As one of the most popular pastimes in the world, it is no real surprise to hear that golf dates back hundreds of years. While there is some debate over the origins of the game, it is widely accepted that modern golf was developed in Scotland during the Middle Ages. Even their softer southern brothers, the English, can’t complain about that one and why would they want to anyhoo!
But what are some of the other less known yet interesting facts about the ancient roots of the game? And how did golf grow into the renowned sport that it is today? Here to explain the history of golf is Golf Clothing Direct, one of the most knowledgeable and well respected suppliers of all things golf.
The Modern Game
The first mention of golf or “gowf” appears in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament. King James II put a ban on the game as he felt it was a distraction from archery practice for military purposes. He was clearly not very happy with this young upstart and its distraction of his troops from the serious business of practising ready for a potential war!
But in spite of the fact that this ban was lifted in 1502 when the Treaty of Glasgow came into effect, it took another 200 years or so for the game to develop into basically what we know it as today. That may seem like a long time but compared to some other sports it is but a drop in the sporting ocean!
Between 1750 and 1850, some of the world’s most prominent golf clubs were fast becoming established, including the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which officially came into being at Leith Links on 7th March 1744. Today, it still remains the world’s oldest golf club but now resides at Muirfield, a short hop away, in all of its splendour!
In the same year as their foundation, they also drafted the first 13 rules of golf, which were used in a competition for a silver golf club.
Rules and Competition Play
Ten years later on 14th May 1754, 22 “Noblemen and Gentlemen” formed the Society of St Andrews Golfers. A fabulous bunch of chaps they were too! Every year, they also held a competition for a silver club and adopted the same rules as their counterparts in Leith.
But 20 years after inception, they changed their name to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Today, the R&A is the rulemaking body for golf throughout the entire world, except for the USA and Mexico.
A number of events continued to take place in St Andrews over the course of the next century, which all happily contributed to the evolution of the modern game. In 1764, the number of holes on the Links, which later became known as the Old Course, was reduced from 22 to 18, and this is now the accepted standard format for all golf courses.
Robert Paterson also developed the “gutta percha” ball in the town and with its superb durability encouraged the development of iron-faced clubs too.
Generally speaking, there were two men that changed the face of course design forever. The first was Old Tom Morris, who still holds the records for the oldest British Open champion at the tender age of 46 and greatest margin of victory with 13 shots!
However, he is also credited with inventing the dogleg (sharp angles on the course) and went on to design several of the world’s best-known courses including the Old and New Course in St Andrews, Nairn, and Royal Dornoch.
The second man is James Braid, who pioneered the use of aluminium-headed putters, but was also responsible for more than 250 courses through the British Isles such as the King’s and Queen’s Courses at Gleneagles.
A Gift to the World!
From all this to today, Golf has become one of the best loved and most eagerly followed games across the planet. It brings people and continents closer together and offers a fantastic game that all, young and old alike, can play.
Who knows what evolutionary improvements will come along next into the game. Long may it all continue we say!