Colf


In our previous post, we have seen what has been written about the Scottish hole in golf.
This time we will show you what has been written, and especially painted about the hole used in Netherlandish colf.

In the previous post from April 30 of this year, we showed our research about the long and short game as played in the game of golf. Today we would like to show you the difference between the long and short game of colf as played in the Low Countries.
Here you find the story of colf.

In the history of European stick and ball games, women and children have hardly ever played a more than marginal role. It took until the end of the 19th century for women in sports to become notable, often under the patronage of men.
During the many centuries of the existence of the games of crosse, colf, mail and golf not much has been written, drawn or painted of women and children playing these games. It was far more the exception than the rule when references were made in words or pictures to women and children hitting balls with a club. Certainly for ages these games were considered (by men) as being unsuitable for women. Playing in the streets, churchyards, fields and in and around the towns was not an acceptable environment. In the Middle Ages, cursing, swearing, drinking and fighting were more common.
If you want to know more about women in colf history click hear.
Happy reading.

It is said that originally the game of colf (like the game of golf) was a winter game. That people played colf in extreme ‘arctic’ conditions is rather exceptional.
Some four hundred years ago a Netherlandish complement played colf within the polar circle. Click here to read more about colf in the freezing cold.

In this second part of ‘Nautical Archaeology’ we would like to discuss the excavation of the ‘Lastdrager’ and the ‘Kennemerland’ which shipwrecked both on the rocks near the Shetland isles in 1653 and 1662.

During the last half century, especially since metal detectors have become popular, hobbyists are combing the fields in the Netherlands to find all kinds of metal artefacts. Regularly pieces of metal are found which turned out to be club heads of the ancient game of colf, the so-called ‘slofs’. Also in the centre of ancient towns such slofs are found during excavations.
To the amazement of the colf connoisseurs and the naval archaeologists such slofs are not only found on land but at sea as well. In the 1970s and 1980s, several wreckages of Netherlandish merchant vessels from the 16th and 17th centuries were discovered on the bottom of the sea, in which slofs and even complete colf clubs were excavated. These finds throw interesting new light on the history of colf and the equipment used in this game.
In this first part of ‘Nautical Archaeology’ we would like to discuss the excavation of the so-called ‘Biddinghuizer colf ship’ which sank in the Zuiderzee, present-day’s IJsselmeer, in 1540.

In almost every publication about the history of golf, the so-called ‘first international golf match’ played on Leith Links in 1682 is mentioned. However in 1668, Scotsmen and Netherlanders were playing a golf/colf match on the frozen Haarlemmer Lake near the city of Haarlem in the United Netherlands.

07 scotsmen

If you want to know the details of these two ‘first international matches’ click here.

Contrary to the games of crosse, golf and mail, by 1500 already, colvers were represented already in artistic expressions in the late Middle Ages and in the early Renaissance.
The earliest pictures of colvers can be found in the illuminated religious handwritten manuscripts from the County of Flanders, part of the Low Countries. Concentrated in the towns of Brugge (Bruges) and Gent (Gand) artists, such as, Simon Bening made books of hours in which sometimes colf players were included in the borders of full-folio religious paintings.

At the same time in the Duchy of Brabant the first paintings were made of colvers who were a kind of ‘staffing’ in religious paintings.
The centres of artistic culture were Antwerp(en) and Brussel(s). However the earliest ‘colf’ paintings were made by the famous painters Aert van de Bossche and Hieronymus Bosch, both originated from the town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch). Later in the 16th century, the famous painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder produced the first paintings in which colvers are not part of a religious context but in a secular environment.
Please click here to see some of the earliest ‘colf’ paintings and illuminations.

We suppose that most amateurs of golf history know that golf started to be played in America in Yonkers, New York.
We suppose that some golf history amateurs know that at least hundred years earlier Scottish settlers and military also played golf on American soil.
However, we wonder how many readers are aware of the fact that more than hundred years earlier the Scots started to sway their clubs here, Netherlandish settlers played the game of ‘colf’, the European continental golf-like game, in present-day Albany.
If you want to know more about early colf in America click here.

About the long history of the four different ‘golf’ games only colvers have left us with a lot of information about the ancient times of the game. Not only documents and pictures but also archaeological finds both in sea and on land have helped historians to get to know more about this game.
Some time ago we were given by a friend two colf club heads, so called colf slofs. They were badly damaged but good enough to have a good look at them. We analysed these probably 17th century, rather common slofs.
See what we could conclude from these two pieces of metal.
Happy reading.

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