The History of Golf A lot of debate has taken place concerning the history of golfing, long traditionally believed to have began in the area surrounding the Firth of Forth in Scotland. A golfing-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. However, contemporary research into the history of golfing has uncovered references to a game very comparable to contemporary day golf being played in China during the period of the Southern Tang dynasty, at least 500 years before golfing was first mentioned in Scotland. It has been suggested that the game was first exported to Europe and later Scotland by Mongolian travellers in the later Middle Ages. In Scotland the first recorded documentary proof for golfing was in an act of the Scottish parliament in 1457 which banned the playing of “gowf” and football lest they detract from the necessary military exercise of archery practice. In a subsequent ban of 1491 golf was described as “an unprofitable sport”!. Something which Tiger Woods is almost certainly oblivious of! There are reports in the accounts of a Scottish lawyer, Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, that he played golf at Musselburgh Links on 2 March 1672, and this has been accepted as proving that The Old Links, Musselburgh, is the oldest golf course in the world. Mary, Queen of Scots is believed to have played there in 1567. The Company of Gentlemen Golfers, later renamed The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers set down the oldest existing rules of golf in 1744. Their "Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf, called the Leith Rules, after the course at which they played support the club's claim to be the world’s oldest golf club, though an almanac published about a century later is the first record of a rival claim that The Royal Burgess Golf Society had been set up in 1735. The instructions in the Leith Rules formed the basis for all subsequent codes, for instance requiring that "Your Tee must be upon the ground" and "You are not to change the Ball which you strike off the Tee" When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603 the spread of golf to become a world wide sport commenced. He and his courtiers played golf at Blackheath, London, from which the Royal Blackheath Golf Club traces its origins. The spread of golf world wide was started by Scottish soldiers, expatriates and emigrants who took the sport to British colonies and elsewhere. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club (1829) and the club at Pau (1856) in south western France are significant reminders of these trips and are the oldest golf clubs outside of the British Isles and the oldest in continental Europe respectively. Proof of early golf in the United States includes an ad published in the Royal Gazette of New York City in 1779 for golf discotheques and balls, and the notice of the
annual general meeting for a golf club in Savannah published in the Georgia Gazette in 1796. However, as in England, it was not until the late 19th century that golf started to become firmly established. There are a number of competing claims to be the oldest club, but what is not contested is that in 1894 representatives from the Newport Country Club, Saint Andrew's Golf Club, Yonkers, New York, The Country Club, Chicago Golf Club, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club met in New York City to kind what was to become the United States Golf Association (USGA). Owen Jones, the author of this piece, writes on many topics, but is currently involved with the London 2012 Olympics mascot. Click a link if you are interested in the 2012 London Olympics Volunteers.