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The Origin of Golf

Golf dates back to the time of Julius Caesar. Although it was not the golf that is played today, it was a similar game. They played by striking a feather-stuffed ball with club-shaped tree branches. Golf was also traced back to the Song Dynasty in China during the years 960 to 1279. The games of these times were not exactly the golf that is known today; the roots of today’s game can be traced back to Scotland in 1457. The game was then outlawed by King James II of Scotland, as it detracted from the training for the military. Golf became a pastime in Great Britain in the seventeenth century, and that was a familiar theme throughout the world. In 1860, the first British Open, a tournament that is still played today, had taken place.

The popularity of the sport then began to spread throughout the entire world. The first permanent golf club in North America was founded in Montreal, Canada, in 1873 and was named “Canada’s Royal Montreal Club.” The US caught wind of this and decided to embrace the golf craze as well. The first 18-hole course in the United States was in The Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1893. In the 1850s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands. The railways came to St Andrews in 1852. By the 1860s there were fast and regular services from London to Edinburgh.

The royal enthusiasm for Scotland, the much improved transport links and the writings of Sir Walter Scott caused a boom for tourism in Scotland and a wider interest in Scottish history and culture outside of the country. This period also coincided with the development of the Gutty; a golf ball made of Guetta Pecha which was cheaper to mass-produce, more durable and more consistent in quality and performance than the feather-filled leather balls used previously. Golf began to spread across the rest of the British Isles. In 1864 the golf course at the resort of Westward Ho! Became the first new club in England since Blackheath, and the following year London Scottish Golf Club was founded on Wimbledon Common.

In 1880 England had 12 courses, rising to 50 in 1887 and over 1000 by 1914. The game in England had progressed sufficiently by 1890 to produce its first English-born Open Champion, John Ball. The game also spread further across the empire. By the 1880s golf clubs had been established in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. Singapore followed in 1891. Courses were also established in several continental European resorts for the benefit of British visitors. The United States Golf Association (USGA) is formed in New York. One of its most important functions was to serve as arbiter for questions of amateur status. The five charter members of the newly formed the USGA were the St. Andrew’s Golf Club of Yonkers, N.Y., Newport (R.I.) Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill.

The governing body of golf began as the United States Golf Association (USGA) in the year 1894. Then the current governing body of today, the Professional Golf Association of America was founded in 1916. Both amateurs and professionals are allowed to play in open events like the US Open and the British Open, which are “open” to the public. Today, it is the golf courses themselves that reflect the history of the game, with the US courses presented as beautifully sculptured and manicured landscaped parklands, unlike those in Britain, which are typically rough links courses with bunkers you can hide London Double Decker buses in! Some of the most famous golf courses in the world are still to be found in Scotland: their names evoke the passion and tradition of the game of golf. Gleneagles, The Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Prestwick, to name but a few…

The Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era brought with it many changes. The birth of the railways allowed ordinary people to explore outside of their towns and cities for the first time, and as a consequence golf clubs began to appear all over the countryside. Mass production methods were adopted to manufacture the clubs and balls, making the game more affordable to the average person. The game’s popularity exploded! ’If your ball comes among water, or any watery filth, you are at liberty to take out your ball and bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any club and allow your adversary a stroke for so getting out your ball.’

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