The origins of golf
Golf has been played for centuries. That most can agree upon but the actual origin of the game is subject to some debate among historians.
Being at its root a simple ball and stick game, there have been documented variations going back to 11th century China where there is a record of something similar being played but the game that is played today most likely had its heredity in Western Europe.
The word “golf” seems to have its derivation from the Dutch word “kolf” which means stick or club which was used in playing “kolven” in the Netherlands in which a leather ball was hit and who ever hit it the farthest, won the game.
The game where the object is to hit a sphere into a hole probably started in Scotland where sheep farmers would knock stones into rabbit holes for amusement. Eventually the game was arranged in to competitions of a sort with set locations where whoever could get the stone in the hole with the fewest number of hits won the game. This idea seemed to catch on in Scotland in the 15th century. In fact, it caught on so much that King James II issued a declaration banning the game because it was interfering with the archery practice of the militia. He said “The futeball and golfe be utterly cryed downe and not to be used”
By 1502 King James IV of Scotland, after ratifying a peace treaty with England and then marrying Englands’ King Henry VIII’s daughter, introduced the game to England.
The game was played as mostly a competition between golfers in each match for the next 240 years in Scotland without any standardized playing fields or common rules as such and no thought of keeping a cumulative count of the number of strokes played. It was in essence what we call match play and not medal play.
Circa 1750, Eighteenth century golfers at Edinburgh. (Photo by Spencer Arnold/Getty Images)
The term medal most likely originated at the same time as the first set of rules was codified. In 1744 the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers who played upon the Links of Leith petitioned the City of Edinburgh to provide a Silver Club as a trophy to be played for by “as many Noblemen or Gentlemen or other Golfers, from any part of Great Britain or Ireland.” The winner was to be called ‘The Captain of Golf’ or as they say nowadays ‘The Champion Golfer.” Because this was to be a medal play event it would be necessary for all golfers out on the course to be playing by the same rules because it would be impossible to see all the fellow competitors at the same time as you would be able to monitor your opponent in match play.
For that competition held on April 2nd 1744, the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers formulated the original set of 13 Rules. They are still the basis for the Rules of Golf today. They are:
Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf.
1. You must Tee your Ball within a Club's length of the Hole.
2. Your Tee must be upon the Ground.
3. You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.
4. You are not to remove Stones, Bones or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green and that only / within a Club's length of your Ball.
5. If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.
6. If your Balls be found any where touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.
7. At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary’s Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.
8. If you should lose your Ball, by it's being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball, And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.
9. No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club, or anything else.
10. If a Ball be stopp’d by any Person, Horse, Dog or anything else, The Ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.
11. If you draw your Club in Order to Strike, & proceed so far in the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.
12. He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.
13. Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar's Holes, or the Soldier's Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken out teed /and play’d with any Iron Club.
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