Did You Know?
- Origins of Golf


The Earliest Days
While Scotland is widely associated as the home and birthplace of golf, there is great debate about the earliest derivation of the game. Some historians believe that golf descended from "paganica", played with a feather stuffed ball and a curved stick, a game that the Romans brought with them to Britain. Another idea is that golf was a Dutch game called "het kolven" and there are paintings from the 18th century by Dutch painters showing a game similar to golf being played on ice and land. However, by this time it is believed some form of golf had been played in Scotland for three hundred years.

The name golf may have been derived from the old Scots verb " to gowff" meaning to "strike hard." The earliest known written detail on the subject of golf is from King James II in 1457 who demanded that "fute-ball and golfe be utterly cryed down and not to be used." The King was concerned that his citizens were so involved in leisurely pursuits that they were neglecting the Royal and vital sport of archery, which would protect him from the enemy. It took until 1502, in the reign of King James IV and a Treaty of Perpetual Peace (which didn't last!) with England's King Henry VII before the Scots were allowed to spare the time on such pursuits. King James IV himself played the game at Perth.

Mary Queen of Scots was known to play a round or two and by the end of the 16th century it was noted that people were neglecting attendance at church in order to indulge in their favourite pastime. With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, King James VI and his court took golf to Blackheath in London. By that time he had appointed an Edinburgh bowmaker as royal club-maker.

The first record of a caddie to carry the golf clubs is Andrew Dickson of Edinburgh, in the second half of the 17th century. As a young man he had caddied for the Duke of York - later King James VII. "Caddies" were originally an organised corps of message boys in Edinburgh and other large towns in Scotland.

Early Golf Balls
Golf Ball Initially, golf balls were wooden and these continued even after hand-made balls made of leather stuffed with feathers appeared. In 1848 the solid gutta-percha (a flexible juice from trees in Malaya) was introduced which were cheaper to make.

In America, at the start of the 20th century, balls made of tensioned rubber thread were invented although initially there was opposition to them. But the winner of the Open Championship used them in 1902 and ordinary golfers were converted.

Modern Golf
Old Course, St Andrews The rules of golf were laid down by the Honorable Company of Edinburgh golfers in Leith, which was formed in 1744. The St. Andrews Society adopted these rules and over the next century took over the administration and development of the game. The famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews is the governing body that continues to set the rules and standards for the world's golfers to this day. The Old Course at St. Andrews, Fife has greens and bunkers created easily around the natural landscape of the seashore. The Royal and Ancient is renowned as the Mecca worldwide for those who love to play golf.

There is a British Golf Museum behind the Royal and Ancient golf course at St. Andrews with audio-visual displays, and the full story of golf explained as it has developed across the centuries.

In 1888 a Scot, John Reid of Dunfermline, "imported" his passion for golf to the United States and built his own course at Yonkers, New York. The United States Golf Association was founded in 1894.

The Open
Scotland originated the first professional Open golf championship in 1860, first held at Prestwick, and this event continued until 1894 when England also began to arrange golf competitions. Since then the British Open has moved around the United Kingdom from one links (seaside) course to another on a rota between eight leading golf courses, three in England and five in Scotland.

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