A Brief History of Golf

golf history

The game of golf as we know it today can be attributed to the Scots, although there are records of several stick and ball games throughout history. As far back as the 13th century, the Dutch played a game where a leather ball was hit with the intention of reaching a target several hundred yards away.

The winner would be the player who reached the target with the fewest shots.

However, the Scottish sport, which was known as Golf, had one distinction that separates it from similar sports in history: the hole. When we’re talking about the modern game with 18 holes, golf history traces its origins back to 15th century Scotland.

Scottish History of Golf

The game is first mentioned in an Act of Scottish Parliament in 1457, which called for it to be banned alongside football.

King James II of Scotland prohibited the playing of games as it was a distraction from military training, and he felt perfecting archery would be a more worthwhile sporting pursuit.

After several more bannings throughout the 15th century and golf being lambasted as an unprofitable sport, restrictions on playing the game were removed with the Treaty of Glasgow coming into effect in 1502.

Today, the Scots are extremely proud of their golfing heritage and their “ancient” courses that continue to pull in thousands of visitors to the small country each year as they continue to play their part in the history of golf.

Developing Rules for the Game

The oldest recorded rules for the game date back to the year 1744, where The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers published “Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf.”

This ancient piece of golf history, which now remains in the National Library of Scotland, gave fame to the Muirfield club being the longest surviving club in the history of golf.

Spreading Golf Around the World

Scottish soldiers, immigrants, and expatriates played a pivotal role in the history of golf.

They were responsible for spreading the game around the British Isles during the 18th century. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the game started to gain an international presence.

The oldest golf courses outside of Britain are to be found in nearby France, with the establishment of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in 1829 and the club at Pau in 1856.

By 1880, golf had spread to Ireland, many other parts of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and South Africa.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, the game enjoyed increased popularity. By 1880, England had 10 golf courses, which rapidly increased to 1000 by 1914.

Adoption in America

There is evidence to suggest that golf was enjoyed in America during the 18th century.

A shipment of golf equipment to Charleston, South Carolina in 1739, aided in the founding of the South Carolina Golf Club in 1787 and an advertisement for golf clubs and balls in the Royal Gazette of New York City in 1779.

However, much like other parts of the world who adopted the sport early, no real traction was gained until early 19th century. In 1894 the United States Golf Association was formed to become ambassadors for the game in the states, which by 1910 was host to 267 golf clubs.

Want to Learn More?

If you would like to learn make your own golf history, consider a career in golf and contact Keiser University’ College of Golf to get started.