A Brief History of Golf: The Origins Evolution of The Game

Monday, March 29th, 2021
man in green shirt and black golf pants playing golf on a green course in wind with a storm building in the background
Golf is a sport with a rich history, and it has withstood the test of time. From the days of Caesar to the present, it has evolved into a beloved and influential sport enjoyed throughout the world. The origins of what would later evolve into the game of golf can be traced back to ancient Rome, specifically during the era of Julius Caesar. In ancient Rome, a popular game involved striking a ball filled with feathers using 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 of golf had a characteristic that set 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 the 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 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.

The Scots are very proud of the heritage of golf they possess. Scotland boasts many old courses that are still visited and played to this day. The country still plays a role in the continuing story of the game as well.

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.

The 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 known golf courses 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. The earliest recorded knowledge of golf in America comes from documentation regarding a shipment of golf equipment to Charleston, South Carolina in 1739. This cargo supported the establishment of the South Carolina Golf Club in 1787. Despite this, 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 the Tournament Players Association (TPA) Tour in the ’80s, but shortly after it 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.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about golfing or to take a class, visit the Academy of Golf Dynamics at 1700 Kahala Sunset Drive in Spicewood, Texas. You can reach us at (512) 261-3300 or send us an email for more information!