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The History of Golf

The History of Golf

Golf as we know it was invented in Scotland, but its roots stretches back into Flanders. The first record of “Chole” is from 1353 and portrays a something that could be described as a mix between hockey and golf played in Flanders (Belgium). The game was preferably played on ice and the players used sticks curved at the bottom to move balls from starting point to finish point. Since Scottish and Dutch merchants traveled a lot between the two regions and traded with each other, the game played in Flanders soon spread to Scotland where it developed on the grassy Scottish fields and soon ceased to be a winter game. It was the Scots that started to dig holes in the ground instead of simply selecting a finishing point. Digging a hole in the Dutch ice had naturally not been a good idea.

Even though the game changed a great deal after being introduced in Scotland, the balls where still often imported from Flanders. The more patriotic Scots claim that golf instead evolved from different stick-and-ball games that we know were played all over the British Isles as early as the Middle Ages. These games were inspired by a stick-and-ball game introduced to the British Isles by the Romans.

The first record of the term golf is from 1457 when King James II of Scotland outlawed golf as well as soccer, since the games were so popular that they made the king’s archers skip their practice and play golf and soccer instead. James III re-issued this law in 1471, and James IV followed in his footsteps with a new ban in 1491. Golf did however continue its development in Scotland despite the ban. Even during these early days, all the essential parts of golf had already been invented. The players used a club to swing a ball into a hole in the ground. The player that managed to get the ball into the hole using the least amount of strokes won.

The word gold is derived from the Old Scots words “goff” or “glove”, and these words in turn derive from “kolf” or “kolve”, medieval Dutch words that simply meant club. When the words kolf and kolve were imported to Scottland, the old Scottish dialect transformed the letter K into G, and the game was called Goff, Glove, Golve and Gowl. During the 16th century, the word Golf became established.

The ban on golf had been issued in a time when Scotland was preparing to defend itself from the English. In 1502, the Treaty of Glasgow made it possible for James I of England (King James IV) to lift the ban. He even began to play himself and turned into a keen golf enthusiast. The game became highly fashionable and its popularity spread over the British Isles during the 16th century, partly thanks to King Charles I who loved to play golf. Mary Queen of Scots had French roots and she introduced the game to the French while she attended school in France. The word “caddie” actually steams from a French word – cadet. The cadets of the French Military helped Mary Queen of Scots when she played golf.

Two of the oldest golf courses in the world are Leith and the Old Links. Leith is located close to Edinburgh and the Old Links is found at Musselburgh. When King Charles I received the news about the Irish rebellion in 1641 he was actually standing at Leith. The Old Links was founded in 1672. The first international golf match took place at Leith in 1682. The Duke of York and George Patterson (playing for Scotland) managed to beat two English players. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until 1744 that the first known golf rules were written down and published in Edinburgh.