Have any of you ever thought to yourselves, “Man…Golf is really complicated, there are so many little things that I need to keep track of in order to play well. How could someone come up with such a game?”
As you know for any beginning has an explanation, many explanations some of them accurate and some of them fantasies. Similar to the claims of a certain person who invented the internet… Potato or is it Potatoe?? Although Al Gore doesn’t claim he invented golf there are numerous “claims” of how golf started, many of which are pure fantasies. The good news is that I have been able to cut through the fantasies and get to the bottom of who we need to thank for bringing us this great game!
Around 100 BC, people in ancient Rome started playing a game called Paganica where players hit a stuffed leather ball with a bent stick.
In China a game called Chuiwan (which means ball-hitting) was played, where numerous different sticks were used to drive a ball into various holes, between 960 AD to 1279 AD.
In 1261 a Flemish poet named Jacob Van Maerlant referred to a game called mit ener coluen” (with a colf/kolf [club] where four players hit a ball to certain distances and the winner was who reached the other players starting point first.
The 1300’s brought an actual ban of golf where those who were found playing would be fined a significant amount, if caught. Supposedly, the players would be drinking and gambling too much while playing which was not up to par with the European rulers.
Scotland lays final claim (and I agree) as the founders of golf. Like the 1300’s, the first mention of golf, in Scotland, was in 1457 when King James II prohibited the games of gowf (and futball) as these games were a distraction from archery practice necessary for the “defense of the country.” By early 1500’s, Scotland lifted all bans and King James IV actually started playing the game himself thus is credited (by some) as the “father of golf.”
After King James IV started hitting balls in the woods (no actual reference but I figure as much) many other royalty in Europe started playing the game where you hit a leather ball with a stick trying to get it in a hole.
Mary Queen of Scots, introduced the game while studying in France and is credited with the inception of the “caddy.” The term caddie comes from her French military aides referred as “cadets.”
The original rules of golf were established in 1744 by The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers where “The Gentleman Golfers” thought there should be some proper rules for golf where the 13 rules of play were introduced.
First record of golf in the United States was in 1739 where there was a shipment of golf equipment to William Wallace in South Carolina. South Carolina Golf Course is argued to be the first Golf Club in the United States. By the late 19th century golf had been firmly established.
In 1894 delegates from the Newport Country Club, Saint Andrew’s Golf Club, Yonkers, New York, The Country Club, Chicago Golf Club, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club met in New York City to form what was to become the United States Golf Association and by 1932 there were over 1,100 clubs affiliated with the USGA.
Modern Day Golf
Over 60 million golfers play on over 576,000 courses world wide. Over the last 50 years golf has gained incredible popularity and has become a major player in terms of pro sports. No longer are the top golfers in the world “unknown.” Golf’s four majors The Masters, US Open, The Open Championship, and The PGA Championship have become major sporting events attracting millions of golf fans every year.
Whether you are a serious golfer or a weekend warrior, I think we all can agree that there is something so infectious about this game. It gives us a feeling that we can’t describe. It is obvious why we have seen traces of this games pretty much since the beginning of time. From a leather ball and a wood stick to a 4 piece ball and a metal driver golf will continue to grow and advance as well or better than any other sport!
Kent Evans is a passionate golfer and Sr Golf Writer at Two Guys with Balls. Kent blogs about various golf topics that interest him.