History of golf

History of golf

The exact origins of the sport of golf are unclear. The most widely accepted theory is that this sport originated in Scotland [ [http://www.abc-of-golf.com/golf-basics/golf-history.asp Golf History @ ABC-of-Golf ] ] in the High Middle Ages.


A golf-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht. Here the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. Whoever hit the ball into a target several hundreds of meters away the least number of times, won.However, the modern game of golf we understand today is generally considered to be a Scottish invention, as the game was mentioned in two 15th-century Acts of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the game of "gowf". Some scholars, however, suggest that this refers to another game which is much akin to shinty or hurling, or to modern field hockey rather than golf. They argue that a game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using "golf clubs" was played in 17th-century Netherlands and that this predates the game in Scotland. The word "golf" may be a Scots alteration of Dutch "kolf" meaning "stick", "club" and "bat" [ [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=golf Online Etymology Dictionary ] ] (see: Kolven). There are reports of even earlier accounts of a golf like game from continental Europe. [ [http://secure.britannica.com/eb/article-222218/golf golf :: Scots as inventors: a popular fallacy - Britannica Online Encyclopedia ] ]

However, these earlier games are more accurately viewed as ancestors of the modern game we understand as golf. The fact remains that the "modern " game of golf originated and developed in Scotland: the first permanent golf course originated in Scotland as did membership of the first golf clubs. The very first written rules originated there, as did the establishment of the 18 hole course. The first fomalized tournament structures developed and competitions were held between various Scottish cities. Before long, the modern game of golf had spread from Scotland to England and from there to the rest of the world. The oldest playing golf course in the world is The Old Links at Musselburgh Racecourse. Evidence has shown that golf was played on Musselburgh Links in 1672 although Mary, Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567.

Golf course evolution

Golf courses have not always had eighteen holes. The St Andrews Links occupy a narrow strip of land on Queen Mary of Scots land along the sea. As early as the 15th century, golfers at St Andrews established a trench 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 golfing capital, all other courses followed suit and the 18 hole course remains the standard to the present day.

Equipment development

The evolution of golf can be explained by the development of the equipment used to play the game. Some of the most notable advancements in the game of golf have come from the development of the golf ball. The golf ball took on many different forms before the 1930’s when the United States Golf Association (USGA) set standards for weight and size. [ [http://www.usga.org/aboutus/usga_history/1931_1950.html USGA History: 1931 - 1950 ] ] These standards were later followed by a USGA regulation stating that the initial velocity of any golf ball cannot exceed 250 feet per second. Since this time, the golf ball has continued to develop and impact the way the game is played.

Another notable factor in the evolution of golf has been the development of golf clubs. The earliest golf clubs were made of wood that was readily available in the area. Over the years, Hickory developed into the standard wood used for shafts and American Persimmon became the choice of wood for the club head due to its hardness and strength. As the golf ball developed and became more durable with the introduction of the “gutty” around 1850, the club head was also allowed to develop and a variety of iron headed clubs entered the game. The introduction of steel shafts began in the late 1890’s but their adoption by the governing bodies of golf was slow. In the early 1970’s, shaft technology shifted again with the use of graphite for its lightweight and strength characteristics. The first metal “wood” was developed in the early 1980’s and metal eventually completely replaced wood due to its strength and versatility. [ [http://www.golf-club-revue.com/golf-club-history.html Golf Club History - Golf Club Revue ] ] The latest golf club technology employs the use of graphite shafts and lightweight titanium heads which allows the club head to be made much larger than previously possible. The strength of these modern materials also allows the face of the club to be much thinner which increases the spring-like effect of the club face on the ball, theoretically increasing the distance the ball travels. The USGA has recently limited the spring-like effect, also known as the Coefficient of Restitution (COR) to .83 and the maximum club head size to 460cc in an attempt to maintain the challenge of the game. [ [http://www.usga.org/playing/clubs_and_balls/guide/book/index.html Guide to the Rules on Clubs and Balls - USGA ] ]


The word "golf" was first mentioned in writing in 1457 on a Scottish statute on forbidden games as "gouf", [ [http://www.dsl.ac.uk/dsl/getent4.php?query=golf "At the fut bal ande the golf be vtterly criyt done and nocht vsyt"] , Dictionary of the Scots Language, accessed 25 April 2007] possibly derived from the Scots word "goulf" (variously spelled) meaning "to strike or cuff". This word may, in turn, be derived the Dutch word "kolf", meaning "bat," or "club," and the Dutch sport of the same name. But there is an even earlier reference to the game of golf and it is believed to have happened in 1452 when King James II banned the game because it kept his subjects from their archery practice. [ [http://golf.about.com/od/historyofgolf/l/blgolftimeline.htm see article at About.] ]

There is a persistent urban legend claiming that the term derives from an acronym "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden". This is almost certainly a false etymology as acronyms being used as words is a fairly modern phenomenon, making the expression more likely to be a backronym. [ [http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/golf.asp See article at Snopes.] ]

Recent evidence for a golf-like game in China

In April 2005, new evidence re-invigorated the debate concerning the origins of golf. [http://www.golf-information.info/asian-origin-of-golf.html Asian Origin of Golf ?] ] Recent evidence unearthed by Prof. Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University suggests that a game similar to modern-day golf was played in China since Southern Tang Dynasty, 500 years before golf was first mentioned in Scotland. [http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/ASSH%20Bulletins/No%2014/ASSHBulletin14c.pdf Verification of the fact that Golf originated from Chuiwan] ]

"Dōngxuān Records" ( _zh. 東軒錄) from the Song Dynasty (960–1279) describes a game called "chuíwán" (捶丸) and also includes drawings of the game. [http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/ASSH%20Bulletins/No%2014/ASSHBulletin14c.pdf Verification of the fact that Golf originated from Chuiwan] ] It was played with 10 clubs including a "cuanbang", "pubang", and "shaobang", which are comparable to a driver, two-wood, and three-wood. Clubs were inlaid with jade and gold, suggesting golf was for the wealthy. Chinese archive includes references to a Southern Tang official who asked his daughter to dig holes as a target. [http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/ASSH%20Bulletins/No%2014/ASSHBulletin14c.pdf Verification of the fact that Golf originated from Chuiwan] ] Ling suggested golf was exported to Europe and then Scotland by Mongolian travellers in the late Middle Ages. [http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/ASSH%20Bulletins/No%2014/ASSHBulletin14c.pdf Verification of the fact that Golf originated from Chuiwan] ]

A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the oldest Scotland golf organization, said "Stick and ball games have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes, clearly originated in Scotland." [ [http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/othersports/255299_sportsbeat12.html Sports Beat ] ] [ [http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=46872006 Scotsman.com News ] ]


[http://www.civilisations.ca/hist/golf/goint01e.html The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Golf, the Canadian Story]

ee also

* Golf
* Timeline of golf history (1353-1850)
* Timeline of golf history (1851-1945)
* Timeline of golf history (1945-1999)
* Timeline of golf (2000-present)
* British Golf Museum

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