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History Of Golf Essay, Research Paper

Imagine the sun bursting through the trees for the first time of the new day, the smell of freshly cut grass still potent to your nose as you tee the ball up for a round of golf in the cool mist of a spring morning. “That is what brings you back every time, the smell of the air, the coolness of the whether and the beautiful surroundings that make every shot enjoyable.” (Suess, PI) This is the game of golf in its finest and most exquisite time to many people and many people it has touched in its long history. Golf is a lifestyle and not just games to people that are avid in playing. The game of golf has a history that is rich in technological advances and personal accomplishments, which through time has shown to shape the sport into what it has become today.

The organ of golf in it most primary of forms is unknown, but there are many cultures that show golf in times as early as the thirteenth century. Three groups of people claim that they started golf: The English, the Dutch and the Scots. The English say that they started golf because of the sketches of a man apparently preparing to strike a ball in a golf like manner stained into the windows of the Gloucester Cathedral, England. Many scholars doubt that theory because it could have been a man playing cambuca, a popular pastime of English society in that time. The Dutch say that they started golf because they feel it is a mixture of the two Dutch games chole and jeu de mail. Many people believe that the word golf originated from Holland with the word “colf” which means club. A Dutch man named Van Hengal traced colf back to December 1297, in a town of Loenen in Northern Holland. In this month, local townsfolk played four holes of the game to commemorate the relieving of the Krnenburg Castle exactly one year before. This fact suggests that golf or colf was already popular by the late thirteenth century. The Scots state the case of organ because they are the home of St. Andrews, which was the first golf coarse with eighteen holes. There are also stories of men from medieval times trading supplies that could be used for golf between the shores of Holland and Scotland.

This new game that people were beginning to play in Scotland, seemed to take a hold of the people. At the time, the sport was open to all people- no fees to pay, no starting times- just a short game of golf that would always be followed by a trip to the local mead hall. Most golf played was on bets and times have not changed on that fact. Men would go and bet that they could beat the man next to them on the links, which at the time were only sandy, hilly pastures. It was because this game was at such a simple stage in its history; it required skill and finesse that almost all people could do. So, to meet the demand of the people, many courses were built along high bluffs on the eastern coastline in Scotland. It is here that nature developed dunes, ridges, gullies and hollows that would challenge the best of golfers.

Through the years there have been many forms of golf clubs used to strike to object used as a ball. Because of the increase in technology the tools of golf have been defined and redefined over and over again. The very first types of clubs that were used were just regular sticks that a person would find. These clubs were fashioned and modified with strips of leather at the top end to form a grip. These clubs were used all the way until the early 18th century.

In the early 18th century there was a new way of making clubs. Clubs no longer had to withstand the impact of striking a solid wooden ball because of the development of a new lighter ball. Soon clubs were being made out of ash, thorn, apple, and pear wood. These clubs were nice because the owners were able to place exquisite designs in the shafts and they were still functional. In 1826 hickory from America was being exported the isles to help with the demand of the wooden clubs. (Hist. Coarse, 11)

All the wooden clubs would start being replaced with steel and iron in 1848 when the gutta percha ball first appeared. The clubs did not have to be so soft at contact with the ball so metals were good to use in the clubs. In the beginning of the usage of metals many men would build and grind down the clubs themselves, but soon many American companies would join in and produce many of the brand name irons that are still around today. The wood in the shaft needed to be stronger so instead of ash the companies would use hickory witch is a stronger wood. The irons stayed about the same for many years until the 20th century.

In the twentieth century there have been more technological changes in clubs than the combined past. In the early part of the century people started putting metal in the shafts of the irons instead of just on the head. Different types of metal then started coming out due to the bounce that one would get off the club to the ball at impact. The shafts of clubs have become different also, instead of wood shafts now there is graphite and other types of synthetic fibers that go into a shaft. Today Shafts can be built for different types of swing speed and basically to fit a golfer to their swing and still get good distance and control.

Just as clubs have changed over the history of golf due to technology or enlightenment, the ball that golfers use has changed equally as much if not more. In the beginning of golf, people would use stones and pebbles to hit to the target but this soon gave way to wooden balls made out of elm or beech. These balls had no aerodynamic properties after a short use. Gradually, they adopted a ball made of white leather and filled with cow’s hair witch was used in a Scottish game call Kaatsen. It is believed that these balls helped in the development of a new ball in the early 18th century.

In the early stages of the 18th century a ball called the “feathery” was developed and quickly put to use. The feathery consisted of a leather casing, usually bull’s hide, soaked in alum and crammed with goose feathers, which have been softened. The ball was then knocked into shape and painted white so it would be visible. (Hist. Coarse, 7) The feathery ball had two differences from the balls preceding it. First, wooden balls would not go over 100 yards and the feathery would almost always clear that by double. And the second difference of the two was that the feathery costs twelve times the price of the wooden ball. This is when golf got the image that it was only for rich because nobody could even afford the balls for play.

In 1848 a new ball came out called the gutta percha ball. This ball was made out of a gum, which is tapped from a tree that is only found in Malaya. The sap from the tree was malleable when boiled in water and it becomes hard when cooled. The distance of this new ball was not much different from the feathery ball but the price of this new ball was cheaper. The gutty ball was not all good though, it was prone to break up in mid-air, which forced a rule that the golfer could play a new or fresh ball from the point that the largest fragment had come to rest. Throughout the rest of the 19th century the gutty ball was modified and improved to make it more durable. Its outer shell was cut up or hammered because it was observed that the ball flew better when it has been scuffed.

In 1901 a new ball made it to the golf scene and as quickly as the gutty ball came, it also left. (Hist. Of Coarse,8) The new rubber ball was developed and made in the United States. It consisted of elastic tread that was wound around a rubber core under extreme tension and then a cover of gutta percha was put around it. The ball was more durable and better reacting than any other ball out at the time. This ball called the attention of the United States Golf Association, which regulated that the ball should weigh no more than 1.62 ounces and should have a diameter no less than 1.62 inches. Soon many new big balls were made and in 1968 the Professional Golfers Association in Great Britain made it standard for a ball to 1.68 inches in tournaments.

The golf ball, as we know it today is a different variation of the gutta percha shell ball. (Hist. Coarse, 9) Balata replaced the gutta percha in balls that are typically used by better golfers while surlyn is used to make harder balls for the novice players. Since the usage of regulated balls in the USGA and many other organizations around the world, the struggle is getting the most out of a ball and still stay inside the regulated borders.

Through the years golf has seen it share of technological advances to its equipment, but there is a entire different side of the game that has to do with the great golfers that shaped and molded the way that people play golf today. In the 1750s when golf as we know it today came to be and all the great old golf clubs were being started a man by the name of Allan Robertson was noted to be the very first professional golfer. He is the first man to break eighty on what is now the old coarse at St. Andrews. Robertson and a man by the name of Willie Dunn had an epic tournament that was twenty rounds over ten days. In the end Robertson won- two rounds up with one to play. This family of the Robertson’s was truly the first golfing family that made its home at the most famous golf coarse in the world.

On July first 1851 a man by the name of Old Tom Morris left his house to create the first purpose built golf course on Monkton parish in Prestwick. (Hist. Of Golf, 3) It was nine years later that the first Open Championship was held at the golf coarse. The winner was Willie Park and for winning he received a red Morocco leather belt with silver clasps as the first prize. The Open Championship was held at Prestwick for eleven years after the first tournament. Both Old and Young Tom Morris dominated it. Only one other family has gotten close to as many wins as the Morris’ and that is Willie Park Sr. and Jr. It was Old Tom Morris and Willie Park Sr. that won every Open prior to the emergence of Young Tom. Both men were much loved figures and were responsible for the standards of sportsmanship that the game is known for today.

There was a new era that began in 1890 that gave the game such grates as John Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid. Between the three they collected sixteen open titles and thirteen-second place finishes. John Taylor won the first of his five Open titles in 1894. Vardon beat Taylor in a playoff in 1896 to get his first of six titles. James Braid won his first Open Championship in 1901 to join as the third member in the group. Vardon and Taylor did have one advantage over Braid and that was that Braid never crossed the Atlantic and played in the newly formed professional tour in America. At this time the tour in America was beginning to shape up and many of the successful players in America were from Scotland. In fact the early US Open Champions were all Scots born players who, as teachers would produce players that would come and further transform this game.

The turn of the century came and with that the First World War almost completely took out golf in Scotland. Many young men who were promising golfers traded their clubs for guns and never made it back to the links after the war. There were only a few that did not let the war stop them from improving their games. In 1910 the professional golfers’ association of Britain was founded in London. (Orgin, 5) One of these men was George Duncan. Duncan won the first post-war Open in 1920. A new wave of golfers came to the Open after the war and they were from America. American greats included Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones who would ad flair and lifestyle to the tour.

If the First World War almost took out golf in Scotland than the Second World War gutted it completely. It was said, “The First War took the golfers and the Second War took the golf courses.” (Hist. Of golf, 5) This left a mark because after the second world war, the Americans came on strong and started to dominate golf. The United States became a pre-eminent place to play golf. Although the Americans did start to leave a dominating mark on golf, they did not do much damage at the Open Championship. Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were really the only two Americans that did have success over in England after the war.

Since the Start of the second half of the 20th century, golf has become a truly global game. Not only are the players from England, Scotland and America, but also many have come from Holland and Japan and Spain to name a few. American golfing really came into its own when Arnold Palmer started playing in the early sixties. Palmer was lord of every links he surveyed. (Hist. Golf, 7) That would soon change when a young man from Ohio named Jack Nicklaus came onto the scene. These two would be the best rivalry to every play against each other. In the 1980s Seve Ballesteros would become the first European to win the Masters at the age of twenty-three. In the 1990s one player has come out and dominated the game, Tiger Woods. Tiger has been a major contender until he won the Masters at the age of twenty-one. Combined with his six wins in a row Tiger is a model for how golf will be played in the 21st century.

In all the history of golf is rich with developments in technology and personal achievement. If only the originators of golf, whoever they are, could see the different directions the game has gone and the advancements that the equipment has made. For a physical project I will build a set of golf clubs to use for the upcoming golf season. I will compare the score that I have shot with my old clubs and the clubs that I have built for my senior project. This will help me further understand how it was to build the clubs that you play with like many men did generations ago. The great Ben Hogan sums up the game of golf the best with,” It’s the hardest darn game that will bring you back every time with that one elusive shot.”(Hist. Of golf coarse, 7)


History of golf. 27 November 2000.


History of Golf Coarse. 25 November 2000.


The Origins of the Game of Golf. 1999. 25 November 2000


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