As in many other sports, the history of golf does not have a specific origin. As there is no hard evidence, all descriptions of this game often depends on the interpretation of historical documents.
We have numerous mythological references that can serve as a starting point to start a description of the game. The dangerous thing about fables is that they tend to be confused too often with reality. To put it bluntly, there are no documented traces of the game of golf, as we know it today, prior to the mid-15th century.
For instance, there is also not enough evidence to refute the most obvious and well-documented evidence that gambling began on the east coast of Scotland. Similarly, it's known that because of Microgaming starting the first online casino, we eventually ended up with ripper fun with Ripper Casino bonus codes.
However, things sometimes can never be truly certain. We might think that one group of people obviously invented something but never know that it was invented somewhere else beforehand and slipped into the cracks of time.
Research on the origins of golf has focused, above all, on establishing the relationship between golf and other similar pastimes in Europe and on proving the theory that one of these was its precursor. Throughout history, there have been so many types of “ball and stick” games that there is no end to speculation in this field.
Although the lack of proven facts makes it difficult to reach a substantive conclusion, it is both fascinating and revealing to compare other "ball and stick" games with golf, to consider their commonalities, and to study their possible influence on development of it to establish the origins of golf.
Some historians have gone back to the days of ancient Rome, establishing a link between golf and paganism, a game very popular among country people in the early years of the Roman Empire.
Very little is known about the rules of this game, but legend has it that the pagan game was played with a bent stick and a ball made of leather stuffed with feathers.
There is an interesting connection here, and that is that early golf balls were also made of feathers wrapped in leather, although the pagan ball is believed to have been between 10 and 18cm in diameter and the current ball is 42.67mm so that its resemblance to that of golf is not so close.
In the 13th century, there are multiple records of a game similar to golf being played in the Netherlands. Colf, very similar to Golf, was a game that the Dutch played with a stick and a leather ball. The winner was the person who hit a target several hundred meters distant with the fewest hits with the ball.
In France the Chole is documented around 1200, in the newspaper of Adelaide de Savoy there is a representation of a golfer around 1450 and in a devotional book from Flanders, around 1480, there appears the figure of a golfer making a putt towards a hole made in the ice.
Gloucester Cathedral was erected between the 11th and 12th centuries in southwest England. A stained glass window depicting a golfer may be found on the church's west façade. From the mid-14th century, this polychrome stained glass window was created. It is thought to be the world's oldest illustration of golf history.
According to the historian Heiner Gillmeister, the word golf could be a Scottish alteration of the Dutch term kolf or kolv, which means stick and bat. Instead, Robin Bargmann argues that Dutch colf and Scottish golf evolved simultaneously and that both terms come from the Latin word clava, stick, stake.
First testimonies in the history of golf
The first written testimony of the history of golf, as it is known today, comes from the year 1457, when the Scottish parliament, at the request of King James II, prohibited golf and ordered that archery be practiced instead. This interdict was corroborated by King James III (1471) and James IV (1491).
The peace concluded in 1502 between Scotland and England it was suppressed because it was not convenient for the population to carry out paramilitary exercises. Shortly thereafter it became public knowledge that James IV himself played golf when an invoice for golf clubs made for the monarch appeared in the official court accounts.
Golf spread, thanks to royal favor, throughout Great Britain in the 16th century. The first player in golf history to be mentioned (1527) is Sir Robert Maule, who apparently played at Barry Links, near present-day Carnoustie.
The first reference to golf in St. Andrews dates back to 1552, and the following year the Archbishop issued a decree authorizing the population to play on the links (grass-covered coastal dunes).
Later Maria Stuart introduced this sport in France. It is known that she played golf shortly after her husband was assassinated in 1567, for which she was highly criticized. His assistants on the golf course were known as cadets ('students'); the term was later adopted in Scotland and England and became caddy or caddie.
Back in the 1600s, golf was all the rage among the aristocracy in London. At that time, ladies and gentlemen played in full dress and in the very heart of the city, breaking doors, windows and injuring passers-by.
The authorities had to intervene to protect the public and force the players to play on the field. In the notes that a doctor wrote in 1600, one can read that a man was injured while playing golf in the grasslands of Ayr.
In 1608 someone observed the Prince of Wales playing golf on the mansion's greens in Greenwich. From 1620 dates the first mention of the ball called “featherie” (feathery), which consists of a leather sphere filled with boiled feathers. Until then it was probably played with hardwood balls.
The first known club maker in golf history (1603) is William Mayne, named "Royal Clubmaker" by King James VI. The Marquess of Montrose mentions in his account books in 1628 the "payment of four shillings to the young man who had carried my clubs," that is, to the caddy.
The Municipal Council of Aberdeen granted in 1642 a license for the manufacture of golf balls. In 1682 the Duke of York and a cobbler win a game of golf at Leith against two English noblemen. The first international match was played in 1682 at Leigh, when Scotland (represented by the Duke of York and John Paterson) beat an unnamed English duo.
A caddy is also mentioned in this context: Andrew Dickson carried the Duke of York's clubs.
The first course in the history of golf is Scottish
Scotland is where the first permanent golf course was built, and it is also where the first golf clubs were founded. Old Links at Musselburgh Racecourse is the world's oldest golf course.
Golf was played at the Musselburgh Links in 1672, according to records, while it is more likely that Mary I of Scots played there in 1567. The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, headquartered in Muirfield, is the world's oldest golf club.
The first written regulations (Rules of Golf) were compiled there, along with the design of the 18-hole golf course.
According to other sources, the first golf club was the Royal Burgess Golf Society, founded in 1735. In 1744 the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith was formed, which published the first formal golf regulations.
From him, the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was born. The St. Andrews Society of Golfers, later renamed The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A), founded in 1754, is considered to be the oldest golf club still in existence on the same site.
The first golf course outside of Scotland is the "Royal Blackheath" near London, dating from 1766, and in Leith (a suburb of Edinburgh) the first clubhouse was opened in 1768. The first women's golf club was founded at St Andrews in 1967.
Outside Great Britain, the first golf club was created in Bangalore (India) in 1820, according to other sources it happened in Calcutta in 1829, and in Europe, it was in Pau (France) in 1856.
The first golf manual appeared in 1857 under the title "The golfer's manual", written by an author who hid behind the pseudonym "A keen hand". It later emerged that it was H.B. Farney.
The forerunner of the British Open, the first major, was first played in 1860 and was won by Willie Park. The legend of Tom Morris Sr. arose when he won the event in 1862, 1864, and 1867. However, his son, Young Tom Morris, was the first great champion to win the tournament four consecutive times since 1869.
Other illustrious winners included JH Taylor in 1894 and Harry Vardon in 1896. Along with James Braid, these three men became known as the Great Triumvirate.
Golf makes its way out of Europe
There are reasons to assume that golf was played in the United States throughout colonial times, despite the lack of historical evidence. The Yonkers-based St. Andrews Golf Club was founded in 1888. It is said to be the United States' oldest continually operating golf club.
In 1894, the United States Golf Association – USGA was established to regulate the game in the United States and Mexico. In addition to the rules, they dealt with the handicap system. The women's US Open US Amateur was inaugurated in 1895.
The R&A put a size and weight limit on the golf ball in 1921, resulting in a split between the European and American versions of the game (regulated by the USGA). The majority of the disagreements were settled in 1951 when both organizations decided to follow the same set of regulations. The discrepancies in the ball, on the other hand, were not regulated until 1988.
World golf is currently regulated jointly by the R&A and the USGA. Every four years they agree on the modifications that will be published in the Official Rules of Golf.
The Augusta course, one of the most legendary courses in the history of golf, known for its star tournament, The Masters, where the winner is awarded the famous green jacket, was opened in 1933. The first Masters was played there in 1934 and was won by Horton Smith.
Gary Player from South Africa broke the American monopoly by winning it in 1961.
Alan Shephard's shot on the moon in 1971, which was seen by millions of people across the world, is perhaps the most famous golf shot ever made. The stick he used is on display at the USGA Museum.
The history of golf in Spain
The origin of golf in Spain is established at the end of the 19th century at the hands of the British bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Officially it begins in 1891, with the foundation of the Real Club de Golf de Las Palmas.
Its origin is attributed to a project between two golf-loving friends: a Canarian, Juan Domínguez Guedes, and a British architect and course designer, Mackenzie Ross.
This course can be considered as the remote antecedent of golf tourism in Spain, since it is beginning to be known throughout Europe, offering the possibility of playing both in winter and summer, in perfect temperature conditions.
The Real Club Puerta de Hierro was founded in Madrid in 1904 with the support of the aristocracy, particularly Alfonso XIII, who donated the land for the field's construction and the Duke of Alba, who pushed the effort.
The field was used exclusively by club members, belonging to the nobility of the time.
The Real Club de Golf de San Sebastián (1910), the Real Sociedad de Golf de Neguri (1911) and the Real Golf de Zarauz (1916) consolidate the entry of golf into Spain.
Due to demographic pressure, the first two were moved in the 1960s (1968 and 1961) to more spacious grounds, with the additional possibility of expanding the field area and club services. The Basque fields are the first to be created in Cantabrian Spain, under climatic conditions similar to those of the pioneering countries of the sport.
In 1914 the New Barcelona Golf Club (since 1934 San Cugat Golf Club) was inaugurated. It is very important to point out that in 1932 the Federation of Golf Clubs of Spain (later the Royal Spanish Golf Federation) was founded, sponsored by six clubs (Club de Campo, Puerta de Hierro, Lasarte, Pedreña, Neguri and Sevilla).