History is an interesting subject, more so when it comes to the history of golf.
I’ve been going through loads of relevant sources to help me compile an accurate history of golf- how it came to be, where and when it started, and how it has changed over the years to the game we know and love today.
Believe it or not, I found out that the earliest forms of golf date back to 100BC, in the Roman paganica game, where players hit a stuffed leather ball using a bent stick.
Around 960-1279, some other forms of golf-known as chuíw án- were played in China using a ball and several clubs.
But the actual origin of the modern-day game is traced to Scotland- way back to 15th century.
Now come with as I take you through the true chronological events of how golf has evolved through the years into the modern-day sport we all love…
1457: An Act Banning Golf Passed in Scotland
Golf didn’t rise to be a great game today without going through a fair share of challenges. This is concerning the ban it faced back in 1457 when the Scottish parliament successfully passed several acts prohibiting practicing and playing the game alongside football (soccer).
The reason behind it was that it was interfering with archery practice which was a necessity for national defense.
Note that the first act was passed by King James II of Scotland in 1457, and it was then reaffirmed in 1471 and 1491.
1500: Ban on Golf Lifted
Years passed by with no golf. Scot lost kings James II and James III in battles even when their soldiers have excellently honed their archery skills. It was this time that they realized that golf has no direct impact on archery training and practice.
Thus, King James IV lifted the ban on the game and within two years, he played the game himself!
1552: The Saint Andrews “Old Course” Story
It was in this year when Archbishop Hamilton’s Charter recognized the rights of St. Andrews folks to play golf on the Old Course.
1567: The Game Was Not Without “Scandals.”
Challenges in the sport were from over as it was evident in 1567 when the royal family was once again at it.
What happened in this year?
Well, Mary Queens of Scots is said to have gone out to play golf around three days after the death of her husband, Lord Darnley.
You can imagine what outrage this action might have caused.
1603: Golf Starts Spreading Out of Scotland
From what we’ve seen so far, golfing was confined to Scot probably for the entire 15th century.
However, this will change in 1603 when King James VI ascends to English throne. And because he didn’t want to part ways with his favorite spoiled walk, he began playing golf at Blackheath in London.
I can only imagine that when English came to learn of this exciting game, they couldn’t be more grateful to Scotland and more so to King James VI.
1724: Introducing The Golf Ball (The “Featherie”)
The earliest form of the golf ball is said to have been made from hard leather and filled with feathers- hence the name stuffed feathers.
There are differences to this ball…for instance, it’s traced to Netherlands, with reference to a 1657 poem.
But given that Scotland is the origin of golf and has a nearly accurate history of the same, we’ll take its written reference to the featherie, and the credit goes to Alan Ramsay, a man mentioned in the poem entitled- The Chronicles of Golf.
1729: Golf in the United States
Five years forward, the game hits the United States, the new world!
The first reference to this old sport is traced to a grand estate that belonged to William Burnet, the then Governor of Massachusetts.
The fact that Burnet had royal ties, with William III being his godfather, it’s not a surprise how he came to learn how to play this game in his estate in the US.
1744: The Making of Golf Rules
Up to this point, the game must have been well established on both sides of the Atlantic…but no rules existed, so they just made the rules of the game on the spot.
But this changed for the better when the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers entered the scene in 1744 and introduce the very first book of golf rules. Being the first official set of golf rules, it was no doubt that the time and tide of this interesting game was set and irreversible.
The better half of the 1700s was filled with enjoyable golfing moments until 1754- a decade later- when the St. Andrews Golfers society was formed. Many years later (in 1834), they’d change their name to what we’re all familiar with- the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
1754: Scots At It Again
Let’s take a walk back to Scot, the home of golf. The Scots continue taking up the role of revolutionizing “their” game, notably the St. Andrews folks who seemed to be on a special mission to leave their mark on this sport.
One way that they revolutionized the game forever was reducing the number of holes at the Old Course from 22 to the current 18. Keep in mind that this bold change gave the game its true form.
1848: Introduction of The Gutta Percha Ball
Entering the 1800s, the game oversaw much more massive changes that set its standards into the golf we know today. In 1848, the Gutta Percha Ball replaced the featherie. This was a solid ball made (made by softening gutta percha strips in boiling water, and then hand molding it before dipping it cold water to harden it).
1860: Birth of Golf Championship
The 1800s were truly defining moments for gold…in 1860, the first EVER golf championship was organized at Prestwick, and it was won by Willie Park Senior- a Scottish!
Things got better in 1885 when the Royal Liverpool Golf Club secretary introduced the idea of an amateur event, where different leading clubs were asked to send entrants. This led to the first Amateur Championship being played at Hoylake in 1885. This time, an English man by the name Allan MacFie won.
The Ladies’ Golf Union was also formed in 1893 in the UK which led to the first British Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship. This was played at Royal Lytham & St Annes and was won by England’s Lady Margaret Scott.
NOTE: It was in between these amateur and ladies’ championships (or in the 1890s that Persimmon became the popular choice of wood for making golf club heads).
1894: Formation of United States Golf Association (USGA) in New York
And one of the body’s key functions? Right, it was tasked with giving questions to amateur queries about golf.
A year after the formation of this club, the US would hold its first chain of championships for amateurs as well as women.
The 1900s and Beyond: More Championships
Now that the game has already taken shape and spread all over, the 1990s saw more golf societies came up. Besides, more events and competitions were organized.
Let’s highlight some of the most notable events throughout the 1990s and beyond below:
- 1900: golf played at the Paris Olympic Games-1901: the first PGA (Professional Golfers Association) was formed in the UK
- 1904: golf played for the second time in the Olympic Games- in St. Louis
- 1916: American PGA created and the very first US PGA championship played
- 1921: The first Ryder Cup played at Gleneagles
- 1922: The first Walker Cup played at National Golf Links of America, Southampton
- 1930: Bobby Jones completes the Amateur Championship, the Grand Slam of The Open, US Amateur Championship, and the US Open in a single season
- 1932: the first Curtis Cup played at Wentworth and won by the USA
- 1946: The first US Women’s Open played at Spokane Country Club, Washington
- 1950: The LPGA (Ladies Professional Golfers Association) formed in the USA
- 1953: the Tam O’ Shanter World Championship of Golf goes down the history as the first ever US golf tournament in the US to be televised on a national TV
- 1955: the first LPGA Championship held at Orchard Ridge Country Club
- 1958: the World Amateur Golf Council formed by the 35 national amateur golf organizations’ representatives
- 1976: The first Women’s British Open held at Fulford Golf Club
- 1994: Evian Masters half for the first time in Evian-Les-Bains, France and won by a Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson
- 2003: World Amateur Golf Council becomes International Golf Federation
- 2009: the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes for the sport to return to the Olympics games at Rio de Janeiro
- 2010: the 150th Open Championship anniversary played at the Old Course, St Andrews
- 2012: preparations for the 2016 golf Olympic Games begin at Barra da Tijuca
- 2016: golf played at the Rio Olympics for the first time in up to 112 years
History of Golf- A Wrap-Up
Doubtlessly, golf has a great history. It has a home in Scotland. It has a royal background, has gone through challenges, significant changes, etc., over the years. But most importantly, the 1800s set the real standards of the modern-day golf as we can see from the events in the above post.