On February 26, 1297 a golf type of game took place in Loenen aan de Vecht, Netherlands. The game was played with a stick and a leather ball. The object of the game played by the Dutch was to hit the ball into a target several hundred yards away. The winner of the game was determined by the least amount of strokes it took to get the ball to the target. There was a similar game developed in the Netherlands in the 17th century that historians debate as being the earliest game of golf. The 17th century game was played with golf clubs and required the ball to be hit into a hole in the ground, predating the game in Scotland. Europe reports golf-type games throughout its history, predating the Scotland game.
New evidence discovered in April 2005 rejuvenated the debate on the origins of golf. Ling Hongling, a professor at Lanzhou University, found evidence of a golf type game played in the Tang Dynasty, nearly 500 years before the earliest mention of the game in Scotland.
Records from the 960 to 1279 Song Dynasty, the Dongxuan Records, depict a golf type game called chuiwan, complete with drawings. There was a total of ten different clubs. These clubs include ones that were comparable to the driver, cuanbang, the two-wood, pubang, and the three-wood, shaobang. The clubs used in this game had jade and gold inlays. These types of clubs suggested that the game was only played by the wealthy members of the society. In the archives found a Southern Tang official had requested that is his daughter dig holes in the ground to be used as targets for the balls. Professor Hongling believes that the golf type game, chuiwan, was brought to Europe and then to Scotland during the Middle Ages by Mongolian travelers.
The First Games of Golf in Scotland
Scotland is said to have invented the golf game that is known today. A spokesperson for the earliest Scottish organizations, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, stated that there have been stick and ball games around for many years, but the modern day version of golf originally came from Scotland. The word golf in Scotland is gouf. The word is thought to be an alteration of the Dutch word colf, or colve, which can be translated as stick, club, or bat. The Dutch language is related the Proto-Germanic language kulth. The Old Norse word kolfr translates to bell clapper. The German word Kolben translates to mace or club. The Dutch word Kolven it related to the sport of golf.
The 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament was the document to mention the game of golf, or gowf. King James II prohibited the games of gowf and football from being played, because they distracted players from practicing archery for the purpose of the military. There were additional bans enacted in 1471 and 1491, describing the game as an unprofitable sport. In 1567, the Queen of Scots, Mary, had her political enemies accuse her of playing golf her second husband, Lord Darnley, Henry Stuart, was murdered. It was written by George Buchanan that she was playing sports that had been deemed unsuitable for women. King James VI of Scotland's parliament banned golf again. In 1502, King James received a set of golf clubs and balls when he visited Perth. He also received equipment when he visited St. Andrews and Edinburgh.
On March 2, 1672, Sir John Foulis of Ravelston recorded in his account book that he competed in a game of golf at the Musselburgh Links. Because of this record, The Old Links, Musselburgh has been designated as the original golf course. In 1567, it is said that Mary, Queen of Scots also played on the course.
The Rules, Instructions, and Competitions of Golf Clubs
Thomas Kincaid, a medical student, wrote the earliest set of instructions for the game of golf in his diary. He played at the Brunstfield Links near the Edinburgh University and at the Leith Links. He included notes on the first version of a handicap system. In the January 20, 1687 entry, he made a notation about going out to the Golve and continued to describe his golf stroke.
He stated that the only way to play at the Golve was to take a fencing stance. He said that bending slightly at the kness by holding the muscles of your legs, back and arms should be stiff or in a fixed position with no slack at all as you are bringing the stoke down.
The Company of Gentlemen Golfers, or the Honouable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, wrote the earliest set of rules in 1744. They played these games at the Leith Links. The Leith Rules, first written up as the Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf, have been preserved in the National Library of Scotland. The document claimed that the Leith Links was the earliest golf club. This claim was supported by an almanac that was published a century later, despite the rival claim of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society being set up in 1735. The Leith Rules are the set of instructions that the current rules and instructions evolved from. One of the rules states that the tee must be placed on the ground. Another rule states that the ball that a person strikes off of the tee could not be changed.
In 1744, there was a Gentlemen Golfers' Competition for the Silver Club, which provided the winner with a silver golf club trophy, was sponsored by the Edinburgh Town Council. John Rattray, a surgeon won the tournament. Per the rules of the competition, he was required to attach a silver ball with his name engraved on it. This began a long standing tradition for the tournament. In 1745 John Rattray joined the Jacobite Rising. Doing so, resulted in his imprisonment in Inverness. The Lord President of the Court of Session and fellow golfer, Duncan Forbes of Culloden pleaded on his behalf, saving him from being hanged. In 1747, John Rattray was released from prison. He went on the win the Silver Club two more times.
The First Excursions
James VI of Scotland took over the throne of England in 1603. The Prince of Wales, James VI son, Henry Fredrick, and his friends participated in golf competitions at Blackheath, London. The Royal Blackheath Golf Club origins can be traced back this far. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Scottish soldiers, expatriates, and emigrants spread the game of golf through the British colonies and other places. The oldest clubs outside of the British Isles and on continental Europe are the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, established in 1829, and the Pau Club in south western France, established in 1856. Golf only began to become increasingly popular outside Scotland in the 19th century.
The Golf Boom of the Late 19th Century
Balmoral Castle was 1852s constructed in the Scottish Highlands by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 1850s. In 1852, the railroad was constructed in St. Andrews. Fast and regular services from London and Edinburgh became available as of 1860. Between the writings of Sir Walter Scott, the improved transport system, and royal excitement for Scotland, tourism boomed. This resulted in people becoming interested in Scottish history and culture. In the 1860s, the evolution of the Gutty ball began. The Gutty ball was constructed from a material called Gutta Percha. This material made the ball cheaper to produce. This ball was more durable than others before it. The quality of the ball was more consistent and the performance of the ball was better than the ball that had been filled with feathers in the previous years. The rest of the British Isles started to see a surge in the game of golf. The Westward Ho Golf Course was constructed in 1864. This was the first new course to be constructed since the Blackheath course. By 1880, there were 12 courses throughout England. In 1187, the number of course rose to 50. By 1914, England had over 1000 courses. By 1890, the game of golf progressed in England enough for the first Open Championship games to be held. The first Open Champion was John Ball. The game of golf continued to spread throughout the English empire. Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa had all constructed golf clubs by the 1880s. In 1891, Singapore had constructed golf clubs. Several continental European resorts constructed golf courses to benefit the British visitors.
Golf in the United States
In 1796, the Georgia Gazette published the yearly general meeting for the golf club, establishing it as the first evidence of golf being played in the United States. In 1779, the earliest advertisement for golf clubs and balls was printed in New York City in the Royal Gazette. Even though these things were being printed, it was not until the late 19th century, much like in England, that golf began to become an established sport. There are many clubs that debate on which one is the oldest. In 1894, delegates from seven different clubs, Newport Country club, Saint Andrew's Golf Club, Yonkers, New York, The Country Club, Chicago Golf Club, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, met in New York City to form United States Golf Association (USGA). There were 267 golf clubs that formed by 1910. He roaring twenties brought on a surge in popularity for the game of golf. The USGA had 1,100 clubs associated with it by 1932. The earliest American to win the British Open Championship was Walter Hagen in 1922. This was the first sign of the United States dominance when it came to the game of golf. The Great Depression and World War II brought a halt to the spread of the game. The post war years allowed the game to continue its expansion. The USGA affiliated clubs grew to 5,000 by 1980. There are more than 9,700 clubs as of today.
Golf in Japan
The Meji Restoration of 1868 took its toll on Japan. Japan made an effort to modernize its economy and modernize its industry in the west. The Japanese began traveling to Europe and America to begin trading and study the latest evolution in business, science, and technology. Europeans and Americans traveled to Japan to create schools, factories, shipyards, and banks.
In Kobe, Japan, a group of British expatriates created the first golf club in 1903. The Tokyo Golf Club in Komazawa was formed in 1913 by native Japanese travelers, who played the game while in the United States. The Japan Golf Association was formed in 1924 by the seven golf clubs that existed throughout the country. There were several new courses constructed throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The Great Depression and anti-westerner way of life kept the game from expanding. In 1941, when the Japanese waged attacks on the United States and the British Empire, they had constructed 23 courses throughout the country. The courses were used for the military or agricultural production throughout the war.
Occupying forces took control of golf courses throughout Japan during the postwar time period. In 1952, Japan began to take control of the courses, once again. There were 72 courses throughout Japan by 1956. Torakichi Nakamura and Koichi Ono won the Canada Cup, or what is now known as the World cup, which took place in Japan in 1957. This was one of the factors that were seen as created the post war golf boom in Japan. The number of golf courses in Japan rose from 195 to 424 during the four year period of 1960 to 1964. There were over 1,000 courses by the early 1970s. The Resort Law of 1987 reduced the protection of agricultural land and forest preservation, allowing for a bigger boom in the building of courses, resulting in 2,400 courses being built by 2009. There are golf resorts being created across the Pacific Rim as a result of the popularity of the game in Japan. The affect these booms have on the environment is a source of concern for many of the people of Japan.
The Evolution of the Golf Course
Eighteen holes have not always been the standard of golf courses. There is a narrow strip of land by the sea that the St. Andrews Links occupy. From the 15th century on, the players of the St. Andrews Links formed a trench through the terrain. The topography of the land has dictated the locations of the holes. The course was established from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. There were only 11 holes. A golfer would play the hole to the end of the property, and then play the hole back to the clubhouse. This allowed him to have a 22 holes game. As the years went on, there were a few holes that were considered too short. In 1764, these holes were combined. The number of holes throughout the course was reduced from 11 to 9. When a golfer played one way and then back the other, the course consisted of 18 holes. St. Andrew's was considered the golfing capital. All other courses were designed to include the 18 holes, like that of St. Andrew's.
The Evolution of Golfing Equipment
The growth of the golf game can be explained by the evolution of the equipment used to play the sport. The evolution of the golf ball is one of the notable advancements of the game. In the 1930s, the United States Golf Association (USGA) set the standards for the weight and size of the ball. Before this took place, there were many different forms of the ball. After these standards were put in place, the USGA created a regulation about golf balls. The regulation said the standard golf ball should not exceed a velocity of 250 feet per second. The golf ball has continued to evolve and impact the way the competitions are played since the regulations and standards have been put in place.
The evolution of golf clubs is another notable advance in the game of golf. The first versions of golf clubs were constructed from the wood that was available in the area. Throughout the years Hickory was used to construct the shaft of the club, while American Persimmon was used for the head of the club, because it was a hardwood that had strength to it. The evolution of the golf ball from a feathered filled ball to the "gutty" ball in 1850 allowed for the evolution of golf club heads from the American Persimmon wood to iron. In the late 1890s, the shaft of the club also evolved into steel. These types of clubs were not popular when first introduced. It was a slow process, but eventually they were more widely used. The shaft further evolved into a graphite material in the 1970s. This material was used, because it was light weight and strong. The earliest metal "wood" driver was introduced to the game in the early 1980s. Metal club heads replaced wood heads, because it was a versatile product to use and it was stronger than wood. The use of graphite shafts and titanium heads is one of the latest golf club technologies used. The use of titanium allows for the larger club head. The club face can now be thinner, because of the strength of the materials now being used. The thinner construction allows for an increase of the spring on the club on the ball. This spring creates a greater distance for the ball to travel. There has been a restriction placed on the spring effect, also known as the Coefficient of Restitution (COR), of the club head by the USGA. They maximum size of the club head is 460cc and the maximum spring effect allowed is .83. The USGA wants the game to maintain a challenge.