Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The First Golf Club & Society

Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

During 1744 the committee of the drew up the first 13 rules of golf. The purpose of these rules was to allow fair play for the competition of winning the silver golf club which was given to the winner by the City of Edinburgh, over . The first winner of the tournament was a Mr. John Rattray who because of the win became the captain of the club.

The rules that were devised were:
Articles & Laws in Playing at Golf.
1. You must Tee your Ball within a Club's length of the Hole.
2. Your Tee must be upon the Ground.
3. You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee.
4. You are not to remove Stones, Bones or any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, Except upon the fair Green and that only / within a Club's length of your Ball.
5. If your Ball comes among watter, or any wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and Teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your Adversary a Stroke for so getting out your Ball.
6. If your Balls be found any where touching one another, You are to lift the first Ball, till you play the last.
7. At Holling, you are to play your Ball honestly for the Hole, and not to play upon your Adversary’s Ball, not lying in your way to the Hole.
8. If you should lose your Ball, by it's being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball, And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune.
9. No man at Holling his Ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the Hole with his Club, or anything else.
10. If a Ball be stopp’d by any Person, Horse, Dog or anything else, The Ball so stop’d must be play’d where it lyes.
11. If you draw your Club in Order to Strike, & proceed so far in the Stroke as to be bringing down your Club; If then, your Club shall break, in any way, it is to be Accounted a Stroke.
12. He whose Ball lyes farthest from the Hole is obliged to play first.
13. Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar's Holes, or the Soldier's Lines, Shall be accounted a Hazard; But the Ball is to be taken out teed /and play’d with any Iron Club.
John Rattray, Capt

During the first 20 years of this tournament entry was open to all golfers but in 1764 this changed and only the members of the club could play. This was the first membership to a golf club. The gentleman golfers also had another first and this was to build a clubhouse which was called the “Golf House” specifically for the purpose of members who played the course. This was a benchmark for future golf courses and they developed this idea to what we know today as the Clubhouse.

The golf society in 1860 decided to give a prize to the winner of this tournament that was a championship belt. This belt had silver fittings and was engraved with the Arms of Prestwick Burgh. The rules of the competition said that the Belt would become the possession of the golfer who won the Championship three years in succession. Tournaments across the country started to give prizes to the participants after this. The championship belt later developed into the coveted prize of the and was ready to be presented to the winner in 1873.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews

In 1754, twenty-two gentlemen formed the Society of St Andrews Golfers whom adopting the code of rules laid down by the founded in 1744. Until 1764 the Old Course at St. Andrews had 22 holes which were played by the Society of St Andrews Golfers. There were 11 hole cups at the time that were in a continuous line adjacent to the beach. The reason for playing on these grounds was because there was no other use for it due to the fact that it was too sandy and saline to grow crops or graze cattle apart from sheep. Once players had finished a hole they had to play to the next hole from a clubs length of the previous hole cup. The 11 holes were played outbound and then players would turn about and play the same 11 holes in a backwards fashion towards the Golf House. This is the reason why pot bunkers are located in strange places at the . Eventually they decided that the course was too long and too much time was spent playing so they therefore decided to merge 2 of these holes to create 18; 9 out and 9 in, some say that the reason for this was because a flask of whiskey only lasted for 18 holes. This became the standard number of holes on a golf course but was not written into the rule book until1858 and even then most golf clubs only had 9 holes.

In 1834 the club gained the patronage of King William IV and the title of " Golf Club of St Andrews". Now the club was deemed to be significantly important to the game. Therefore the club decided to build a golf house to meet the needs of the members and this was completed in 1854. The golf house entailed washing and dressing facilities, as well as space to store members’ club boxes (golf bags). It also catered for gentleman in pursuit of indoor activities; there was the option of billiards, cards, reading, smoking and dining. In 1856 however they realized that this space was too small for its purpose and they contracted George Rae to design an upper floor. Through the years further amendments had to be made to meet the demands of the members and their equipment that has shaped the look of golf clubs today.

The golf society in 1860 decided to give a prize to the winner which was a championship belt. This belt had silver fittings and was engraved with the Arms of Prestwick Burgh. The rules of the competition said that the Belt would become the possession of the golfer who won the Championship three years in succession. Tournaments across the country started to give prizes to the participants after this. The championship belt later developed into the coveted prize of the Claret Jug and was ready to be presented to the winner in 1873.

The British Golf Boom 1880's-1890's

The Gutty Ball

The arrival of the gutty ball; made from rubber and could be heated and moulded to form a ball; revolutionized the game of and allowed the spread of the game to the masses. This was due to the balls’ ease of production which meant that thousand of them could be made each week. Companies like Spalding and Silverton began this mass production and eventually managed to out compete the craftsmen that created the preceding balls because the ball was less expensive to make and therefore less expensive to buy. This encouraged and allowed the general public to play as they could now afford to buy the gutty ball.

Golf Club Manufacturing

Golf club manufacturing increased greatly towards the end of the 19th Century. The hard gutty ball could withstand greater force than previous balls and therefore changed to incorporate this. Thicker more shock absorbent heads replaced the old style longnoses that were prone to breaking and eventually iron clubs were produced that could withstand the impact when the gutty ball was struck.

The industrial revolution was the key factor during this era that enabled manufacturers to use and manipulate iron into the shape of a club head. Pioneers like Tom Stewart and Robert Forgan started to mass produce iron headed clubs and made them available to the increasingly growing golfing market. The mass production of these clubs like the gutty ball reduced the costs for eager golfers and enabled them to play.

The Railway System

This was another key factor that enabled the spread of at this time. Railways expanded to more rural parts of the country because of the industrial revolution and made access to the coastal sites easier and more affordable to golfers and tourists from industrialized areas. Before this boom travel took place by boat on canals or by horse drawn carriage, both of which were timely and costly. Therefore people were eager to travel using this modern mode of transportation, primarily because it reduced travel time and secondly it was more direct.

The result of this was an increase in local income in these coastal sites that enabled the development of Bed & Breakfast style lodgings. Although, soon the problem arose that avid golfers always had to travel to the coastal sites in order to play , meaning that there were no courses located in cities or industrial areas. Therefore to overcome this dilemma, parkland courses were constructed to accommodate and fulfill the requirements of the new found eager participants in the game. This resulted in hundreds more courses being constructed and boom of in the 1880’s 1890’s.

Theories & Origins of Golf

Theories of Origin

Through history different games existed that were similar to but were not the game that we know today. The main similarities were that each game involved a stick and a spherical object.

The Chinese had a game called , the Dutch had het kolven and the Romans played a game that was named Paganica that involved hitting a ball of leather filled feathers with a stick. There have been numerous games recorded in the Encyclopedia of about “ball and stick” games and this has created a multitude of opposing speculations as to its origin.


The Book of stated that in 1282 a sport existed during the reign of the Chinese Emperor; Kublia Kahn that was called which translates into “whack-ball”. The course and rules of the game back then have a similarity to the game we know today except for the fact that there were only ten holes on the emperor’s course and each hole was marked with a flagpole appointing a different coloured pennant.

The Ming emperor Xuanzong is shown in the adjacent picture playing with servants standing next to him holding different implements.

The book of written by Old Man Ning Zhi states that appeared in China during the Song Dynasty. The Emperors’ at that time that enjoyed the game was emperor Huizong (ruled 1101-1125) and the Jin emperor Zhangzong (ruled 1190-1208). The clubs that were used by the emperors were very impressive, they were edged with pure gold, inlaid with jade and had that shafts were decorated with splendor.

The book also states that was played on natural slopes; just like some of today’s links courses and surprisingly was also played on artificial courses laid out on flat grassland, with hazards that were raised and lowered.

The question is now if the Mongol armies took golf to mainland Europe during the 13th century as they did with gun powder?


This game came from the early days during the Roman Empire where Roman peasants would play a game that incorporated a leather ball filled with feathers which was 10-18cm in diameter and was hit with a curved wooden stick. During the advancement of the Roman Empire the game spread to different regions throughout Europe, firstly Belgium, then Luxembourg. THe spread occurred because Roman soldiers used their free time to play the game and locals would oversee this and duplicate the actions. Several games spurred off form this such as Paganica and jeu de mail (pall-mall), kolf, Cambuca that was played in England during the 14th century, chole and crosse.

Jeu de mail

This game has been played in the south of France since the 16th century and bears similarities to golf regarding the rules and methods of play. The purpose of this game was to hit a ball with a wooden club over a course that was an average of half a mile in length to a designated point. The players would follow the route of their own balls and records the amount of shots it took to get them to the designated point and the winner would simply be the player with the fewest shots.

Chole or Soule and Now Called Crossage

This game was played in Belgium 14th century and in the France at the earliest recorded date of 1353. This is a very interesting game that is still played today in annual events in Belgium and France. The clubs were and are still made of wood (beech tree) and the head is made out of iron. The head of the club has two distinct parts for two different purposes. "Le plat" (flat part) designed to drive the "soulette" (ball) and "le pic" which enables the player to shot his ball in a poor lie. The handle of the club was made out of hemp rope. The biggest difference between in this game is the object that is struck is oval and not a sphere.

The game of chole is a team event where one team plays against another. Teams can be up to 3 players and can interfere with the opposing teams’ ball. The game involves hitting a ball until it hits a designated post or board that is between 18-20cm broad and 1m80cm-2m long. The team starts by hitting 3 shots (in which they would take turns) towards the target location. The opposing team then “de-choles” where they would hit the ball as far away from the target location as possible or hit it into a bad lie. Once the target has been hit then the shots will be recorded and the opposing team will have their turn. The winner is the team that takes the fewest shots.


This dates back 1350 in England when a ball was hit towards a mark in the ground. There is a sketch in a stained glass window at Gloucester Cathedral, England that shows a man during the battle Crécy in France preparing to strike a ball. During King Henrys’ the 3rd reign he banned the game in because he wanted his men to practice archery instead of using there time to participate in Cambuca.


This was a Dutch game that bears the closest resemblance to golf as we know it. At its very start the Dutch called it “spel metten colve” which means a game played with a club. This game was widespread by the 13th century and the earliest recording of the game was traced by Van Hengel back to December 26 1297 in the town of Loenen aan de Vecht in northern Holland. The local townsfolk on that day played four ‘holes’ of the game to commemorate the relieving of the Kronenburg Castle exactly one year before. The game Colf was played until the 18th century when it fell out of fashion. It was then replaced by a game called Kolf which was played over an area that was considerably shorter in distance and averaged 25 yards. The ball used was large and resembled a baseball. This was struck from one end of the field to another. In order to hit a post and leave the ball as near to the surrounding wall as possible.

Het Kolven

This was played in the low countries of Holland in open spaces where the player had to drive a ball a good distance, aiming at goal – a door or a tree, perhaps. Het Kolven was played in the American colonies as early as 1657. This was renamed to “Kolf” in Holland or “goff” as it was referred to in England. This game was enjoyed by commoners and kings alike and has the closest resemblance to .


This was referred to as “gowf” in Scotland and it was this nation that made the final refinement to the game which makes a great difference when trying to find the actual origins of the game . It was the introduction of a hole where players would end up putting their ball into with a club. No other game had this idea and it was the Scottish that introduced it. This game became so popular during the 15th century that an Act of Parliament was passed to prevent the playing of the game on Sundays and thus preserve the skills of Archery.

History of the Golf Club

During the early days of golf Scottish golfers used to make their own and balls. This was until skilled craftsmen came to light and started to design clubs and balls for the avid golfers because they realised that having the right clubs reduced your score by improving your performance.
King James IV was recorded to be the first royal to commission a bow maker to create a set of clubs for him. Later after this, a man called William Mayne in 1603 was commissioned as royal club maker and held exclusive license throughout Britain.

During the course of golf evolution the has always been modified after the golf ball. This was due to the fact that the golf ball was slow to make and expensive to buy resulting in a low turnover. Therefore golfers did not want to lose or damage balls they had which resulted in a slow progression of the golf ball.

A golf set usually consisted of Longnoses that were used for driving the ball. Fairway Clubs or Grassed Drivers as they were called were used for the middle range shot from the fairway or used on a short hole. Clubs called Spoons were also an important part of the club set and these were used for short shots and were probably the equivilent of todays 7 iron. Then Niblicks were the shortest clubs in the bag and these were generally used around the green, in sanded areas, in a hazard, in thick rough or short distances from the green. the equivelent to a putter was a club called the Putting Cleek and was used on greens or around them.

The heads of these clubs were very hardy and were used from wood such as pear, apple or beech. The shafts were attached to the club head by a splint and were bound tightly with leather straps. The shafts were made of ash or hazel which gave it some flexibility. Although these clubs took a long time to make and did cost a lot of money they were prone to breaking and a golfer of that time could expect to break at least one club per round. This was one of the reasons why the social elite or club makers could only play the game.

As early as the 1750’s club makers were experimenting with forged metal heads; niblicks; and were experimented with the most. Other club makers were experimenting with the use of leather and various other materials on the club face to improve clubface compression in order to improve driving distance. Metal and bone fragments were implanted into club heads also to try to reduce and prevent the club head shattering.

Robert Morgan in 1826 started to get obtain hickory from America to make from. Other club makers started to adopt the hickory shaft but some golfers stuck to the old shafts and this was put down to the expense.

When the guttie ball was invented in 1848 it changed the thought process behind the making of golf clubs. The old longnose driver could not handle the hardness of the new ball and therefore was prone to breaking.

Bulgers were then invented that could handle the impact of the new ball. They had a more bulbous head and were thicker than the longnose which created more sturdiness in the club head.

Towards the creation of the hand hammered gutta, club makers started to try out new styles of . This was the time that iron was incorporated into the in a variety of different styles. This ball could handle the aggressive face of the club and was found to give more control when the iron clubs were used.

Steel shafts were incorporated on some in the 1890’s but this did not take off, it was only until the Prince of Wales used them on the Old Course at in 1929 when the Royal and Ancient legalized them. Bulgers in 1900 were no longer made out of the hardwoods such as beech, pear or apple. Persimmon was starting to get imported from America and this became the material of choice.

History of the Golf Ball

The wooden was the first to be used. This was made out of hard wood such as beech, elm or boxwood and due to the manufacturing methods; were not very airodynamic and therefore did not fly very far. Golf clubs at this time had to be strong to withstand the force encurred when the ball was struck. This type of ball was used until the end of the 17th century when the ball was invented.

The golf ball was introduced to Britain by the Dutch in the late 1480’s. the exterior of the ball was made of several pieces of stout leather that were stitched together leaving a small opening in which it could be stuffed. The casing was then turned inside out and stuffed with boiled down goose or chicken feathers. The ball would then be hammered into a round shape, stitched completely, left to dry and expand then coated with several layers of lead paint. This was a very difficult process and ball makers were only able to make around 4 to 6 balls per day.

The ball was the next one to be invented in 1848 by Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson and gradually took place of the . Gutta-percha is the evaporated juice produced from a tree found in Malaysia. The hard built non brittle ball becomes soft at the boiling point of water. Therefore it can be melted and then hand rolled to form the round shape. This ball offered more durability, better roll, lower cost, water resistance and improved run.

The Hand Hammered was a ball that seemed to give more float in the air and a truer flight. This soon took over from the original ball. The patterns on the ball were made by hammering the softened ball with a sharp edged hammer giving the ball an even pattern that greatly improved its play. Afterwards balls were put in iron moulds or presses that created the patterns and indentations on them.

The was the next evolution of the golf ball in 1890. It had pimpled surface textures and patterns on it. The impressions are highly detailed and symmetrical which gives the ball even more distance and a truer flight. The best ball makers of this time would put their hand marked private brands on the ball. Companies such as Morris, Robertson, Gourlay, and the Auchterlonies were the most productive at this time.

The rubber ball was invented in 1898 by a Cleveland, Ohio, golfer, Coburn Haskell, in association with Bertram Work of the B. F. Goodrich Company. The ball had rubber thread that surrounded a rubber core. The ball instead of having pimples had indentations that gave it a far superior ball flight than any previous golf ball.

If you have any questions or comments on this article I am happy to respond.

Early Championships of the 20th Century

The U.S. Open

The United States Open was first held on October 4th 1895 and was played on Newport Golf and Country Club. It was considered to be an addition of non importance to the U.S Amateur held on the same course during the same week. The whole competition consisted of four rounds over the nine hole course that was conducted during one day. The initial tournament field contained ten professionals and one amateur and the winner for the first event was a Mr. Horace Rawlins aged 21 originally form England who became an assistant at Newport. His winning score was 173 and this won him a total sum of $150, a gold medal and custody of the Open Championship Cup to hold for the forthcoming year.

The first ten years of the contained competitors that were mainly amateurs whom emigrated from Britain. Therefore the competitors dominating the game were mostly British, more so the because they won the event 12 times in the first 15 years of the tournament. Eventually things took a turn and certain key American amateurs started to dominate this golf tournament and it was this situation that aroused speculation and wonder about which nation was the best; resulting in a competition that was a world event. In 1911, J. McDermott won and he repeated the feat in 1912 which made him the first American to win this event but it was not until 1913 when the tournament really took off when a born American beat renowned golfers such as Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a play-off.

U.S. P.G.A.

This was first played in 1916 when New York salesman Rodney Wanamaker created a national championship for the recently formed Professional Golfers' Association of America. He grouped together prominent figures in the golfing world which included the foremost golfers of that time and leading industry representatives to a luncheon at the Taplow Club in New York City on January 16, 1916; in order to propose the formation of the U.S.P.G.A.
The first tournament was played at Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, N.Y. and a young professional called Jim Barnes won the match play event. The First World War cancelled the tournament for the next two years and in 1919 the raining champion retained his title. In 1958, the format of the Championship was changed from match play to stroke play and is the tournament we know today.

U.S. Masters

This is the only major tournament that is played on the same course every year. It is held at Golf Club in , Georgia. The site was originally 365 acres of farming land but Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts paid $70,000 for the site in 1931.
Once the course was complete the two men decided to hold an annual invitational tournament to draw the best players form around the world. The first five years of the tournament, it was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament because Bob Jones believed the name “” sounded too preposterous. In 1939 he eventually gave in and the title “” commenced.

On the 22 March 1934 the first tournament was held, four rounds over the eighteen holes would declare the champion. Bob Jones and Clifford Roberts enforced that only the player and the caddie could go onto the golf course and the format was changed from threesomes to pairs. Horton Smith was the first champion beating Craig Wood by one stroke.

In 1940 it was decided to hold the tournament on the first week in April and the same time each year thereafter. in 1935 hit an albatross (Double Eagle) on the 15th hole to force Craig Wood to a playoff and this shot was said to be heard around the world. Sarazen went on to win the tournament by a five stroke lead over the 36 playoff holes.

trophy was introduced in 1961 and is made up of 900 separate pieces of silver. The name of the winner and runner up are engraved into the silver each year. The actual Masters trophy remains at the club but a replica was made in 1993 which is awarded to the champion.

The green jacket is awarded to the winner of the tournament and every member to wear during the tournament. The jacket signifies an honorary membership to . The jacket is sooo honerous that past champions and members are not allowed to wear or even remove their jacket from the gournds of Augusta National but there is an exception and that is the current champion.

Classic Golf Course Design

Golf Course Design

In the classic era of architects had to work with the existing landscape. There was no mechanical earth moving equipment that could carve out golf holes to make their lives easier. Robert Trent Jones estimated that it took seven teams of horses one week to contour a single green.
The famous designers and early golf professionals that were contracted to design golf courses during this classic era were Willie Park, Old Tom Morris, Donald Ross, Dr Alistair MacKenzie, Harry Colt, Tom Simpson, Hugh Alison, James Braid, Herbert Fowler, Mackenzie Ross and A.W. Tillinghast.

It was usually the better golfers in the late 19th century that were called upon to design a golf course. They did not think much about the aesthetics of the course and were using land that any architect today would give their right foot to create a dramatic course on.
Professional golfers during this era did not have the capability of moving much land so they used the existing landscape to get the most of the . Designers would stake areas on a site that would suite tees, greens, fairway’s and hazards. The most work would be encurred when contouring greens. If soil moving or contouring was needed then they would use horses to pull cultivators and hoes then there would be a team of men to organize the horses and ensure that enough soil was being moved. A few of the great natural golf courses that were built in this time are Musselburgh, Muirfield and St Andrews.

Old Tom Morris is considered one of the masters of design. He used the natural landscape to gain the most from the golf course. Prestwick is one of his grand designs and one of the Par 3’s plays blind which is very unusual by today’s standards. Other courses that Old Tom Morris was involved in were , Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal County Down, Nairn and Cruden Bay.

Willie Park Jr., Harry Colt, John Abercromby and Herbert Fowler were the first visionary golf course designers that worked with unimpressive land and turned it around to be a spectacular golf course. These architects had a close relationship with each other and they were willing to teach and learn off of each other and that might have been the key behind their success.

They were the first architects to thoroughly investigate every possibility of the site and they gave detailed plans of what they wanted to construct. They supervised the construction of their projects either personally or through partnerships or associates.

Willie Park created some amazing golf courses in his day. The most highly ranked of his designs is the Old Course at Sunningdale, which is number 63 in the world. Other great constructions are Huntercombe and West Hill. The New Course at Sunningdale was also constructed by Willie Park but this time it was collaboration with Harry Colt.

Harry Colt then became the first secretary at Sunningdale and then went on to design the world famous West and East Courses at The Wentworth Club in 1926 then Swinley Forest, St. Georges Hill and the Eden Course at St. Andrews. He later on went to work in Europe constructing more courses, Royal Waterloo and Royal Zoute in Belgium, St Cloud and Le Touquet in France and Royal Madrid in Spain.

The Start of the British Open

The Open

In 1851 left and moved to Prestwick at that same time the Young Tom Morris was born. He started Preswtick Golf Club and established the tournament called The Open Championship. The course held the competition firstly in 1860 and continued there for a further 11 years. who was Tom Morris’ old employer was debated to be his biggest rival. The public seen and heard about Robertson breaking 80 around the Old Course and this at the time was a formidable score. He went on to create a legendary reputation for himself by never losing a singles match on level terms.

on the other hand was playing against other professionals such as Willie Park and Andrew Strath in some big money matches of the day. Tom an Allan never played each other during these times because of their fallout over the new gutty ball. They refused to play each other or even play in the same competition as each other. So the idea was thought up in 1855 to try and settle matters once and for all. They tried to get St Andrews then Mussleburgh to hold the event firstly but they did not want to take it on saying that it was only a local Preswick event. The public were disappointed to hear that Allan died because of jaundice in 1859 and therefore the rumors would never be settled.

The first went ahead in 1860 at Prestwick. There were only 8 professionals playing in this tournament that were:
Ø Willie Park
Ø Tom Morris
Ø Andrew Strath
Ø Charles Hunter
Ø Alexander Smith
Ø William Steel
Ø Bob Andrew

The main battle during this tournament was between Park and Morris, each near enough matching each other score for score. The first ever winner eventually was Willie Park who had to win twice more if he wanted to have the Championship Belt.