Doughtie Sr. on Golf (January 2012)

Where did golf have it's origins? 

The debate,which has gone on for many years will continue long after you have read this column..... 

Many experts would argue that the sport originated in the Low Countries(Holland) and in fact golf historian Steven van Hengel has produced sufficient eveidence that a sport"Het Kolven"later referred to as kolf was played in the streets and around the towns of Loenen aan de Vecht in 1297,Brielle(1387) Dordrecht(1401) Rotterdam(1431) and Schiedam(1581).

Paintings by Dutch Masters such as Averkamp and Van de Velde depict winter scenes showing  the sport being played on ice.Interestingly enough  Averkamp's "Winter Landscape"from 1668 shows kilted men,probably Scottish merceneries taking part. 

Others may insist that the Romans could claim the glory,having a pastime knwn as Paganica to entertain themselves,however it is more likely this was a forerunner for hockey and/or polo.South American Indians also had variations of games involving sticks and balls,but it is unlikely that any of these had any bearing on the sport as we know it today. 

Another theory,which I tend to accept is that Dutch traders when selling their goods to merchants on the Scottish East Coast  around Montrose,St Andrews and other ports,hit stones and wooden balls with wooden sticks or clubs between their anchored ships and the market places.The local Scots joined in on the barren unfertile land between the sea and the farming ground.The area in the dunes was to become known as "links". 

There is documented evidence that golf was played at Montrose and St Andrews in the late 1400's and some form must have been attempted prior to this since King James 2 banned "gowf and futebol"in 1457 so that his noblemen could concentrate on their archery practice.

Mary Queen of Scots made a bold step for Ladies golf by playing at Seton sands(near Edinburgh)in 1567 ,a few days after the murder of her husband Lord Darnley. 

Golf was played in many locations on the Scottish East coast by this time,although it was a long time before societies(clubs) were formed.Minutes(notulen) show that such societies existed in the 18th century.The earliest records would credit Royal Burgess(Edinburgh) as being the oldest club.Others sprung up at Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers in 1744,who played in and around the city until moving to their present location at Muirfield in 1891.Bruntsfield Golfing  Society followed in 1761 and Crail in 1786.The Royal and Ancient St Andrews was established in 1754. 

This ,I think is sufficient evidence that the game as we know it today was developed in Scotland. 

Although Scottish exiles introduced the sport to England as early as 1608 at Blackheath Common,the club only commenced it's incorporation in 1766.The growth in the UK was substantial although more so in Scotland than south of the Border.In 1850 twenty five clubs were operating by 1890 it had almost reached 400 and 20 years later over 2300 clubs and societies existed. 

Although ship manifests declared that clubs and balls were shipped from Leith(port of Edinburgh)to Charleston South Carolina in 1743,this was probably to satisfy some frustrated golfer hitting balls in his cotton fields since there no records of any clubs in the US till much later.It is generally accepted that the first organised golf was played at the St Andrews Club at Yonkers(near New York)in 1888.However there is proof that Dutch settlers played their version of "spelen metten kolve"' long before.

The US Open was first played in 1894 and the first 17 events were won by Scottish immigrant professionals.

Prior to this Royal Montreal GC ,the oldest club in North America started it's life in 1873. 

As the British Empire expanded to farflung outspots of the globe,Scottish Officers and settlers took the sport with them.The first location outside the UK where golf was played was in Calcutta as from 1829.Cape Town(1885) Hong Kong(1888) followed,but prior to this the first club on the European continent at Pau was incorporated by Scottish Officers resting after the Napoleonic Wars in 1856. 

Golf "returned "to Holland and the first Dutch club was laid out in 1889 by Baron van Brienen van de Grote Lindt in Wassenaar and was to become de Koninklijke Haagsche GC although the location and layout has changed considerably over the intervening years. 

And so slowly but gradually the sport expanded worldwide to the enormous proportions we see today. 

But who can claim the credit for it's beginnings......I think Holland and Scotland may share the honour.....or do you have another opinion????

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