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 the course of the years not much attention has been paid to the influence of nature on Scottish golf and continental colf, crosse and mail.
Why did players use wooden balls of approximately the same size? Could it be that golfers used balls defined by the size of boxwood branches?
Do we accept that the whippy feature of the ash wood shaft was enhanced by the moon phases and that the end of the playing season was determined by the growth of certain weeds?
Here you can read about our findings.


One of the historical buildings in the ancient town of Largs on the west coast of Scotland is the remains of a church: the Skelmorlie Aisle of Largs Old Kirk. On the wooden ceiling of the aisle there is a painting from 1636 showing among others a picture of people playing with sticks or whatever on the ice.
The authors researched the winter scene picture and tried to find out what kind of game was presented: golf on the ice, colf on the ice or curling.
Here you can read about the research and perhaps find an answer yourself.

Some estimates suggest that up to a third of the current Scottish population may have had Flemish ancestors. While this is almost certainly an exaggeration, many Flemish émigrés did settle in Scotland over a 600 year period between the 11th and 17th centuries. Many shed their continental sounding names to take on the name Fleming or its variants. Others took on different names that give little clue as to their country or region of origin.
As the Flemish left Flanders over a relatively long time period they were absorbed into Scottish society gradually. So while the Flemish may well be one of Scotland’s largest immigrant groups the question of why they came, their significance in Scottish history, and their broader impact on the economy, society and culture of their adopted homeland has never been examined in detail. At the University of St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research a major project, called ‘Scotland and the Flemish People’, started in 2013.
This month we were contacted by Alex Fleming, cosponsor of and researcher in the project. At this point in the project the researchers would like to post guest pieces on the Flemish influence on sport in Scotland. One of these areas that has come up from time to time is the possible Flemish influence on the game of golf, reason why Alex Fleming invited us to write a posting for the blog of the project. Here you can read our contribution.

On the 1st and 2nd October the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors organized its 10th annual conference in St Raphaël in the south of France at the Golf and Tennis Club de Valescure which celebrates its 120th anniversary.
At the conference several presentations were given on the history of golf and on collecting golf memorabilia. Members at the conference suggested making these presentations available, if possible, for all members of the association and for other interested readers.
Our presentation about the origin of golf under the name ‘All roads lead to Scotland’ you can find here..

In the first centuries in which golf was played, people played only or mainly in the winter season. In the 16th and 17th centuries, there was a climate change. Winters became extremely cold; this period is called the ‘Little Ice Age’. During these winters playing games on land was hardly possible. The Scots invented an ice game called curling in which people threw stones over the ice to a target. Several paintings exist of people playing this game.
But what about golfers? Where did they play their game? For more question marks see ‘The Little Ice Age in Scotland’.

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.

cover III

In the course of the years, Geert & Sara Nijs have researched in depth the ancient history of the European golf-like games of colf (kolf), crosse (choule) and mail (pall mall) and their relationship to Scottish golf. The researchers have now finalized the last part of their trilogy ‘Games for Kings & Commoners’. Again they discuss a whole series of new subjects, like the endless claims on the origin of golf from all over the world. They describe the ‘Little Ice Age’ and its consequences for the games; they show the development of clubs during the centuries as well as the development from the short into the long game. They report about the fascinating discovery of ancient clubs, excavated from 16th- and 17th-century shipwrecks. The origin of the names is dealt with as well as several other subjects.
Please click here for a summary of the contents of the book.

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