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A Brief History of Golf

Mar 21, 2008
Out of all the games of the world golf is one of the most popular. Irrespective of class or wealth golf is open to all sectors of the community but it is a game that generates massive incomes for television companies, golfing resorts, professional golfers and lots of other people. Out of all the luxurious golf resorts many golfers would class the Scottish town of St Andrews as the most important place to play at least one round. Scotland is known throughout the world as the home of golf.

Besides Scotland there are a few other places that claim to be the home of golf. The French have two games which many like to think of as a forerunner to golf, chole and jeu de mail, but no real evidence exists to back up the theory. Kolven, which is a Dutch game still played today has some interesting points but, again, it fails to withstand scrutiny as the source of the modern game of golf.

An ancient Roman game called paganica is one of the most interesting. Once popular across Europe this game used a ball which, like the old golf balls known as featheries, was made by stuffing feathers into a small leather pouch. However it is only golf that involves the goal of getting the ball into the hole.

Few would dare to question the fact that it is the Scottish game of gowf that is the true forerunner of modern golf. It not only sounds the same it is the same in every sense. First played as early as the 12 century gowf was widely played, on ground known as links, all along the east coast of Scotland.

Links got their name because they linked the beaches to the rich farmland further inland. The soil was far to poor for anything except for grazing sheep and cattle. The effects of grazing livestock and the grazing of plenty of rabbits, meant that the grass was kept short. This created the correct environment for all forms of recreation but the fact that it was also rather lumpy or hilly meant that it was perfect for use in golf.

We know for a fact that, by 1457, golf had become a very popular pastime. It was so popular that the king of Scotland, James II, attempted to ban the sport by act of parliament. He was convinced that the men of Scotland would be far better off devoting their time in practicing for war and wished that they would take up archery and the likes instead. A fact that could be said to be supported by the Scottish defeats of later years.

Before a century had passed when, in 1552, the citizens of the small town of St Andrew had been granted a charter which stated that they could use the links for recreation. Listed amongst the games that could be played was golf. Further proof of the games popularity can be found in plenty of church records which show a great many folk being punished for playing golf on the Sunday Sabbath.

One of the oldest golf clubs is the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. In 1744, when it was known as the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, they asked Edinburgh City Council to supply a prize of a silver golf club for a competition. The competition was to be held annually on Leith Links and the winner would keep the silver club until it was passed to the next years winner.

Surprisingly it was not until the very end of the 19th century (in 1897) that an official set of rules were developed by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. It wasn't until 1951, when the United States Golf Association and the R & A produced an official international set of rules, that the modern game of golf was defined.
About the Author
If you are looking for golf hotels or just want to visit St Andrews you should visit Virtual Scotland's accommodation listings of St Andrews Hotels .
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