History of Golf, Part Two

In Part One of the Mark Rivkin History of golf review we gained some insight as to the origins of the game itself and how royal involvement during the 17th century contributed to its popularity. Picking up where we left off, we’ll have a look at how a game created in Medieval Europe evolved to become the sport as we know it today. But first a few notable tidbits:

  • The first recorded account of golf can actually be found in a 1457 ban of the game implemented by king James II of Scotland. The ban would last for nearly fifty years but was lifted at the turn of the century.
  • The first recorded evidence of golf at St. Andrews was 1552.
  • King Charles I was playing golf when he was informed of the Irish rebellion of 1641.
  • The first records of golf in America come from a 1659 ban of the game in Albany, New York.
  • Historical documents suggest that golf was played on Musselburgh Links, East Lothian, Scotland as early as 1672, making it the world’s oldest golf course according to Guinness.
  • The first international golf match took place at Leith in 1682 when two Scots beat two English noblemen.

So when did the game actually become a sport? The first official golf club can be attributed to a committee formed in 1744, initially known as the “Gentlemen Golfers of Leith/Edinburgh” but later renamed “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers”, with the intention of organizing an annual golf competition. It was this same year that the First 13 rules of golf were drafted and eleven golfers played a five hole course over Leith Links competing for a silver golf club, which was presented by the City of Edinburgh. A physician from Edinburgh named John Rattray won the first recorded open golf championship in April of 1744. The Leith competition took place annually, and for the first two decades it was open to all golfers, but eventually it became exclusive to Leith club members. In 1768 The Gentlemen Golfers built an official clubhouse at Leith, becoming history’s first purpose built clubhouse.

About a decade after the first official golf tournament in Edinburgh, a committee known as the “St Andrews Society of Golfers” (now known as the “Royal and Ancient Golf Club”) adopted the rules drafted by the Gentlemen Golfers as well as the idea of an annual golf tournament. An open championship was played in 1754 on the Old Course and Bailie William Landale became the first to win the Silver Cup from St. Andrews. Up until 1759 all golf was match play, but stroke play was introduced at St. Andrews, and the club’s reduction of play from 22 holes to 18 holes became the standard of all future play.

So that pretty much brings us to golf as we know it today, with some equipment and rule modifications along the way. To learn more about the history of golf, visit Golf-Information.info, but here are a few more tidbits from the Mark Rivkin Golf Review:

  • The South Carolina Golf Club was created in 1786, becoming the first club outside of the United Kingdom.
  • The first women’s golf club was formed in 1895.
  • The Open Championship was first played at Prestwick Golf Club, in Ayrshire, Scotland in October of 1860, which makes it the world’s oldest golf tournament.

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