Peter Dawson in the role in 2015, is to step down as The R&A’s CEO by the end of this year.

Though today’s announcement by the St Andrews-based governing body will no doubt be viewed as somewhat of a shock, it is understood that Slumbers, who is 63, had set a time frame of between five and ten years in terms of him holding the post.

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The Englishman took up the position on the back of a successful career outwith golf and, combining his extensive global business experience with a passion for golf, he has been the driving force behind numerous exciting new initiatives that have been rolled out by The R&A over the past few years.

It was his vision, for example, to create Golf It!, a ground-breaking new family-centred golf facility in Glasgow that opened last year and has since received support from the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation on the strength of it having a real capacity to grow the game.

Announcing the decision by Slumbers to call time on his tenure in the job, The R&A’s chairman, Niall Farquharson, said: “In Martin, we have been fortunate to have a CEO who has steered the organisation through a period of growth and enhanced the profile and reputation of our sport to make it more accessible, appealing and inclusive.

“Through his stature and influence in the world of golf and sport more widely and in growing the proceeds of The Open to invest back into the game, he has been true to The R&A’s purpose of golf thriving 50 years from now and has shown transformational leadership. He speaks often of reflecting history in a modern way and that will be his legacy to The R&A and to the club.”

Brighton-born Slumbers will oversee The 152nd Open at Royal Troon in July, the return of the AIG Women's Open to St Andrews in August and the 43rd Curtis Cup match at Sunningdale at that the end of that month before relinquishing his role by the end of the year.

He said: “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.”

Explaining the timing of his decision to step down, he added: “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.”

During his tenure, Slumbers has led a modernisation of The R&A’s activities, which included the merger with the LGU and its subsequent integration to enable The R&A to represent golf for men, women, boys and girls at the elite level.

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In 2018, as part of his strategic approach to The R&A’s activities, its first Playbook was developed, explaining the purpose of the modern R&A: ‘To make golf open, accessible and inclusive and ensure it is thriving 50 years from now’. This level of clarity has led The R&A to double its financial commitment to golf, with greater emphasis on women and girls; establish a strategic business-driven approach to golf development; and proactively seek to improve the perception of golf as good for you, good for society and good for the environment.

He had oversight of the 2019 modernisation of the Rules of Golf, the roll-out of WHS in 2020 and the Distance Insights process, the outcome of which was announced in December 2023. He has served on the boards of the OWGR, the IGF and the LET.

A paradigm shift in the approach to the commercial affairs of The R&A, primarily at The Open, and the level of expertise in the executive team has enabled The R&A to substantially increase its investment into amateur golf around the world and, with partners, has enabled the AIG Women’s Open to grow into a world-class championship.

In addition to Golf It! opening its doors, 2023 also saw the launch of the G4D Open for the world’s most talented golfers with disabilities and, in 2024, a new Africa Amateur Championship will join elite amateur events in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. These include the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific championship and the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship, both introduced by Slumbers.

An executive search firm has been appointed to assist in the search for his successor, with a possible candidate being Phil Anderton, the former chief executive of both Scottish Rugby and Hearts FC, who is currently The R&A’s chief development officer.

Slumbers is the second high-profile employee at The R&A to call time with the organisation in 2024 after it had already been announced that David Rickman is retiring after a 37-year stint. Another widely-respected figure in the game, he will serve as chief referee for The Open before his final event in a rules capacity will be in the AIG Women’s Open.

Speaking at the Dubai Invitational, McIlroy praised Slumbers’ contribution to the sport. “Martin has done a lot of good things for the game and started a lot of good initiatives. He clearly feels deeply about the game,” said the world No 2. “I’ve always had a good relationship with him and he’s always had the best interest of the gams at heart. I’m not sure what the average tenure is in that position but nine years seems like a good stint. Hopefully he stays involved in the game, even if not as deeply involved as he has been.”

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