Documentation that a golf like predecessor was played in Loenen aan de Vecht, Netherlands in 1297 AD exists. In this game, the Dutch used a stick and leather ball and hit the ball into a targets placed hundreds of yards away. There’s also evidence that the Chinese in the Song Dynasty, 960-1279 AD, had an early version of golf called chuiwan that involved wooden club inlaid with jade and gold. It was a game reserved for the rich. Some officials would get their daughters involved by making them dig the holes used as targets for the game.
Golf’s Scottish Birthplace
Even though it is hotly debated, the birthplace of the modern golf career has been said to be in Scotland. The first officially documented proof of golf is found in Scotland in 1457. It was actually a proclamation put out by King James II of Scotland barring games of what they called gowl or football (golf), because the game proved a distraction to military archery practice. Bans to golf were also created in 1471 and 1491. They called the game “an unprofitable sport.”
Golf’s Rocky Political History
The infamous Mary, Queen of Scots, played golf in 1567 after her husband, Henry Stuart was murdered. Authors wrote that she played sports that were unsuitable to women. During the reign of King James VI of Scotland, parliament banned golf. However, the king had golf balls and clubs bought for him on a trip to Perth in 1502 and on other trips his purchases included more equipment in St. Andrews and Edinburgh. It goes to show you can’t keep a royal man from his royal golf game.
Golf’s First Instructions and Rules
As far as rules go, the first documented instructions for golf have been found in Thomas Kincaid’s diary. He was a medical student and played at the Bruntsfield Links course by Edinburgh University. The oldest golf rule books still around were written for The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1744. Today, you can see them on display in the National Library of Scotland and are now referred to as the “Leith Rules”.
England Golf Love Affair Spreads
With the invent of a regular rail service between London and Edinburgh in the 1860′s, a tourist boom hit Scotland. This brought Scottish culture, including golf, to the forefront and increased golf’s spread through the English countryside. By 1887, there were 50 golf courses in England, and this increased to over 1000 in 1914. Golf programs were established in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, and even Singapore by 1891.
Golf in the Red, White, and Blue (USA)
There were advertisements of golf balls and clubs in New York City newspapers as early as 1779. The United States Golf Association (USGA) was officially formed in 1894. Golf increased in popularity in the US after World War II. In 1950, the Ladies Professional Golf Tour was launched. By the late 1950′s, CBS was covering PGA events.
Golf Continues to Spread
The world’s love affair with the golf game continues. When Tiger Woods came on the scene in 1996, the pro golf program received huge increases in TV ratings, sponsorship, and popularity.