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Golf history, golf courses, golf information, golf news

History of Golf

Historically, a golf-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, in the city of Loenen aan de Vecht, where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. The winner was whoever hit the ball with the fewest strokes into a target several hundred yards away. Some scholars argue that this game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was also played in 17th-century Netherlands and that this predates the game in Scotland. There are also other reports of earlier accounts of a golf-like game from continental Europe.

Recent evidence unearthed in April 2005 by Professor Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University suggests that a game similar to modern-day golf was played in China since Southern Tang Dynasty, 500 years before golf was first mentioned in Scotland.

Dongxuan, China Records from the Song Dynasty (960­1279) describes a game called chuiwan and also includes drawings of the game. It was played with 10 clubs including a cuanbang, pubang, and shaobang, which are comparable to a driver, two-wood, and three-wood. Clubs were inlaid with jade and gold, suggesting golf was for the wealthy. Chinese archive include references to a Southern Tang official who asked his daughter to dig holes as a target. Ling suggested golf migrated to Europe and then Scotland via Mongolian travellers in the late Middle Ages.

Early golf history in Scotland

The modern game of golf we play today is generally considered to be a Scottish invention. A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the oldest Scottish golf organization, said 'Stick and ball games have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played through 18 holes, originated in Scotland.' The word golf, or in Scots language gouf, is usually thought to be a Scots alteration of Dutch 'colf' or 'colve' meaning 'stick, 'club', 'bat', itself related to the Proto-Germanic language (kulth- as found in Old Norse kolfr meaning 'bell clapper', and the German Kolben meaning 'mace or club'. The Dutch term Kolven refers to a another related sport.

The first documented record of golf in Scotland appears in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, an edict issued by king James II of Scotland prohibiting the playing of the games of gowf and football as these were a distraction from archery practice for military purposes. (see Soccer Section) Bans were again imposed in Acts of 1471 and 1491, with golf therein being described as 'an unprofitable sport'. Mary, Queen of Scots, was accused by her political enemies of playing golf, after her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was murdered in 1567. George Buchanan later wrote that she had been playing 'sports that were clearly unsuitable to women'. Golf was forbidden again by parliament under king James VI of Scotland, but golf clubs and balls were bought for him in 1502 when he was visiting Perth, and later when he was in St Andrews and Edinburgh.

The diary of lawyer Sir John Foulis of Ravelston records that he played golf at Musselburgh Links on 2 March 1672, and this has been accepted as proof that The Old Links, Musselburgh, is the oldest playing golf course in the world today. It is also said that Mary, Queen of Scots, played there in 1567.

History of Instructions, golf club rules and competitions

The first known instructions for playing golf have been found in the diary of Thomas Kincaid, a medical student who played on the course at Bruntsfield Links, near Edinburgh University, and at Leith Links. His notes include his own views on an early handicap system. In his entry for 20 January 1687 he recorded how 'After dinner I went out to the Golve', and described his Golf stroke:

The first rules of golf were written in 1744 for the Company of Gentlemen Golfers, subsequently 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 supports the club's claim to be the oldest golf club, though an almanac published about a century later is the first record of a rival claim that the The Royal Burgess Golfing Society had been established in 1735. The instructions in the Leith Rules became basis for all subsequent codes, for example requiring that the tee must be upon the ground and You are not to change the Ball which you strike off the Tee'.

The 1744 competition for the Gentlemen Golfersą Competition for the Silver Club, a trophy in the form of a silver golf club provided as sponsorship by Edinburgh Town Council, was won by surgeon John Rattray, who was required to attach to the trophy a silver ball engraved with his name, beginning a long tradition. Rattray joined the Jacobite Rising of 1745 and as a result was imprisoned in Inverness, but was saved from being hanged by the pleading of his fellow golfer Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of the Court of Session. Rattray was released in 1747, and won the Silver Club three times in total.

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