History of Golf | Where Did The Game of Golf Begin?

history of golf Royal Montreal Golf Club

In the storied history of golf, there are many debates about where golf first began. Most hardcore golfers will tell you that Scotland is the motherland to the game they love. China also lays claim citing they played a game, using equipment resembling golf clubs,  that required them to hit a ball into a hole in courtyards.

Golf starting spreading to the rest of the world in the late 19th century, when it started to take hold in the United Kingdom, the rest of the British Empire and also the United States.

Let’s take a quick journey through golf’s timeline.

History of Golf | Origin of GolfThe_MacDonald_boys_part of the history of golf

There is a story of the Dutch playing a “golf-like” game as early as 1297, but many claim parts of this story can’t be backed up.

On the website “Ancient Golf”, they talk about a game called “colf” that was played in what is now known as the Netherlands and Flanders. They used curved wooden clubs to hit round wooden balls all over town.

Just like in modern day the wood clubs were replaced with iron-headed clubs.

You can read an interesting about it at http://www.ancientgolf.dse.nl/pdfs/1297.pdf

Just a little later, around 1332, a game called crosse or crossage was being around Hainut and Flanders.

Teams tried to reach a target in a number of strokes decided beforehand. The first team was the attacker and the second team tried to prevent them from achieving their goal.

Is it just me or does that sound like the early days of lacrosse, hockey and golf, all rolled into one?

History of Golf | Modern Day Golf

The golf we know today is more like the golf first mentioned in Scotland around 1457. Much like the Dutch game, early golf was played with curved wooden clubs and globe like wooden balls. They would hit them through the streets, churchyards and in open fields around the Scottish towns and along the sea shore.

In 1457, parliament actually banned golf because not enough people were focusing on their archery practice. Archery was important for Scotland’s defense during that time. When the ban was lifted in 1501, the game flourished. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was the world’s first golf club, organized in 1744.Featherie_golf_ball from history of golf

The wooden clubs were eventually replaced by both composite wood and metal ones. The wooden balls became leather balls, then rubber balls, and finally around 1900, the modern golf balls started to come into play.

Originally, golf was a team sport. Each team was made up of two players. The team that reached the “hole” in as few strokes as possible was declared the winner. This is very similar to modern day “match play.”

History of Golf | Golf Goes Global

Golf remained in Scotland from it’s beginnings, at the end of the 15th century and early 16th century, until the 17th.

In the 17th century, Scots started “branching out” to populate other colonies, including America, when Britain expanded into other areas.

While in Scottish towns and villages, they played golf matches and made up their own rules as well.

When Britain lost the American colonies in 1776, it is assumed that many returned home to Scotland, taking their golf clubs, golf balls and the game of golf with them.

About 70 years later, golf was re-introduced to the United States. A Scottish immigrant, named John Reid, and some of his buddies founded the Saint Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers, New York, in 1888. That golf club is believed to be the formal beginnings of golf in the United States of America.

But hold on my fellow Americans!

This was NOT the first golf club outside of Scotland, or even in North America for that matter.

India had a golf club in Calcutta, established by British Army officers, in 1829. France, had the Pau Golf Club, likely coming out of the Napoleonic wars, in 1856 and Australia had the “Australian Golf Club”, around 1882. South Africa has photographic evidence of golf being played there in 1886, also by Scottish officers.

Where was the first golf club in North America then?

That prize goes to our neighbours to the north in 1873. Yep, fifteen years before the Saint Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers was established, another Scotsman named Alexander Denniston put together a group of 8 Scottish expats and some local businessmen to form the Royal Montreal Golf Club, in Montreal, Canada. The picture in the featured image is from the Royal Montreal Golf Club.

Scotsmen had been playing golf in Canada, if only unofficially, since about 1826.

Check out this ad from the Montreal Herald in 1826. http://www.golfcanada.com.

Today, golf is a game loved by millions of people around the globe.

history of golf Old_and_Young_Tom_MorrisFrom what I found, we can give thanks to the proliferation of golf courses around the world, to Scottish officers in the British army and Scottish colonists.

In the beginning they picked up a club and ball and just started swinging.

Today golf is one of the most popular games in the world. I think you would be hard pressed to find another game that is practised more by the average person, than golf.

We know from the history of golf that it was the Scots who took the game with them wherever they went. Even when it was to other continents.

That tells us a couple of things.

We can probably give credit for the game of golf to our friends from Scotland. The addiction to this incredible game started a long time ago!

As always my friends…Long and straight!


Paul “The Golf Guy” Charron

About The Author

Paul "The Golf Guy"

Golf blogger, Chaser of the Little White Ball

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