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Golf History and Rules

The true origins of golf are set hundreds of years before our time and this noble sport is around for more than many of you think. Get informed and discover a lot of interesting facts about golf by reading this piece right now.

Golf History and Rules

Golf is a very popular sport nowadays and it looks like its origins are far older that one would guess. This sport is played by individual players that use clubs of various forms and sizes to hit a small ball into holes over an entire course. On the course players have to avoid natural hazards and difficult surfaces such as long grass or sand in their efforts to hole the ball with the fewest hits. Actually, that’s how the winner is decided, the player that manages to get to the end of the course and put the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes, wins the game.

When talking about development, the popular belief is that the first forms of golf started to appear in Scotland, however, there are some other indications that the Netherlands was the first territory in which this noble sport sprung to life. One thing is certain though, from the ambiguity it enjoyed in the 19th century, golf attained global popularity.

Golf Winners by Year and Tournament
Season Masters U.S. Open British Open PGA Championship
2018 Patrick Reed Brooks Koepka Francesco Molinari Brooks Koepka
2017 Sergio Garcia Brooks Koepka Jordan Spieth Justin Thomas
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History of Golf

History of Golf

There are some sport historians that claim golf gets its origins in the Roman paganica game that also involved using a stick that was bent to hit a leather ball. With the rapid growth of the Roman empire, it would make sense that this paganica has spread to a lot of regions and made it possible for golf to appear.

On the other hand, there are people that believe chuiwan is the father of gold. This game was enjoyed in China in the times of the Ming dynasty and is believe that it was brought to Europe by traders in the Middle Ages.

Actually, it’s quite hard to pinpoint the origins and exact path of development for golf as in those days there were a lot of ball and stick games around the world. Like the English cambuca or chambot as it was known in France. It looks like this games had some similarities with the Scottish shinty or Irish hurling and it was then spread to Germany, Netherland and England where it got the name of pall-mall.

But historians and records of early times show that in the Netherlands a sport very similar to the pall-mall was already played and it went by the name of kolf. It is believed that somewhere around 1297 kolf was being played in the Netherlands and the aim of the game was to get a small ball next to a church or a garden fence with the fewest strokes of a club.

Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan

Ben "The Hawk" Hogan, sometimes referred to as "Bantam Ben", is one of the giants of golf history, who wrote or co-authored two must-read golf instructional books. He won 64 tournaments that today are credited as PGA Tour wins, with nine major championships among them.

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus, known as "The Golden Bear", is one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport. He won 73 PGA Tour tournaments in his career and was the dominant player in golf from the early 60s through the late 70s, with a few more bursts of greatness into the 80s.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

Eldrick "Tiger" Woods is one of the top handful of greatest in golf. He is a golfer whose youth and amazing amateur exploits were followed up by equally amazing professional exploits with 81 PGA Tour Victories, 15 of which are professional major championships.

The Scottish Era

Golf found its way to Scotland most probably through Flemish traders that were employed or had commercial relations with the Scottish court. Here, King James IV became the first golf player to go down in the history books. And it makes perfect sense that royalty helped with making this sport known and played by entire territories. There are clear entries in the treasurer accounts at least between 1502 and 1506 that show expenses for golf clubbis and ballis for the king. In addition to that, the same books indicated that the king has lost three French crowns in a golf bet, which was very common in the Middle Ages.

In the British territory where golf became very popular thanks to the strong promotion by kings and queens, the first forms of organization for this sport appeared. The oldest club in this respect is considered to be the Gentleman Golfers of Leigh which is now known to be the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The association apparently organized the first golf tournament when several members asked the city of Edinburgh to give them a silver club for annual competitions.

The Society of St. Andrews Golfers was formed by 22 golfers in 1754 and the rules was almost identical to the ones from Edinburgh. These are the clubs and societies that contributed a lot to the development of golf in Scotland with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews becoming the main entity to develop rules for the game and later became the organizer of several golf competitions like the Open Championship and the British Amateur Championship.

The United States of America and Canada

The Scottish Era

Golf in the USA as a well-defined sport dates back to 1888 when the St. Andrew’s Golf Club was founded at Yonkers in New York. Obviously, the links with the Scottish movements are undeniable and the founder of this club was John Reid from Dunfermline, also known as American golf’s father. After that, golf courses started to appear in Newport, Rhode Island, Chicago and Wheaton, Illinois. The Newport organization even went as far and put together a tournament for amateurs back in 1894 and that was the year the US Golf Association was established. This Association published USGA Rules of Golf – a golf rule book that includes standard rules, regulations and procedures by which golf should be played as well as penalties for breaking them.

The entire sport of golf is all about how the ball gets hit and directed toward the hole with clubs of different uses, depending on the surface you’re playing on. And if clubs stayed mostly the same throughout years with only the materials changing, the golf ball has a totally different story.

The feather-ball

The Development of associations for golf

Presented as an upgrade from the wooden golf ball, the feather ball was made by compressing steaming hot feathers into pieces of leather that covered the entire ball eventually. This ball could be hit a very long distance but it had the disadvantage of becoming sodden in wet weather. Not to mention that the appearance of iron clubs meant the life of such a ball was quite short, leading to the need of a more resistant ball.

Gutta-Percha Golf Ball

This new golf ball was an improvement in all aspects, starting with the manufacturing time and the attributes in had during the golf game. It wasn’t affected by water, unless it was brought to boiling temperatures and it was quite easy to be produced. This meant quite a revolution in the game as immediately the pros were divided into sustainers of this new ball and those that would rather stick to the feather one.

The Rubber Ball

At the beginning of the 20th century rubber was the name of the game in a lot of industries and it was only natural that Golf also caught up. The rubber ball was produced at the BF Goodrich Company and it could be hit farther than the gutty one and it could be controlled a lot better as well. The early rubber balls had a layer of gutta-percha with bumps in it to give it a more stable flight pattern.

Now that we’ve been through the development of golf as a sport since the first recorded mentions up until nowadays and also got up to date with how the golf ball has evolved through time, it’s time to take a look at how the rules are made.

As mentioned before the R&A and the United States Golf Association are the main regulatory bodies of the sport and their main goal is an uniformization of rules. The present golf rules are far more complex and detailed than the original code that contained 13 rules. If you really want to get accustomed with the modern rules of the sport, there are a lot of video presentation on the Internet as, unlike other sports, the rules for golf are not standard and they differ from shot to shot and situation to situation. But the most important rule is to get to the end of the course with as few as possible strokes of a club in order to beat your opponents.