Doughtie Sr. on Golf (February 2012)

Our first article dealt with the " Origins of Golf"and now that the issue has been settled.........we can enter the discussion on the sport's development.

At the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, golf's popularity exploded as it became more accessible and affordable.
Golf Associations were formed ,while National tournaments were created,all of which stimulated further interest.

Rail networks ,could get players to courses easier and cheaper,but it was the mass production of the moulded Gutta Percha ball, which replaced the Featherie, that had the greatest effect.Until that time a ball-maker would spend the better part of a day stuffing a top-hat full of goose feathers into a leather casing.Most of these balls were produced by Allan Robertson(1815-1859)the world's first golf professional, at his shop in St Andrews.

The Gutta Percha was similar to rubber,but harder,and was obtained from trees native to Malaysia and India and cost a fraction of the price.Hickory-shafted clubs became obsolete when the first steel-shafted examples hit the market.

Courses sprung up ,with Ireland also getting in on the act.Scottish soldiers incorporated Royal Belfast in 1881.However "goff" was recorded there in the 1600's when Phillip,Prince of Orange,the great grandfather of King William of Orange was involved there in battles .By the outbreak of World War 1 ,190 courses existed on the Emerald Isle.

Continental Europe was slower to increase it's number.France,Germany and the Netherlands did enjoy the sport,but on a much more exclusive basis.

De Haagsche(1893) was the pioneer in The Netherlands, followed by De Pan(1894),Rosendaelsche(1895) Kennemer and Hilversum (1910) and eventually Rotterdam (Kralingen) in 1933.If my memory serves me well,about 20 courses existed when I arrived here in 1972.Riverside (1965) supplied 5(eventually 6) holes at Wilton Feijenoord,before it joined with Rotterdam GC to form Broekpolder in 1981.

It took until 1914 for the clubs to form the Nederlandse Golf Comite which became the NGF in 1926.The Dutch Open was inaugurated in 1912 and won by England's George Pannel.The PGA of Holland has existed since 1929.

A rapid,and at times reckless expansion through the 90's and the last years has seen the number of courses in Holland grow to about 200 , to service the 380.000 golfers ,of whom less than 50% belong to clubs.

The Professionals formed their own associations.The first such was the British PGA in 1901.Designed to protect and develop their interests.Among the original founders were the Great Triumvirate of Harry Vardon,James Braid and JH Taylor,who between them won 16 British Opens.Their tournaments were became better organised ,although the R and A took over exclusively, the running of the Open.

The earlier events had been dominated by St Andrews and Musselburgh golfers until "foreigners"from England and further afield "stole"the limelight.The first non-British winner of the Open was Frenchman Arnaud Massy who succeeded at Hoylake in 1907 (although he was based in North Berwick at the time and married to Scots lass).The first time the Claret Jug,which had replaced the Belt,traveled across the Atlantic,was in the luggage of Jock Hutchison in 1921.He had taken US citizenship after emigrating from .....yes you guessed it....St Andrews!!!!!

Gerard de Wit who competed in 1956(23de ) and 1958(24de)and Jan Dorrestein(16th equal)at Muirfield in 1927, were notable, early, Dutch participants.

Although the US Open was played for since 1894,the USPGA was founded in 1916,the same year that the Professionals contested their own tournament.This event was in matchplay format until strokeplay was adopted in 1958.The Masters only came to be in 1934,but more about that in our April issue.

.......and so we arrive at today's levels....

It is difficult to get accurate statistics,since new courses are appearing on a very regular basis,but it is estimated that globally there are over 36.000 open for play.At 50% the US houses the most,the UK boasts over 3.000.In Europe golfers can make use of over 6.500,with Germany (+/-700) and Sweden (+/-500) contributing the most.The former East-block countries and particularly China have jumped on the bandwagon with many more being added to the list.

What commenced in Loenen aan de Vecht and Scotland many centuries ago ,has become a truely global sport to an ever-increasing amount of enthusiasts.

However, I hope that the traditions and etiquette,for which our sport is famed,can be maintained and not allowed to be watered down and disappear.

It's up to all of us to do our part.....

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