Nobody is 100% sure how the game of golf began. A game similar to golf was played in the Netherlands as early as 1297. Scoring was very similar to today’s game, but the game was played with a leather ball and a stick.. Recent research has shown that golf might have actually originated in China during the Tang Dynasty. However, Scotland is the country that takes credit for the invention of the game. Those who support the Scottish claim believe that even if there were games played in other places earlier than the Scottish game, it is the Scottish game that is most similar to the modern game of golf.
At one point, golf was banned in Scotland. The year was 1447 and Scotland was threatened by an English invasion. The government was concerned Scotsmen would be focused on the game instead of defending the country. Within 25 years the ban was lifted and the King himself was playing golf.
Even if Scotland is unable to officially take the title of the birthplace of golf, it can claim the world’s oldest course. St. Andrews was founded during the 16th century. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded in 1754, creating a more organized structure for the game. The first British Open was held in Prestwick, Scotland in 1860, launching the tradition of tournament golf.
Golf in North America
The first golf course in North America opened at the Royal Montreal Club in Canada in 1873. There were six, eight, nine, and 12 hold courses all
over the country, but the first 18 course did not open until 1893. It was located in Wheaton, Illinois.
With the popularity of golf growing in the United States, the United States Golf Association formed in 1894 and the Professional Golfers Association formed in 1916. Today, the Professional Golfers Association, or the PGA, is the most well-known golf organization in the world.
Tournament golf became a popular spectator sport during the roaring 20s. This popularity bred golf superstars such as Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, and Ben Hogan. Many consider Ben Hogan the best golfer in history. Others argue the title should go to Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus, two of the sport’s most popular legends.
Nicklaus is known for being one of the youngest golfers to win the United States Amateur Open during his attendance at Ohio State University. He started playing on the professional circuit in 1961, winning is first major in 1962. He eventually became the all-time leader in major tournament wins and boasts six Masters, five PGAs, four U.S. Opens, and three British Open titles.
Nicklaus paved the way for the sport’s popularity today. Many golfers enjoy popularity similar to other sports, such as football or baseball. Some of the best known names in professional golf today include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, 2012’s Masters winner.
There are several golf museums located around the world, giving fans an opportunity to learn more about the game and play homage to its history. The British Golf Museum is located in St. Andrews in Scotland and the World Golf Hall of Fame is located in St. Augustine, Florida.