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The golf industry continues to grow, creating new fans and golf professionals each year. It’s also a very profitable industry, with over $13 billion in sales last year. This sport has a long history, but do you know its origin? Golf dates back to the 15th century, and was first played on the eastern coast of Scotland in the Kingdom of Fife. According to USGA, the term golf is derived from the Dutch word “kolf” or “kolve,” meaning club. Due to the Scottish accent, the “k” sounded like a “g.” Thus, the Scots called it “goff” and it morphed into golf.

The game was played by a golfer hitting a pebble with a stick on a “natural” course made of sand dunes, tracks and “rabbit runs.” It was a far cry from the professionally-designed golf courses of today. What is interesting is that there was no hole for the pebble to go into. The game was actually banned for a time, starting in 1457 by King James II. The Scots were obsessed with the game and not concerned about the impending English invasion, which angered the king. The ban was reaffirmed two more times — in 1470 and 1491. It took the Treaty of Glasgow (1502) to lift the ban.

Golf’s popularity didn’t take off until the 16th century, mostly due to endorsements from royalty. King Charles I of England and Mary Queen of Scots made the game popular in England and France (Mary was studying in France at the time). It was Mary who created the term “caddie,” which was a nickname for cadet as French military cadets were her helpers during the game.


The First Golf Course

Some say the oldest golf course in the world is Leith Links, since the rules of golf were created and first used there by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith in 1744. They were a committee that became the first golf club of Leith, and was later renamed the Honourable, The Edinburgh Company of Golfers in 1800.  There were only 13 rules and they competed for a prize – a silver golf club. However, the oldest golf course in the world is St. Andrews.


Golf Clubs & Balls Take Shape

In 17th Century, golf equipment began to take the shape we are familiar with, largely due to the mass production processes of the Industrial Revolution and perfected designs. Prior to this period, clubs and balls were made out of wood. Golf balls evolved from wood to featheries, which were balls of leather stuffed with feathers. In the 1800s, Robert Adams Paterson redesigned the golf ball to improve its weight and shape. He discovered the sap from a sapodilla tree could be heated and molded. He created a round mold and poured the sap into it. When dry, it produced a hard, round ball. This was the first mass-produced golf ball, called a guttie. It wasn’t until the 20th century when golf balls got their famous dimples, which were a design element for speed. Golf clubs haven’t changed their shape too much over the centuries. They changed over to metal when iron was readily available (late 1800s) and then over the course of time, better materials and manufacturing lead to the golf clubs we use today. With its history and popularity, it is easy to see that golf will continue to be an exciting sport.