History of Golf in the UK: How It Became More Than Just A Game

history of golf in the uk

Did you know that the word ‘golf’ originated from the Dutch word ‘colf’ which meant stick? Here’s why!

A pebble, a stick, and a few friends. That was all you needed to play a round of golf in the 15th century. While we are all very accustomed with the game we know and love today, it is often debated how the game of golf came to be, with some arguing that it was founded in the Netherlands, while others insist it was started by shepherds in Scotland as far back as the 12th century!

Despite this, the game has cemented its historical impact all over the world, and especially in the UK. After all, the oldest and most historical golf course, The Old Course at St Andrews, has its home in Scotland. Today, taking you to the United Kingdom to illustrate the influence it had over golf, some of its must-visit courses, and events that you should keep an eye out for.

From Sticks and Pebbles to Clubs and Balls

During the early days of the game, golf did not require the array of equipment one would need now: a club, a dimpled ball, a putter, gloves, a caddie...the list is endless! Players in Edinburgh would attempt to hit a mere pebble with a stick. The game was so simple and yet equally captivating - it had to be banned because players were neglecting their military training in order to play a few rounds!

Despite this, golf refused to back down as being Scotland’s most popular sport. King James IV of Scotland adopted the game as his own favorite, triggering its comeback. Queen Mary of Scots introduced the English and the French (where the word caddie derived from le cadet!) to the game and is famously one of the first women who took on this game. Scholar George Buchananfamously expressed his astonishment at this, claiming she had been playing in “fields that were plainly not adapted to women”.

The game’s popularity amongst royals raised curiosity all across Europe, and further fueled its popularity. The Pau Golf Club was established in 1856 in France, cementing itself as the first golf club in Europe. Shortly after, another opened in Belgium. The 1890’s marked the beginning of golf taking off in Europe. Before they knew it, golf turned from a pastime hobby to an institution, one that required rules, instructions, and a whole lot of skill. Therefore, golf rules started to be developed and theorized by many.

The famous Leith Rules encompass the first surviving golf rules as we know them today and established The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers as one of the world’s earliest clubs, along with The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh”. Little did they know, many would follow.

Royalty Is Not Just Limited to People

To say golf courses in the UK bear a lot of cultural value would be an understatement. Some of them even bear royal status. A member of the royal family has to visit a golf course to grant it such an honor, illustrating the value it carries. Here are but a few of the most historical golf courses found across the UK:

1. Old Course at St. Andrews

This course in St. Andrews, Scotland is one of the world’s most well known courses, and for a good reason: it is known as the home of golf. Townspeople would play their links on its green so often that it ended up in a small battle between golfers and rabbit farmers over the use of the land! Thankfully, after two decades of conflict, golfer James Cheapel bought the land that would make the course what it is today.

 St. Andrews golf course

Source: The Experience St Andrews

2. Royal North Devon Golf Course

This 1864 Northam club is the oldest golf course in England. This is one of the world’s most natural golf courses, allowing for an easy escape from the hectic city life. Moreover, this golf is doing what it can’t in remaining eco-friendly: it was the first club to ban plastic tees in order to protect wildlife from swallowing them!

Royal North Devon Golf Course

Source: Golf Holidays

3. Royal Belfast Golf Club

Designed by famous architect Harry Colt, this Belfast-based club is the oldest club in Northern Ireland. It is famous in the country for being a course with some of the best conditions, thanks to recent renovations. In addition, it’s probably one of the hilliest golf courses in the country - for those who are up for a challenge!

royal Belfast

Source: Royal Belfast 

4. Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club

You might recognize the name of this Lancashire club for one very important reason: it is one of the main courses on which the Open Championship competitions are played. This course is also especially sentimental to female golfers, as it is the home of many female golfing competitions, including the Women’s British Open and the LPGA Tour. Fun fact: this course is well-known for being one of the hardest for achieving a good score!

Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club

Source: 1golf.eu

Let’s Peek At This History Ourselves

Want to go visit the home of golf yourself? We’ve got you covered! Several golfing events and competitions take place in the UK. What’s better is that not only are they a day of fun, but also offer a chance to give back and help make the world a better place. Below are some of our favourite events that we will be attending in the UK, and to which we will be contributing.

 1. The Red Eagle Foundation Golf Days

The Red Eagle Foundation is a UK based charity which aims to contribute to children living with disabilities and improve their life quality. We will be participating in four of their events in the coming years, and you can, too! By participating in one of their golf days, not only will you get the chance to play in the country of golf, but you will be helping improve the lives of many children.

 2. Kent Wish Foundation Celebrity Golf Day

The Kent Wish Foundation tries to spread a little magic by helping make the dreams of children with life limiting illnesses come true. Get a chance to spread some magic yourself by participating in their Celebrity Golf Day and enjoy a few rounds with English footballer Ray Parlour!


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