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The History of Golf

August 14th, 2012 Games

Golf has continued to thrive as one of America's favorite sports. It's the ultimate combination of leisure and friendly competition. It serves as a means of socializing and talking, whether it's two business associates or several friends. It's garnered so much appeal that there's a television station and millions of dollars in advertisement revenue dedicated to it. The golf phenomenon has a storied history that begins overseas nearly 500 years ago.

The earliest incarnation of golf is thought to be from Scotland sometime in the 15th century. According to HistoryOfGolf.net, it'd gotten so popular that Scottish soldiers had begun to get distracted from their training, so King James II banned it in 1457. The ban would carry on throughout the rest of the 1400s, though many people paid no mind to the law and played anyway. It wasn't until 1502, when the Treaty of Glasglow was passed, that the law was taken out of effect - some surmise that it had to do with King James IV and his affinity for the sport.

Golf grew in popularity as other British royalty showed their passion for it, notably Mary Queen of Scots, who, according to FinleyOnGolf.com, was the first woman ever recorded to play. Although golf was frequently played, there had never been an established course until the 16th century, which was in St. Andrews, Scotland - a piece of land that was flattened by grazing sheep, which made it conducive to swinging and putting.

HistoryOfGolf.net reports that in 1744, the first golf club was conceived, which was called the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith. The Gentlemen Golfers had an annual tournament and the victor would get a golf club made of silver, as opposed to the clubs that were originally made from apple tree wood or beech wood. The source notes that along with the game's established competition came established rules, such as the rule stating that a ball's tee had to be placed on the ground when it was struck and the ball that was hit off the tee could not be switched. By 1768, the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith had become the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. It was also in this era that the concept of strokes, or how many swings it takes to get to a hole, was first instituted as well as a golf course having 18 holes.

Golf continued to gain popularity throughout the years and the 19th century saw the establishment of more courses throughout Britain and its foreign territories. There were also courses set up in other European countries and overseas. According to HistoryOfGolf.net, the Royal Curragh was created in Ireland in 1856 as well as the Pau in France. In 1873, the Royal Montreal was established and in 1888 the Saint Andrews club in New York was created.

The first golf play in the United States was thought to be in Charleston, South Carolina. FinleyOnGolf.com reports that a local newspaper wrote about the birth of the South Carolina Golf Club as early as 1786. The site speculates that it gained such popularity in the southern hub because it was a bustling port city with a large Scottish demographic. The original activities of the South Carolina Golf Club were leisurely and the group would go out into a field, dig some holes and hit a few balls back and forth. Much like today, the earliest incarnations of golf in the south served as a way for the locals to socialize, and both ladies and men would attend the gatherings. The trend in America caught on and within the coming years, a club in Savannah, Georgia, was also established.

The 20th century saw a proliferation of the game as it spread both north and west, with clubs and courses created in Chicago and Massachusetts. The rules would continue to be sculpted and solidified and eventually leagues and international competitions would come into play. Today, golf is a large part of America's cultural repertoire - whether it's a group of friends hitting the driving range after work or pop culture references in movies and television.