Interesting Details on the Origins of Golf

According to the commonly accepted version, the game of golf originates from medieval Scotland. Widely referred to as “Home of Golf”, the country is home to the first golf courses but it is also the country of origin of the first written rules of golf, the 18-hole standard and the first modern-like tournaments and competing events.

Earliest Written Records of Golf in Scotland Dating from the High Middle Ages

The earliest written records of golf in Scotland date from the High Middle Ages. More precisely, from the mid-15th century when the game was banned by the Scottish Parliament for having a negative effect on archery training that was deemed as essential for the nation’s defence. The ban, however, had little or no effect and in 1502, King James IV of Scotland (1473-1513) bought a set of clubs to enjoy the game himself. It remains unknown where he used the clubs to hit the ball but the records reveal that the clubs were delivered from Perth. Other early records of golf in Scotland also reveal that the people of St Andrews were permited to play golf at St Andrews links by the Archbishop of St Andrews in the mid-1500s.

Though St Andrews is traditionally regarded the world’s oldest golf course, it is Musselburgh Links, The Old Golf Course that claims to be the oldest golf course in the planet. There are written records of the game being played at this nine hole course in East Lothian dating from 1672, however, there are indications that golf balls have been hit here by Marry, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) as early as 1567.

Golf-Like Games Reported to be Played Elsewhere Even Earlier

No one really challenges Scotland as the country of the origin of the game of golf but it is important to mention that golf-like games are reported to be played elsewhere even earlier. For example, a game involving a leather ball and stick is reported to be played in the Netherlands as early as the late 13th century although the earliest known account of a game played by using a colf/kolf (English: club) dates from the mid-1200s.

Historians who explored the origins of the game of golf also found evidence of similar games being played even earlier. Some trace origins of golf to Roman game called paganica played as early as the 1st century BC, while others suggest that the game could have been “imported” from the Far East. Namely, a game very similar to golf is also reported to be played in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1127).