Golf as it is played today finds its origin in Scotland. According to
Scottish historians the game was mentioned for the first time in 1457. The game
was played with curbed wooden clubs and spherical wooden balls in the streets,
the churchyards and the open fields in and around the Scottish towns and on the
links along the sea shore, during the winter period.
In the course of time, the clubs were replaced by iron headed clubs and
composite wooden clubs. The wooden balls were replaced by leather balls and in
a later stage by rubber balls until the modern golf balls were introduced
Publications on ancient golf
The transition of golf from a local game into a world sport
Since the ‘beginning’ of golf, probably at the end of the 15th century or the beginning of the 16th century, the game remained for several centuries a local game mainly played in the eastern part of Scotland. The game remained unknown to anybody outside the Scottish borders. Contrary to the Flemings and the Netherlandish, not many Scots left their country other than as mercenaries for the European mainland.
Scottish golfers playing colf on the ice near the Netherlandish city of Haarlem - Adriaen van de Velde, 1668
It took till the 17th century, when Britain started to build its worldwide empire, that many Scots left their homeland to act as merchants, colonists, officials and soldiers to populate the new colonies and trade settlements, and to extend and defend the British possessions and to secure the sea routes for their merchant navy against other seafaring nations, first the Spaniards and the Portuguese and last but not least against the Netherlandish.
Sea battle between the English and Netherlandish naval army. For many years in the 17th century, in many battles, they challenged each other for the supremacy on the world seas. - Peter van de Velde, c.1670
Scots as soldiers, immigrants and expatriates, once avid golfers in their
homeland, wanted to continue playing golf in and around the new British
are references to Scots ordering clubs and balls from Scotland. In the Scottish
towns and villages the golfers played among them, unorganised in friendly
‘match play’ matches, making up their own rules. This happened also in the new
colonies and settlements.
First photograph taken in 1888 of the ‘modern’ golf in the USA at Saint Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers. The course counted three holes. - http://www.yonkershistory.org
It took almost 70 years before golf was more or less re-introduced in the USA. It was John Reid, a Scottish immigrant who, with some of his friends founded the Saint Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers, New York, in 1888. The foundation of this golf club is considered as being the more or less official start of organised golf in the USA.
The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club however was not the first golf club on the North American continent.
An early picture (1882) of the members of the (Royal) Montreal Golf Club, founded in 1873. - http://www.rmgc.org
Fifteen years earlier another Scotsman by the name of Alexander Denniston gathered in 1873 eight of his fellow expatriates and some local businessmen to establish the (Royal) Montreal Golf Club. There are several documents to prove that Scottish golfers in Canada played their game unorganised long before the official Montreal golfers. Already in 1826 there was a notice in the ‘Montreal Herald’ inviting fellow Scotsmen to come together to play golf.
in the Montreal Herald in 1826. It shows that before 1873 Scots played golf in
All the other continents were ahead of the Americas to establish more or less official golf clubs.
In Asia, the first golf club was founded in Calcutta, India, already in 1829 by British army officers. It is the oldest golf club in the world outside Britain.
The oldest golf club in Europe and the first outside the British Commonwealth was founded in 1856, of course again by the Scots, in Pau in the Southwest of France with the name Pau Golf Club.
Famous picture of Scottish golfers playing on the oldest course of the European mainland. The Pau Golf Club was founded in 1856. - http://www.paugolfclub.com
said that during the Napoleonic Wars regiments of Wellington’s army were
quartered in the Pau region in 1814. Some of the Scottish officers played golf
in the fields around Pau.
In Australia the first golf club was founded in 1882, the ‘Australian Golf Club’. Not much is known about who and why the club was founded.
It is said that some officers of a Scottish regiment on leave from India played some golf in one of the parks in Sydney. It was usual that visiting officers were made members of the social club ‘Union Club’. It could have been that members of the Union Club were inspired by the officers and took up the game themselves. This resulted after a while in the founding of the ‘Australian Golf Club’ in 1882.
This is probably the oldest known photograph of golf being played in South Africa. Almost certainly taken in 1886, it shows Gen. Torrens driving on the Waterloo Green Links, watched by Dr. David Gill, in the brown suit and Colonel Curtis, Officer Commanding H.M. Cavalry in Natal. Printed on porcelain, the photograph was presented to the Club by Dr. Gill shortly before his return to England in 1906. - http://www.royalcapegolf.co.za
In 1885 it was the turn of South-Africa to found a golf club near Cape Town. It was on the 14th November of that year that a meeting was held, chaired by the Lt General Henry Torrens, Governor of the Cape Colony, “for the purpose of introducing the game of golf and starting a club for the same”. And so it happened; The Cape Golf Club Was founded.
General of the Gordon Highlanders in full dress. The Scottish officers were responsable for golf becoming a world sport. - http://peek-01.livejournal.com
of golf has indeed spread its wings all over the world mainly thanks to the
Scottish officers in the British army and the many colonists. It is
not surprising that it were the Scots who spread golf over the four continents.
Until the end of the 19th century, the game was hardly known by the
English. Only the Scots loved to swing, wherever they could.