What is The History of Golf?
Fred Flintstone wins The Loyal Order of Dinosaurs golf tournament. Club president Barney Rubble won’t give him the trophy because Fred hasn’t paid his club dues. And yet another feud begins – only to be settled by long-suffering Wilma and Betty.
Fred’s illustrious win shouldn’t be considered definitive archeological proof that golf has historical roots going back to the Stone Age. But it is an indication that the fanciful love of the game at least goes back more than 50 years ago in the minds of Bedrock’s creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
But how far back did ancient people – excluding the players from the black-and-white days of President Eisenhower – take to the greens and swing sticks at little balls in order to bag a “birdie?”
Early Players Used Sticks to Hit Pebbles
Some historians believe Holland’s Kolven and Belgium’s Chole may have been the earliest versions of the modern form of the sport, according to Golf Europe. Players would often hit pebbles with sticks. Most playing during those times missed a vital aspect of the sport: the hole.
According to historical records, the game in its present form may have manifested in 15th century Britain and Scotland. Scottish kings James II and James IV outlawed the game, believing it interfered with military training, according to The History People. James IV began playing the game in the early 1500s; the game spread to England during a brief peace between the two countries.
The game’s popularity rose among the ruling class following the growing fascination with it by royalty. Mary Queen of Scots had her students, who she called “cadets,” carry her clubs when she played. (Historians believe that is the origin of the word “caddie.”)
During the 1600s, England’s James I appointed official golf club and golf ball makers and lifted the ban on Sunday golf, according to The History People.
Players of all social classes played the game, but rarely mingled on primitive courses. Early courses were largely unorganized with few specific rules and even the number of holes varied. Those in the upper class and nobility played at the few formal courses: Gosford, Blackheath (a 7-hole course) and St. Andrew’s, which holds the title as the cradle of golf.
Players in the lower classes often played in open fields and illustrations show golfers playing among sheep.
The game continued to grow in popularity in the 17th century. Edinburgh’s Leith was considered the finest course at the time and was the site of the first international golf tournament in 1682. England’s King Charles I was reportedly playing on the course when he was informed of the Irish rebellion in 1641.
The first club – the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith – was formed in 1744 to promote annual competitions with a silver golf club as the top prize.
Stay tuned to future articles on the history of golf.
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