History of Golf

The game of golf has been around for more than 500 years, and dates back to Scotland where it was originally banned by King James II because it interfered with archery practice!

When golf first began, it had a distinct lack of organisation, which continued up until 1744 when an Edinburgh group was formed called the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. A few years later, further groups formed such as the Society of St. Andrews Golfers which eventually became the Royal and Ancient Golf club of St. Andrews.

The first clubs were made from different types of wood, such as beech, apple or dogwood and fitted with a shaft of hazel or ash to provide a moderate amount of “spring.” Then, materials such as bone or horn were placed in the club face to provide a harder surface. Blacksmiths than began playing with iron clubs, forging faces with and without grooves for shorter shots.

The first balls were made from hand-stitched leather pieces stuffed with feathers. This was then replaced by the gutta-percha ball, followed by the Haskell ball. Today’s balls are covered in Balata or Surlyn with a composite core that has replaced the wound type of days past. Before the 1760s golf courses could be 12 holes, 19 holes, 23 holes, 15 holes, or any other number really.

However, around 1764, St. Andrews changed to 18 holes from 22 holes. The reason? Simply because 18 holes are easier than 22!

18 holes did not become the standard until the early 1900s, but from 1764 onward, more courses took St. Andrews’ lead and more and more golf courses became 18 holes.

Then, in 1774, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews issued new rules. There were 13 rules issued in total, and some of them still exist today. The rules of golf continued to be developed over time until 1897, when the St Andrews golf club formed a committee. Since 1952, the R&A and the United States Golf Association still meet every other year to set down a uniform code of rules.

Everyone knows golf began in Scotland, right?

Golf has been around for the past 500 years, the Scots were playing golf in a very basic form with a club, a ball and a hole.

In 1457, King James II banned the playing of golf because it kept his archers from practicing. James III in 1471 and James IV in 1491 each re-issued the ban on golf. But the game continued to develop in Scotland over the decades and centuries, until 1744 when the first-known rules of golf were put down in writing in Edinburgh.

The first clubs were made from different types of wood, such as beech, apple or dogwood and fitted with a shaft of hazel or ash to provide a moderate amount of “spring.” At a later date, materials such as bone or horn were placed in the club face to provide a harder surface.

In 1764, St. Andrews changed their course from 22 holes to 18 holes, simply because 18 holes is easier. 18 holes became standard in the early 1900s.

The size of the hole on a golf course is 4.25 inches in diameter. Like so many things in golf, the standardised size of the hole comes to us courtesy of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. In 1891, whilst new rules were being considered, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews decided that the holes should be the same size on every golf course.

They decided on 4.25 inches in diameter because Musselburgh (now a 9-hole municipal course and called Royal Musselburgh Golf Club) had invented, in 1829, the first known hole-cutter. That ancient hole-cutter is still in existence and is on display at Royal Musselburgh.

That first hole-cutter was 4.25 inches in diameter. The folks running the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews apparently liked that size and so adopted it in their rules for 1891. And as was usually the case, the rest of the golf world followed in the footsteps of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

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