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A Brief History of Golf

Golf is a game in which a ball is struck with a club from a prepared area, known as the "teeing ground", across fairway and rough to a second prepared area, which has a hole in it, known as the "putting green".

The origins of golf are unclear and much debated. However, it is generally accepted that modern golf developed in Scotland from the Middle Ages onwards.

The game did not find international popularity until the late 19th century, when it spread into the rest of the United Kingdom and then to the British Empire and the United States.

However it is clearly one of a family of similar and possibly related club and ball games that were recorded across medieval Europe, and many of the unique elements of golf evolved in the port towns around the Firth of Forth in eastern Scotland from the medieval period onwards.

Golf spread from Scotland into the rest of the United Kingdom and then to the British Empire and the United States of America during the late 19th century.

The modern game of golf we understand today is generally considered to be a Scottish invention.

A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the oldest Scottish golf organisations, said "Stick and ball games have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes, clearly originated in Scotland."

So the history of golf is intimately interwoven with Scotland.


The word golf was first mentioned in writing in 1457 on a Scottish statute on forbidden games as gouf, possibly derived from the Scots word goulf (variously spelled) meaning "to strike or cuff".

But there is an even earlier reference to the game of golf, and it is believed to have happened in 1452 when King James II banned the game because it kept his subjects from their archery practice.

History of Golf in Europe

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, though an almanac published about a century later is the first record of a rival claim that The Royal Burgess Golfing Society had been set up in 1735.

Not only the history of golf but also the rules of golf are Scottish!

The instructions in the Leith Rules formed the basis for all subsequent codes, for example requiring that "Your Tee must be upon the ground" and "You are not to change the Ball which you strike off the Tee".

Rules of Golf Here

Golf courses have not always had eighteen holes. For example, St Andrew's links occupy a narrow strip of land along the sea.

As early as the 15th century, golfers at St Andrews established a trench through the undulating terrain, playing to holes whose locations were dictated by topography.


The course that emerged featured eleven holes, laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. One played the holes out, turned around, and played the holes in, for a total of 22 holes.

In 1764, several of the holes were deemed too short, and were therefore combined. The number was thereby reduced from 11 to nine, so that a complete round of the links comprised 18 holes.

Due to the status of St Andrews as "the golfing capital of the world", all other courses followed suit and the 18-hole course remains the standard to the present day.

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