Where did golf originate from? Many people debate the history of golf, especially the earliest variants. While there is still much that many experts and historians don’t quite know yet, there are some definitive facts that we can discuss. You’ll find that the history of golf is quite exciting and that it has changed significantly from its first incarnations.
This is where historians tend to argue as there are several games played throughout history that could be called an early version of modern golf. The earliest known variant comes from the time of Julius Caesar (100BC-44BC). At this point, the game of golf was played in a similar manner to the modern game. The only main differences were in the ball and equipment.
The ball was larger and stuffed with feathers. The clubs were rudimentary compared to today’s version as they were club-shaped branches. However, the overall rules were quite similar as one tried to get the ball into the hole on the other side of the course.
There is also a Chinese variant that became popular during the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD). Called Chuiwan, this game is remarkably like modern golf. First, players are only allowed to use 10 clubs (modern golf allows 14). Players must hit the ball from one side of the course to the other and sink the ball in a hole marked by a colored flag.
Much like today’s game, there were strict social rules, holes of varying difficulty and numerous penalties. The only difference is that the balls came in different sizes and the clubs were slightly different.
Lastly, there is the Dutch game of kolven, which was later named kolf. Played in the 1400s, this game had some similarities to golf include a ball, sticks and a hole to sink the ball into. However, experts argue that this game is more like ice hockey because it was only played on ice and the sticks resembled hockey sticks more than clubs.
While historians may fight about which is the earliest version of golf, no one argues that the modern game started in 1457 Scotland. This was a massively popular sport played by all levels of society and enjoyed by both men and women (contrary to popular belief). The reason we know this is that Mary Queen of Scots was admonished for playing golf the day after her husband had been killed.
The rules had not been set yet, but the game was played with clubs, a ball and a hole like today’s sport. It wasn’t until 1744 that the first official 13 rules were established, which is far from the thousands of rules in today’s sport. Shortly after, in 1764, the Golf Club of St. Andrew designated that golf should be an 18-hole game.
Before this, golf would be 12 holes. Most courses at this point did not have 18 holes, so players would use 10 courses and then play 8 of them again for a full round of 18 holes. The game continued to evolve and reached Britain, where more rules and tournaments were created.
03. British Influence
Despite their short distance, it wasn’t until the 17th century that golf traveled from Scotland to Britain. It became a great pastime and their influence took the game farther than it had ever been. Not only did them cement further rules and social decorum, but they also created some of the most popular tournaments still in effect today.
This is specifically referring to the British Open. The first game was in 1860 and it was open to the public, hence the name. Popularity began to swell so much that the sport of golf became a widely international sport.
04. North America
Shortly after the first British Open golf had migrated to North America. The first North American golf club was established in Montreal, Canada in the year 1873. Advocates of the sport quick brought it to the United States. Just 20 years later the US made its first 18-hole course at the Chicago Golf Club.
It was in the US that many professional golf governing bodies were formed. For example, there was the US Golf Association (USGA) made in 1894 before it turned into the Professional Golf Association of America in 1916. This kept changing until it took on its current incarnation of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA).
The US also hold many of the biggest golf tournaments. There is the US Open for both amateurs and professionals along with professional-only games, like the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This international appeal has cemented golf as a popular sport around the world that many people love. Be it for fitness, skill or pure fun, people from all ages and races come together and love this sport.
05. Equipment Evolution
Experts have a difficult time with the earliest clubs. Some of them look similar to modern clubs while others are just sticks with the semblance of a head at the end. Most date the first modern golf clubs to the 1600s when the troon club was made in Scotland. This was much like today’s club, just the rod was made of wood and wood was also used for the head. Metal heads didn’t come around until a little later.
The ball itself was made of carved wood as early as the 1500s, but in 1618 the game changed with the invention of the featherie. This was a new ball at the time that was made of leather and packed with wet feathers. As the feathers became dry, the ball would stiffen and become round. Unfortunately, the featherie was expensive and made this a game exclusively for the rich.
However, the balls changed again 200 years later and brought it back to the masses. The gutta percha balls were created and they were made from rubber, which was easy to mold and lasted much longer than the expensive featherie balls.
Golf has changed significantly since its inception. While the modern variant started in Scotland, you can see many other versions were played around the world much earlier than the Scottish version. It’s fascinating to see where this game has gone, and you must wonder how it will change in the future. Now you can answer the question: where did golf originate from?