The History of Golf

vintage picture of a man playing golf

How do you know whether you are a real golfer? There are a few criteria that come to my mind:

  1. Wear long socks and a long sleeve shirt (preferably white)
  2. A beret is advisable
  3. And finally, make sure that you insert your pants inside your (long) socks
  4. Bonus if you are wearing checkered pants

Alright, alright… 

Truth be told, golfers are a lot more relaxed these days.

Doesn’t that make you wonder? What was it like playing golf at the beginning? When was the beginning anyway? Where can I buy checkered pants?

Well, stay tuned, because your questions are about to be answered…

An overview of the history of golf

Once upon a time

The first golf-like game was played in a small village called Loenen ann de vecht in the Netherlands. This game was played with a leather ball and a stick.

The winner was whoever could get the ball to the destination by using the least swings.

In 1360, people who played this game in Brussels would get a punishment of 20 shillings (cause they played in the city). 

As time progressed, the game would spread to Scotland and gain popularity. The concept of having a course with 18 holes was created by the Scottish.

In 1457, the first official mention of golf was made by the king, James II of Scotland. He outlawed the playing of golf from his military because he saw it as a distraction from archery practice. Not only that, James IV had also prohibited the sport of golf in 1502.

james 2

James II of Scotland

John Foulis of Ravelston wrote in a journal about his experience of playing golf at Musselburgh Links in March of 1672. This place is known as the oldest golf course in the world.

The Brits

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Scottish soldiers were spreading the game of golf to the British colonies.

The first golf course in Africa was built in 1770 on Bunce Island. Golf clubs started to develop and become more of a hobby in British culture.

In the 19th century, Golf really gained in popularity in other countries. During this time, railways were being built from London to Edinburgh and people went there for tourism.

This is when the sport of Golf would become more common and started being accepted as a sport.

Golf spreads to the United States

In the United States there was a shipment of golf equipment to William Wallace in 1739 in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1779, Golf was advertised at the Royal Gazette of New York City. The sport started to get organizations like the USGA. In total, there were around 1,100 clubs during that time.

The popularity of golf  was put on hold due to other priorities like the great depression and World War II. However, after that was when the game really became big in American pop-culture as a sport that anyone could get into.

Golf in Japan

japan

I have been to Japan multiple times specifically to go golfing. It is interesting to look at the Japanese golf culture, because it is so different from ours.

The history of golf in Japan is fairly recent. The first Japanese golf course was created in Kobe in 1903.

The sport was then only practiced by English expats. Golf remained a subculture for the Japanese. The turning point came in 1957 when Torakichi Nakamura and Koichi Ono won the Canada Cup. Golf started becoming more popular from that point.

Since the 1970s, the number of people playing golf regularly has exploded in Japan. Today, there are about 2500 courses and 35,000 practices in Japan… 

There are actually driving ranges on the top of certain buildings, in the center of Tokyo.

Golf organizations and competitions emerge

The US Open was created in 1895 at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. It was a 9 hole course and the very first winner was Horace Rawlins, who was 21 at the time.

But he was from the UK. The first American to win the US Open was John J. McDermott.

Most of the Open winners are American, but there are regularly winners from New Zealand, Argentina, North Ireland, Australia, South Africa and other countries.

Any Amateur or professional is allowed to enter. There have been exceptions, but the biggest rule for entering is not having a handicap above 1.4.

The PGA tour began in 1929 and wasn’t that big when it originally started. However in the 1960s, the PGA increased their revenues by getting coverage on television. Players would then desired to play on larger courses and that money allowed the PGA tour to do that.

There are also other PGA divisions such as in Canada, Latin America, and China. Winning this tournament is regarded as the biggest accomplishments that a professional can achieve in their career. The results of this tournament dramatically changes the rankings of golfers.

The USGA is regarded as one of the biggest golf organizations and the first one created in the United States.

It was created in 1894, only about a decade after most of the major clubs got started in the 1880s.

The World Golf Organization is one of the newest organizations and was created out of an appreciation for the sport in 1997. This organization has representatives from the other prolific organizations.

The World Golf Organization created the Golf Hall of fame, which showcases some of the most iconic players and moments. They also created the World Golf Village, which is a private club in Jacksonville, Florida.

The history of golf gear

Golf clubs

The earliest concept of a golf club emerged in the 16th century in Scotland. Even at the time, you had wedges, drivers and “longnoses”.

All of them were made out of wood but would develop as time went on.

Makers of golf clubs would experiment with aluminum and steel in the very early 1900s. Billy Burke was the first to win the US Open with a steel-shafted club in 1931. This would lead to the rise in the commercialization of those kinds of clubs seen today.

In 1973, graphite was introduced to make a club that was lighter, but allowed the user to have more strength. However, those were expensive, so golfers preferred to stick to steel-shafted clubs.

Golf balls

The very first concept of a golf ball emerged in the 13th century with the Dutch, and was made out of leather.

In the early 17th century there some balls were made out of feathers and covered in leather and were somewhat similar to the feel of modern golf balls.

Modern balls have their core made out of rubber (starting from 1898). This invention wasn’t adopted right away, but brands like Titleist would refine it over the years.

Clothing

When Golf began in Scotland, the players wore knickerbockers (the large pants you insert in your socks) to guard against the wind and water of the area. They also wanted wore tweed jackets along starched shirts and neckties.

chick evans

In the 1930s, golfers would change the knickers for flannel trousers, but that didn’t last for long.

Right after that, you would see the a knitted shirt with slacks that you see players wearing today.

Brands like Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and others create clothes for golfing. The typical outfit includes a mesh cap, an athletic polo, slack pants and golf shoes.

modern golfer

Golf carts 

Golf carts were originally created in 1932 and were electrically powered.

They were used by people with disabilities who couldn’t walk for long periods, but golf carts were not that popular at first.

Merle Williams changed the game and popularized gas-powered golf carts. He would develop carts from 1954 all the way until 2002.

A lot of different motor brands have gotten into the cart industry, all the way from Harley Davidson to Yamaha.

golf carts

Nowadays, golf carts can range a lot in price. They can go for as low as $1,000 all the way to $20,000 (the price of a cheap new car!).

Famous players and Tournaments

Tiger Woods

tiger woods drive

Tiger Woods has cemented himself in pop culture as greatest golf player of this era. His   career is a true roller coaster.

He attended Stanford University as a student-athlete already was an incredibly talented player.

Then, he would go professional and win the Master’s, PGA, Open and US Open tournaments at least 3 times.

He won the PGA player of the year, the Byron Nelson award and the Vardon trophy all at least 9 times.

Tiger had a dramatic decline in his career that many theorize was due to the loss of his father and the guilt of his scandal. But in one of the greatest comebacks of all time in sports, he won the Master’s tournament in 2019.

Rory McIlroy

rory mcilroy

Rory McIlroy is one of the most accomplished players of the past decade. 

He started his career in 2007 and currently has 26 professional wins. He has 17 PGA tour wins and 13 European tour wins.

He’s won the PGA championship in 2012 and 2014 along with winning the Open championship in 2014.

He won the US Open in 2011 and got 4th place at the Master’s tournament. 

He has also received some prestigious awards for his accomplishments. He’s received the PGA player award in 2012 and 2014 and he also received the Byron Nelson award in 2012, 2014, and 2019.

On top of that he has acquired the title of European Tour golfer of the year in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth is a player who has recently started winning some championships in the last few years. He was already a very talented player at the University of Texas.

He won the Maters tournament and the US Open in 2015 on top of getting 2nd place in the PGA tournament the same year.

He went on to win the open championship in 2017. But before he won the PGA tour rookie of the year award in 2013 and the player of the year award in 2015.

Jack Nicklaus

jack nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus is regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all time. Though he doesn’t play any more, his accomplishments are numerous.

He has 73 wins in the PGA tour along with 10 PGA tour champions wins. He’s won the Master’s tournament 5 times, the US Open and PGA tour both 5 times and the Open championship 3 times.

He has also won the PGA player of the year award 5 times along with being embedded in the golf hall of fame in 1974.

On top of that he received the presidential medal of freedom award in 2005 and the PGA lifetime achievement award in 2008.

Famous Golf courses

Cypress point club (California)

cypress

Cypress point club is one of the best golf courses in California. The place is incredibly beautiful. It’s not uncommon to see professionals practice there.

Muirfield Village club (Scotland)

muirfield

Muirfield Village club in Scotland is regarded as the oldest golf society which got started in 1744. Jack Nicklaus won his first British open on this course and is one of the prime destinations for players. It’s beautiful and isn’t easy for the casual player to play multiple holes at the course.

St. Andrews (Scotland)

st andrews

The St. Andrews course in Scotland is more than just a famous place. It’s a prime spot in the history of the sport. 

Shinnecock Hills (New York)

Shinnecock

Shinnecock Hills is located in New York and is one of the oldest clubs dating back from 1893. This club was the first one that allowed women to be members, which was really progressive at the time. This course is close to the Atlantic ocean and is very windy, which is seen as a challenge for many golfers.

Augusta national club (Georgia)

augusta

The Augusta national club is the best golf course in the south of the United States. This course features an 18 and a 9-hole courses. Green blazers are given to the winners of tournaments taking place there.

Pinehurst (North Carolina)

pinehust

Pinehurst was a prominent course in the 1990s and was located in North Carolina. It’s incredibly gorgeous and Payne Stewart won the 1999 US open on this course. It’s still one of the most beloved courses in the south.

Golf in 2019

Tiger Woods winning the Master’s tournament is going to be the biggest story of the sport this year. However, Tiger has a surgery planned for his knee and will not be able to play anytime soon.

Jordan Spieth is a prime example of a young  player who might have to end his season due to physical issues. 

Rory Mcllroy is still regarded as the best player in Europe. He is currently ranked 30th in the European tour. As of now, his score is -18.

Rickie Fowler has also done well in the PGA tour and got second place in the Master’s tournament last year. Right now, he’s in the position to win any tournament he wants. 

When it comes to the Japanese Ryo Ishikawa is an example of someone that’s done really well in his own country. He has 15 wins for the Japan Golf tour and has even been on the PGA tour in the past.

Toru Taniguchi is also very accomplished and has won 20 tournaments on the Japanese golf tour. He also placed T68 on the PGA tour in 2012 and is currently on the Japan Golf tour.

Yuta Ikeda was the lead money winner in 2016 and plays in the Japan Golf tour. Like other players, he has experience but isn’t that old at age 33.