Golf originated in Scotland in the fifteenth century. Although there are accounts of similar games being played in China and ancient Rome, modern golf is most like the Scottish game. The one distinctive characteristic that makes the game as played in Scotland different than the other games is the use of the hole.
During the early days of golf, there was a time when a ban was placed on the game. This was because Scotland was preparing for a war against England. The ban was placed by King James II because military training was being ignored. In 1502, the ban was lifted. The sport was taken up by King James IV. At that time, the popularity and status of the game skyrocketed. King Charles is given credit for the popularization of the sport in England. Mary, Queen of Scots, is credited with taking the sport to France. Today’s oldest golf course is in Scotland. Golf was first played on this course in 1672.
For practical reasons, early courses were laid out on links. Links are land by the sea-side with rolling hills and sandy soil. This land was well suited to golf courses since it did not have many other good uses. The game is played somewhat differently on the links than on modern courses. Fairways tend to be uneven. Lack of trees in their locations account for a course that is windier. They are easier to maintain since there are no greens to keep up.
Early golf clubs were bent sticks. As the game became more popular, skilled craftsmen who had been making bows and arrows, began manufacturing clubs made of ash or hazelwood. Beech and holly were used to make the heads. The refinement in the manufacture of the clubs followed the progress of the game. This evolution culminated in the advent of blacksmiths making clubs of iron.
Golf balls had a similar evolution. Early balls were made of hand stitched leather. They were stuffed with boiled feathers. The gutta-percha ball was invented in 1848 by Adam Paterson. It was made from the sap of the gutta tree. It could be hit a distance of 225 yards. In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the first one-piece rubber cored ball which could be hit up to 430 yards. William Taylor, in 1905, added the dimple pattern to the Coburn Haskell ball. This is the same ball that is in use today.
Golf is a much loved sport that is played everywhere. There are public and private courses available. This puts the sport within the reach of all.