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History of Golf ... How Golf evolved over the ages  


The history of golf is very interesting and in fact, golf in a form, has been around since Roman times, who actually came up with the game is not known but it is believed the modern game of golf evolved in Scotland in the Middle Ages.

Golve, Chole, Colf, Kolven, Kolf, Golfe and Goff are some of the names by which this game, played with a stick and a small ball has been called. By the Nineteenth Century the name of the game had evolved into the four letter word, the one we all now know, as golf.

Golf was originally played without greens and the holes were just open spaces in the ground wherever there was a space that was flat enough. The grass was not kept meticulously short and the holes were very simple in design.

Early recorded history shows that golf was already being played in Scotland because the Scottish parliament voted in 1457 to ban the game as too many soldiers were committing their time to golf rather than practicing archery.  

The first golf clubs were actually made by craftsmen who previously made bows and arrows for war.

It wasn't until the sixteenth century that golf was permitted openly as James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, became an enthusiastic player of the game.

The first golf club maker on record is William Maybe way back in 1603 when he made golf clubs for James I. The clubs were carved of holly, beech, dogwood, apple, or pear and the shafts were made with hazel or ash to allow the club to "whip" better when swung.

Mary Queen of Scots, is the first woman recorded in history to have played the game. Golf was adopted by the Royals and this is, we presume, why today, so many the older golf courses in Britain's names begin with the word "Royal" !

It is without any doubt that the first true golf course was in St. Andrews, Scotland on a piece of barren land adjacent to St Andrews bay. It is documented that golf was played here as early as 1552. The course was made by nature and by sheep which would dig hollows to avoid the howling winds that came in from the bay, creating natural bunkers.

It was over 200 years before golf was formalized at St. Andrews when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded in 1754.

It was over 100 years later, in 1861, when the Royal and Ancient golf club organised the first major competition in golf.

It was in 1860 that the first Open Championship was held at Prestwick and was contested by eight leading professionals. Willie Park, won the first Open and became the first Open champion. The Open continued to be held at Prestwick for 11 years and the Morris's dominated the early events. By 1867, Old Tom Morris   won the event four times, after which, he was allowed to keep the belt.

The first golf balls were wooden and made from elm or beech.
These balls had rudimentary aerodynamic properties. (There are several 15th century references to club and ball makers in Holland.) Records also show that the Scots had been importing these balls from across the North Sea in barrels as far back as 1496.

Over time the Dutch adopted a ball made of leather and filled them with cow's hair. This ball is believed to be the fore runner of "The Feathery" which was made of hand stitched leather and stuffed with boiled chicken or duck feathers. The ball was then moulded into shape and painted white, to make it more visible. 

In the mid 1800s the balls started being made from gutta-percha (a natural rubbery substance extracted from trees in Malaysia) and was referred to as "The Gutty".

The Haskell Ball, soon made it's appearance and came into demand when Sandy Herd used one to win the 1902 British Open. "The Haskell" had a heart of tightly wound rubber

The modern day golf ball as we know it is the Balata ball. It generally has a water filled core wrapped in a rubber yarn.