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Golf is one of the oldest sports in the world, with a murky history that’s hard to trace. Most people are not familiar with the complete history of this popular sport. However, by reading this article, golf fans like Stefan Masuhr can discover a bit more about the sport they enjoy so much.

Golf: From Scotland, France, Germany, Ancient Rome or China?

While modern golf is most frequently associated with games evolving in Scotland and perhaps France and Germany, there is evidence of similar games being played in Ancient Rome by Julius Caesar himself and by the Song Dynasty in China from about 960 to 1279. The game that Caesar played involved hitting a leather ball stuffed with feathers with tree branches. A similar game was also played in China. However, these games probably had no link to what developed in Western Europe hundreds of years later.

Golf’s Home in Scotland

Scotland truly is modern day golf’s true home, even though there may have been influences from France, Germany and the Low Countries. Experts argue that the hole is what made Scotland’s ball and stick game unique. Although there are examples of similar games in Belgium as well, these games didn’t include the hole that is so fundamental to golf.

In Scotland, golf began during the 15th century. In the first versions of the game, players would hit a pebble around a course including sand dunes, tracks and rabbit runs using a stick. In the sport’s early life, there were several hiccups along the way. Apparently, Scottish men were such avid golf and football players that they neglected military trainings, which led to several bans on golf during the mid and late 1400s. In 1502 the bans, which were mostly ignored, were lifted.

Key royal families including King Charles I in England and Mary Queen of Scots in France helped popularise the sport and spread it to other areas of Europe. One of the first important golf courses was in Leith, which is near Edinburgh, and this is where the first international golf match was held in 1682. In that tournament George Patterson, from Scotland, defeated two English noblemen. Learn about other famous historic golf courses by watching the embedded video.

It was at Leith that golf became an official sport complete with rules which were drafted by Duncan Forbes in 1744. Other important rules and adaptations such as stroke play and the 18-hole course standard were introduced in 1759 and 1764.

19th Century Golf and Beyond

The sport quickly spread along with the British Empire, with courses and clubs established in London and then Bangalore, India. Ireland, Adelaide, Montreal, Cape Town, New York and Hong Kong all had courses by the end of the 1880s.

During its development and evolution, golfers adjusted the tools and elements of the game. Check out some of the surprising facts about golf balls, clubs and practices by reading the attached PDF.

Shortly after this worldwide explosion of golf clubs and courses, the United States Golf Association was formed in 1894. Within a short period of time, there were over 1,000 established golf courses in the USA and America quickly became the centre of professional golf.  The Professional Golf Association of America was founded shortly after the USGA in 1916.

Golf only grew and grew in popularity and increased its presence in society. In1920s America, tournament golf had already become a well-attended spectator sport. Various international tournaments such as the US and British Opens, world golf championships such as the Accenture Match Play Championship, and later the PGA tour, were created and also drew the world’s attention to the sport.

As you can see, golf has a long and fascinating history, rich in tradition and culture. Next time you pick up your golf clubs, remember the long history of this great sport.

Learn some additional fun facts about golf by taking a look at the embedded infographic.