The history of golf spans a couple of centuries. If you want to appreciate this sport and you are serious about playing it, you should know where all of this started.
The origin of golf as a sport
The first record of a similar game can be found in the Boeck Merlijn. It is a Middle Dutch manuscript written by Flemish poet, Jacob van Maerlant in 1261. In that manuscript, a ball game called “mit ener coluen” or colg/kolf was described.
Another golf-like game was recorded back in 1297 in Loenen aan de Vecht. The Dutch played using a stick and a leather ball. Players would hit the ball into a target that is placed hundreds of yards away. Whoever can make the ball reach the target with the least amount of hits will win the game. If you know how modern day golf works, you will agree that this game is right where the sport started.When it came to the notion of “putting a ball in a hole” a lot of experts believe that the idea came from the games played in Netherlands back in the 17th century.
There are several references of games over time that seems to hint that they started the history of golf. You can see where bits and pieces of where everything started. Like playing on a course that is dedicated to the sport of “colf”. Back then, they played the game on fields from spring to fall while the ice was used during the winter.
But the official reference to the origin of golf is traced back to Scotland. In fact, modern golf, as we know it, is usually referred to as a Scottish invention – a sport that they used to call gowf. The term is related to the German word “kolben” which means “club or mace”.
Important milestones in the history of golf
With a lot of information about the history of golf, let us focus on the important timelines and milestones that led to what we know and practise of the sport today.
- 15th century: The modern game of golf started in Scotland.
- 1457: Golf was banned by the Scottish Parliament after deciding that it was interfering with archery practise (which was important for national defense). This was reaffirmed in 1471 and 1491.
- 1500: The ban was lifted after King James IV started playing it.
- 1724: Golf balls are made stuffed with feathers. It used to be made of hard leather.
- 1729: First known reference of the sport in the USA – specifically with clubs being recorded in the Governor of Massachusetts’ estate.
- 1744: The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers came up with the first Rules of Golf.
- 1754: The Society of St Andrews Golfers was formed. In 1834, they changed their name to be called the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
- 1764: The 22 holes at the Old Course at St Andrews was reduced to 18 holes. This became the format for all golf courses around the world.
- 1848: The sport started using the gutta percha ball.
- 1860: The first Open Championship held at the Prestwick. This game was won by Scottish Willie Park Senior.
- 1885: The first amateur event was organised. Leading clubs were encouraged to send entrants for the Amateur Championship held at Hoylake. Allan MacFie of England won this game.
- 1890: Persimmon became the preferred wood for club heads.
- 1893: The Ladies’ Golf Union was established in the UK. This was also the same time when the British Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship was played. Lady Margaret Scott of England won.
- 1894: The USGA (United States Golf Association) was formed in New York. 5 charter members soon formed under the USGA.
- 1895: The US Amateur Championship and the US Open was held at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. The winners, respectively, were Charles B Macdonald from the US and Horace Rawlins from England. The same year marked the first US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship that was won by Lucy Barnes Brown from the US.
- 1900: Golf was included in the Paris Olympic Games.
- 1901: The PGA (Professional Golfer’s Association) was formed in the UK.
- 1916: The PGA of America was formed.
- 1921: The Ryder Cup was played between professional golfers from the USA and Great Britain. The latter won.
- 1922: The first Walker Cup was played and won by representatives from the USA.
- 1929: Steel shafted clubs were accepted to be used in games.
- 1932: The first Curtis Cup was played between women golfers and won by the USA.
- 1934: The first Masters was played and won by Horton Smith.
- 1946: The US Women’s Open was played and won by Patty Berg of the USA.
- 1950: The LPGA (Ladies’ Professional Golfers’ Association was formed in the USA.
- 1953: The first televised golf tournament, the Tam O’ Shanter World Championship, was held.
- 1958: The World Amateur Golf Council was formed.
- 1980’s: Metal woods that is made out of stainless steel were first used.
- 1994: The first Evian Masters was played and won by Helen Alfredsson from Sweden.
- 2000’s: Different materials like titanium, tungsten, graphite, and carbon fibre were used on golf clubs.
- 2003: The International Golf Federation became the new name of the World Amateur Golf Council.
- 2016: Golf was included in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics – a first in 112 years.
So far, this is what we have on the history of golf. Obviously, more will be added in the years to come. Do you think you want to be a part of history before something new happens?