Golf, one of the world’s oldest sports, is a landscape sport where players are required to strike a small ball within a course and into various holes, utilizing the least amount of strokes.
The origins of golf are not clear, although it is generally believed that golf as we know it today was developed in Scotland in 1457 and then spread to the rest of the United Kingdom. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is widely considered to be “the home of golf”, as well as being the oldest golf club in the world.
The King of Scotland apparently banned golf because men were ignoring military obligations to play the sport, whilst Scotland prepared for English invasion. The ban was lifted in 1502.
The 1850’s and 1860’s saw the spread in popularity in golf from Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom, primarily due to increased transport routes between England and Scotland, as well as developments in the production of equipment, making it easier and cheaper to produce equipment such as golf balls. The rise in popularity is also attributed to the validation of royals playing the game. What we know today as the British Open was first played at The Prestwick Golf Club in 1860.
In 1900, golf became an Olympic sport. By 1914, England had 1000 golf courses, and golf had begun to gain momentum in countries around the world, with golf courses being built in countries such as India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada.
It is widely speculated that golf was also played in the United States of America, before it rose in popularity in Scotland. Evidence of golf being played in the United States dates back to 1650, and various records of golf equipment being bought and sold in the 1700’s. The United States Golf Association (USGA) was formed in 1894 after the National Amateur Championships were played by various golf clubs. By 1910 there were 267 golf clubs in the United States, which number skyrocketed to 1100 by 1932. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) was formed in 1916 as the body regulating professional golfers. 1916 can therefore be seen as the year that golf became a professional sport within the United States.
Today we know golf courses to consist of 18 holes, but the first recording of an 18-hole course is at Downers Grove, Illinois in 1892. The traditional courses in Scotland were primarily sand covered dunes inland from beaches, known as “links”. This is where the terminology still used today “golf links’ arose from.
One of golf’s distinguishing characteristics has always been its strict enforcement of etiquette. The R&A (stemming from The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) is the ruling governing body for golf for the game throughout the world except for the United States of America and Mexico which subscribe to the USGA, and Canada which subscribes to a combination of both the R&A and USGA rules.