About golf


Golf is a precision club and ball sport in which competing players (or golfers) use many types of clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course using the fewest number of strokes. Golf is defined, in the rules of golf, as “playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules.”

Golfer swing

History of Golf

The origins of golf are unclear and much debated. However, it is generally accepted that modern golf evolved in Scotland during the Middle Ages. 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 of America.

Evidence of early golf in the United States includes an advertisement published in the Royal Gazette of New York City in 1779 for golf clubs 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. Although there are several competing claims to being the oldest club, what is not contested is that in 1894 delegates 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 form what was to become the United States Golf Association (USGA). By 1910 there were 267 clubs. During the Roaring Twenties the game expanded greatly in popularity and by 1932 there were over 1,100 golf clubs affiliated to the USGA. In 1922 Walter Hagen became the first native born American to win the British Open Championship, signaling the USA’s dominance of the game that has yet to be seriously challenged. The expansion of the game was halted by the Great Depression and World War II, but continued in the post war years. By 1980 there were over 5,000 USGA affiliated clubs. That figure grew to over 10,600 by 2013.

Golf Etymology

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”. This word may, in turn, be derived from the Dutch word kolf, meaning “bat,” or “club,” and the Dutch sport of the same name. 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.

There is a persistent urban legend claiming that the term derives from an acronym “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden”. This is a false etymology, as acronyms being used as words is a fairly modern phenomenon, making the expression a backronym.

 Golf Course evolution

Golf courses have not always had eighteen holes. The St Andrews 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, all other courses followed suit and the 18 hole course remains the standard to the present day.