Saturday, April 18, 2009

History of Golf


The word Golf was first mentioned in writing in 1457 on a Scottish statute on forbidden games as gouf, possibly derived from the Scots word goulf (variously spelled) meaning "to strike or cuff". This word may, in turn, be derived from the Dutch word kolf, meaning "bat", or "club", and the Dutch sport of the same name.


The most accepted golf history theory is that golf (as practised today) originated from Scotland in the 12th century, with shepherds knocking stones into rabbit holes in the place where the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews now sits. However, the origin of golf is unclear and open to debate.

Scholars have claimed references to a form of golf from hieroglyphs found on stone tablets dating to ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. Chuiwan ("ch'ui" means hitting and "wan" means small ball in Chinese) a game consisting of driving a ball with a stick into holes in the ground was first mentioned in Dōngxuān Records, a Chinese book of 11th century, and Chinese professor Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University claims that the game was brought to Europe by the Mongols in the 12th and 13th centuries. A Dutch game was mentioned on 26 February 1297 in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht. Here they played a game with a stick and leather ball. Whoever hit the ball into a target several hundreds of meters away the most number of times, won. The Scottish game of gowf was mentioned in two 15th century laws prohibiting its play. Some scholars have suggested that this refers to another game which is more akin to bandy, shinty or hurling than golf. There are also reports of even earlier accounts of a golf like game from continental Europe.

However, these earlier games are more accurately viewed as ancestors of golf, and the modern game as we understand it today originated and developed in Scotland: The earliest permanent golf course originated there, as did the very first written rules, the establishment of the 18-hole course, and the first golf club memberships. The first formalized tournament structures also emerged there and competitions were arranged between different Scottish cities. Over time, the modern game spread to England and the rest of the world. The oldest playing golf course in the world is The Musselburgh Old Links Golf Course. Evidence has shown that golf was played here in 1672 although Mary, Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567. In 1646 King Charles I, whilst held captive by the Scots in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was reported to entertain himself by playing golf in Shieldfield.

As stated, golf courses have not always had eighteen holes. The St Andrews Links occupy a narrow strip of land along the sea. As early as the 15th century, golfers at St Andrews, in Fife, established a customary route through the undulating terrain, playing to holes whose locations were dictated by topography. The course that emerged featured eleven holes, laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. One played the holes out, turned around, and played the holes in, for a total of 22 holes. In 1764, several of the holes were deemed too short, and were therefore combined. The number was thereby reduced from 11 to nine, so that a complete round of the links comprised 18 holes. Due to the status of St Andrews as the golf capital, all other courses chose to follow suit and the 18-hole course remains the standard today.

Golf has one of the most glorious histories of any sport still played. Find out more about golf history with the resources below. We guarantee you'll learn a lot you didn't know before, and have fun in process.

- When and where did golf begin?
- What is the origin of the word "golf"?

- When were the first rules written, and what were they?