History of golf

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Where it all began

Golf has been around for many centuries and is a game that encapsulates many of us. As we stand on blades of grass and bash a ball to distance and precision …. You’ve got to wonder, how did it all begin?


Although the absolute origin of golf is unclear, it’s said that golf may have derived from a sport played in the Netherlands called Kolven/Kolf in the 12th century whereby a stick was used to strike a leather ball stuffed with feathers. The game is thought to have been introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages. Another early game that resembled modern golf was known as cambuca in England and chambot in France. The Persian game chaug├ín is another possible ancient origin. The earliest recorded mentioning of golf is in a manuscript which dates back to 1261. 

Others cite chuiwan ("chui" means striking and "wan" means small ball) as the origin of golf, a Chinese game played between the eighth and 14th centuries. A Ming Dynasty scroll dating back to 1368 entitled "The Autumn Banquet" shows a member of the Chinese Imperial court swinging what appears to be a golf club at a small ball with the aim of sinking it into a hole. The game is thought to have been introduced into Europe during the Middle Ages. 

The roots of today’s game however can be traced back to Scotland in 1457. The game was then outlawed by King James II of Scotland, as it detracted from archery training for the military. St Andrews Old Course in Scotland is recorded as the earliest golf course dating 1552 and Scotland is recognised as the roots for the modern game of golf we play today.

In December 1650, the settlers of Fort Orange (near present-day Albany, New York) played the first recorded round of golf in America. 

The oldest surviving rules of golf were written in 1744 for the Company of Gentlemen Golfers, later renamed The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which played at Leith Links. Their "Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf”, now preserved in the National Library of Scotland, became known as the Leith Rules and the document supports the club's claim to be the oldest golf club.

In the 17th Century, golf became a common hobby through Great Britain and that was consistent in many other parts of the world. The Open Championship was first played in 1860, held at Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland. It was the first professional tournament and is still played today.

The first permanent golf club in North America was founded in Montreal, Canada, in 1873 and was named “Canada’s Royal Montreal Club.” The US then embraced the golf craze as well. The first 18-hole course in the United States was The Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1893.

The governing body of golf began as the United States Golf Association (USGA) in the year 1894. The PGA (Professional Golf Association of America) was founded in 1916. 
Beginning in 1981, the name of the pro circuit was officially changed to the Tournament Players Association (TPA) Tour. The name was changed again to the PGA tour. Tournament golf had become a well-established spectator sport in the United States by the 1920s.

Today the US is seen as the centre of golf with over 15,000 golf courses. The US hosts the strongest of all professional tours being the PGA Tour. The European Tour is also a very strong tour and we now have further professional tours around the world which are of lower standards but still very elite in standard.

On an amateur level, the game of golf is very strong and is played in almost every country in the world with 34,011 courses recorded. With over 1,500 golf courses, 460,000 club members and 1.3 million people participating in golf in Australia, golf is an easy and affordable game to access locally. If you haven’t yet started, we suggest using our BGA course finder and getting in touch with a local PGA Pro near you.