A Brief History of Golf

Monday, March 29th, 2021
Hand placing golf ball

The Origins of Golf

  Golf is a sport that has been played for a very long time. From the reign of Caesar to today,  golf has lasted and has developed into a popular and important sport all over the world.    The beginnings of what would eventually become the game of golf date back to ancient Rome during the time of Julius Caesar. Ancient Romans played by knitting a ball stuffed with feathers with branches from trees. Golf-like games have also been traced back to China during the Song Dynasty from 960 to 1279. The Dutch used to play a game that consisted of using sticks to hit a leather ball toward a target placed a few hundred yards away.  The player who reached the target with the fewest shots won the game. The roots of modern golf can be traced to Scotland during the mid-1400s as well.  

Scottish Influence

  As mentioned before, there is evidence of several stick and ball games throughout time. However, Scotland is responsible for the modern version of golf played today. The Scottish sport, which was actually called golf,  had a characteristic that sets it apart from comparable sports throughout history: the hole. This version of the game can be traced back to the mid-1400s in Scotland.   Golf was originally cited in an Act of Scottish Parliament in 1457, which prohibited the sport along with soccer. King James II of Scotland banned these pastimes because he thought they distracted from military training. King James believed that developing archery skills would be a more advantageous sporting activity. Restrictions on golf were eventually removed with the Treaty of Glasgow in 1502, but not before several more bannings.     Now, the Scots are very proud of the heritage of golf they possess. Scotland boasts many very old courses that are still visited and played to this day.  The country continues to play a role in the continuing story of the game.  

Developing Rules for the Game

   The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is one of the world’s oldest golf institutions. They founded the first known rules of golf in 1744 by publishing a book of 13 articles called “Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf.” This is the oldest set of rules for the game that we know of. These rules were embraced with very few changes in 1754 by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which would eventually become the governing body for golf in England.  The ancient book of rules, an undeniably important piece of golf history, remains in the National Library of Scotland.

Golf Spreads Across the Globe

  Scottish expatriates, military, and immigrants spread golf all over Britain during the 18th century. Yet, golf didn’t obtain its international presence until the 19th century. The earliest golf courses known outside of England were in neighboring France, where the Royal Calcutta Golf Club was established. By 1880, golf had expanded into Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and South Africa.   Golf continued to advance in popularity on the British Isles. In the late 1800s, Britain was home to just 10 golf courses. That number quickly expanded to 1000 golf courses by 1914. In 1860, the inaugural British Open took place and is still a tournament played today. The fame of golf then began to spread to the new world.   

Golf in America

  There is information that implies that golf was played in America during the 18th century.   Our earlier knowledge of golf in America is documentation on a shipment of golf gear to Charleston, South Carolina in 1739. This cargo supported the establishment of the South Carolina Golf Club in 1787.   No real traction was gained in America until the early 19th century. In 1894, the United States Golf Association was founded and became representative for golf in the U.S., which by 1910 was home to 267 golf associations. The administrative agency of the game started as the United States Golf Association (USGA) in 1894. In 1916, the Professional Golf Association of America was founded and is still the governing body of the sport in the States today.    The moniker of the pro circuit was changed to Tournament Players Association (TPA) Tour in the ’80s, but shortly after was changed again to its current name: the Professional Golfers Association or the PGA tour. Golf has been increasing in fame ever since and has become a popular spectator sport. It is a sport that has become well-known all over the world and is becoming more and more popular since it has been marketed and put on television.  Golf is a game with ancient origins that will seemingly go on to last forever.  

Want to Learn More?

  If you would like to learn to make your own golf history, contact the experts at the Academy of Golf Dynamics today. You can reach us at (512) 261-3300 or Send Us an Email for more information.