Not knowing whether it was fact or
folklore -- after all, I had read it on the Internet -- my curiosity
got the best of me and I decided to investigate. In the process, I
found that there are several competing versions as to when and where
golf was invented.
In baseball, there are those who say that the game was invented
by Abner Doubleday, whose descendents now run the New York Mets.
Others claim that Alexander Cartwright invented it. Either way,
there are only two competing versions.
Like baseball, the origin of golf has never been clearly
established. Unlike baseball, though, there are four or five
competing versions as to when and where the game originated.
The earliest version of golf came from the Romans during Julius
Caesar's reign, when the game was played with a cowhide-type of ball
stuffed with feathers and struck with club-shaped branches. There
are stories of the Dutch playing on frozen canals around 1425.
Variations of golf were also played in France and Belgium. The main
flaw with the Dutch and French versions lies in the fact that they
lacked at least one essential element of the game -- the hole.
Golf as we know it today actually originated in Scotland around
1450. Its exact origins are unknown, but it is believed that golf
originated with men AND women along the Scottish coast hitting a
pebble with a stick, although the game may have first been played in
the Scottish moors by shepherds.
In 1457, King James II temporarily banned golf in Scotland
because it interfered with the practice of archery, which was vital
to the country's national defense. The residents, though, ignored
the ban and began playing on seaside courses called "links," a term
still used today to refer to golf courses. King James' son, James
III, and his grandson, James IV, also tried to ban golf in Scotland
but, like a drunk trying to enforce prohibition, James IV took up
the game himself.
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King James VI of Scotland, who later became known as King James I
of England, brought the sport with him from Scotland around 1603.
King James' mother, Mary Queen of Scots, also took up the game of
The St. Andrews golf course in Scotland is the world's oldest
course. A number of 6-, 8-, 9-, and 12-hole courses were opened in
the United States around 1890, and the first 18-hole course, the
Chicago Golf Club, was founded in 1893.
So where does the word "golf" come from and what does it mean?
It turns out that the word golf is not an acronym at all; it is
derived from the Scottish word "gowf," meaning "to strike."
While the "gentlemen only -- ladies forbidden" philosophy still
forbids women from becoming members at Augusta, this is not the case
with the PGA Tour. PGA stands for Professional Golf Association.
Nowhere does it state that it is the "men's PGA." The LPGA Tour, on
the other hand, states clearly in its title that it's for ladies
and, as a result, allows only female players to compete. But I doubt
that the women's game will ever be renamed as "lomf," which would
stand for "ladies only -- men forbidden."
Paul Niemann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn
more about Invention Mysteries by visiting the official
Invention Mysteries website.
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006