G.O.L.F.  Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden…Is that how we answer the question of : what is the history of golf?  Knowledge is power.  Understanding something at it’s very roots, is not only knowledge, but power.  Keep reading and you’ll get both.

G.O.L.F.   Some say that those letters are an acronym for the words of : Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden    Hmmmm sounds a bit sexist to me.  I don’t know whether there is any truth to it or not.  Never could find anything that would really support it.  Oh well.

Something we need to keep in mind though, is that BOTH men and women around the world play golf.  And yes, there are professionals of both sexes.

"Golfing Girl" bygilelvgren

“Golfing Girl” bygilelvgren

Seattle is one of those places where golf is played pretty much year round.  Winter is no exception…except when it snows because you can not find the ball once hit.

Golfers "snowball"

Golfers “snowball”

Golf Beginnings

But where and how did golf actually get started?

OK, ready for a little history lesson?

Don’t  worry, no pop quiz at the end, but you will find this info. interesting, and  if nothing else, you can dazzle your friends with your newfound knowledge.  And where is the best place to share it?  On the golf course……of course!

Centuries ago, about 500 to be exact, there were many games that people played that were “golf-like” in nature.  How so?   Most games included a “ball” and a stick of some type.  (note the word “ball” is in quotations, you’ll see why in a minute)

Early ball and stick games...bygustavo

Early ball and stick games…bygustavo

However, in the 1450′s the word golf is first mentioned in history. That word was attached to an actual game of sorts.

Playing Golf is Against the Law

It was first played in Scotland.  Now think about Scotland, (remember, knowledge about Scotland is power) along with the hilly terrain that covers much of the island.

That is the backdrop of the very first golfing games.  Of course, no rules were in effect, but everyone  enjoyed it anyway.

This new game of hitting a ball with a stick  was so well liked that the ruling King at that time, King James the second, had to pass a law to actually ban or outlaw the game.

For the King only?

For the King only?

Why?  Because the subjects of his kingdom were spending so much time playing golf, that those who were learning archery, were practically non existent!

Why would archery be of any importance?  Because experts at archery were needed in order to defend the king and  his kingdom from invaders!  Hah! Go figure!

Kings Archers

Kings Archers

Lets fast-forward to about the 1740′s, some 300 years later.  It was at that time that a group of Scotsmen felt that this very popular game needed some guidelines.

Therefore they set about making up some practical written rules for the game.

In fact , that is when and where the : “Honourable (Scottish spelling) Company of Edinburgh Golfers” came into existence.

Several years later another  club was formed at St. Andrews, Scotland. It became know as the : “Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews”, or better know simply as the “R. and A.” 

Early golf attire?

Early golf attire?

Today it’s supposed to be the arbitrator of many of the game’s rules and regulations as to which to play by.

Hills and Moguls

Remember the hilly terrain in Scotland ?  Let’s go back there for a moment or two.

When golf first got started, it was played close by the ocean or seashore where it’s interesting dunes and hilly terrain was accessible to many.  It also had it’s natural “sand traps” and at times, water holes that needed to be played around or over.

Plus, at the same time, (because sheep and other animals ate the long grass along the seashore)  the grasses were short enough to actually see the “ball” and then find it.

Not having to deal with the tall grasses that were located inland, it was an early golfers “paradise”.   When the sheltered sheep, goats and cattle, wandered about over the terrain, they also “flattened” out much of the landscape.  That too was a plus for the area.

Typical early golf course

Typical early golf course…Little wonder why they found fields that animals had grazed.

Remember how the King forbid playing golf?  Well, times had changed…a bit.  If fact, it was ONLY the royalty that could play this game.  Most common folks were just trying to stay alive by working their lands and did not have time for such a “silly game” as chasing around a ball with a stick.

So only the rich could afford to travel to these areas they called “links”.   It clearly was a rich persons game.

Far out of reach for the “common”  people.  If fact, just to afford one of the so called “golf balls”, you had to have plenty of money.  Why?

Almost always, they got lost, plus they did not last very long when hit.  How come?

The First Golf Ball

The first golf balls were made from the hide of bulls.  After forming the initial round shape, it had to be tightly stuffed with chicken and/or goose feathers.  Down feathers were also used as they could be compressed a bit more.

Then comes the “fun” part (not really).  It had to be hand sewn while at the same time,  trying to keep the feathers in the ball.  Yikes!  What a chore that turned out to be.

So you now understand why they did not last very long and why only the rich could play golf.  To make these balls, it took quite some time to make even one, and time is money.  So none of these early golf balls were cheap!

Hand stitched golf ball

Hand stitched golf ball…try hitting this!

OK, fast-forward a bit more.

Now we are in the 1840′s.  It was about that time that it was found that a resin from the Palaquium Gutta  tree in Malaysia , could be used as a golf ball.

Because of that discovery, it was possible to make a much sought after,  cheaper ball, one that the average person could afford.

Because of it now being more affordable to the “common people”, the golfer’s paradise was about to explode…..worldwide!

But who will I get to carry my bag of golf clubs?

Part 2  Click Here

It’s nice to remember that : knowledge is power.  Enjoying golf is powerful stuff.

Leave me a comment below about your golfing adventures.

written by :  Tom McDaniel Share this information

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