The Definitive History of Golf: Best guide of 2022

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world today, and it’s no wonder why. It requires discipline, finesse, and skill to be successful at this classic pastime, but it also gives players the perfect excuse to get outdoors on nice days and meet other like-minded people with whom they can bond over their mutual love of hitting balls into tiny holes.

If you’re interested in learning about the history of golf, then this guide will serve as an excellent starting point for you. You might check our guide about the best golf balls for beginners, seniors, and high handicappers.


History of Golf
Image from 19th century

Origins of golf are murky, but historians agree that rudimentary versions were played in Scotland centuries ago. Early games likely centred on hitting a ball through or over a series of holes. It’s hard to say how much these games resembled modern golf (if at all), and some contend that both golf and gowf—the Scottish word for hitting—derive from an older Norse game called kolf.

In any case, one early variation, shinty, spread across Scotland in time; players use mallets to hit a small ball into a narrow hole and count toward their score based on how far they hit it. Incidentally, this game might have been invented by women. Yes, ladies: You literally gave birth to golf! Kudos!

How St. Andrews Changed Golf Forever

history of golf

In 1552, people around Scotland started using a little stick to hit a ball with. Some claim it was Scottish King James II who first came up with that idea, but regardless of its origin, golf is one of the most exciting sports in history. The game is hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years old and has gone through many changes.

It wasn’t until St. Andrews’ links course was built in 1764 that golf was played on even ground—until then, players had to find flat land where they could walk from hole to hole as they played. It didn’t take long for other courses like Royal Troon and Musselburgh to follow suit; by 1844, over 150 holes were being used all across Britain and Ireland!

Celebrity Players In The 1800s And 1900s

Professional golf players from all around the world have been playing in major tournaments, both individually and as teams, since 1884. The early 20th century saw golf begin to take off on a global scale, as players rose to celebrity status both for their individual achievements and for their prowess with a team.

Notable early stars included Alex Smith from Scotland, who won three British Opens between 1893 and 1902; Sandy Herd from England, who won five Open Championships between 1889 and 1906; and American Willie Anderson, who claimed six US Opens between 1901 and 1912.

Other notable figures include Harry Vardon, an Englishman whose 13 wins make him one of only three men ever to have won all four majors (British Open, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Masters); Bobby Jones, an American considered by many to be the father of modern golf; Walter Hagen, one of two men to win more than 10 professional majors in his career; and Arnold Palmer who helped popularize golf dashing and is still hailed as one of history’s greatest athletes alongside Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Usain Bolt.

Rise of Television and Professional Tournaments in the 20th Century

As television emerged in 1950s America, golf fans were enthralled by tournaments like The Masters. Tournaments before that time didn’t feature official TV coverage and it wasn’t until 1963 that there was live coverage of a major tournament (CBS aired its first Masters in 1956).

In 1960, Arnold Palmer won his first professional tournament at age 24 and Tiger Woods won his first U.S. Amateur title at 16 years old (seriously, people still use Woods is 16 years old?! as a way to make him seem more impressive than he already is). Pro golf was mostly limited to amateurs up until then, but suddenly everyone wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So much so that an estimated 30 million Americans tuned in to NBC Sports’ broadcast of Jack Nicklaus’ victory at Congressional Country Club in 1964. After winning six straight British Opens and four consecutive Masters Titles from 1961 to 1965, many believed Nicklaus had surpassed Bobby Jones as one of golf’s greatest champions.

More amateur players turned pro and bigger prizes meant greater incentive for pros to compete in more events throughout their careers. By 1970 more Americans played golf than any other sport except baseball and while college participation has been dropping since 1995, over half a million juniors participated on an organized team last year. That’s a lot of potential new players!

New Rules, Equipment Changes, And Expanding Players In Recent Years

Many people don’t realize that golf rules and equipment have changed a lot over time. Until very recently, golfers didn’t play with today’s typical set of clubs, including wedges and putters, and standard balls were much smaller than they are now. As a result, players got around slower on average than they do today—but that’s because walking was more practical in those days.

The change to larger balls has made it easier for amateur players to hit farther distances with greater accuracy in recent years—but it’s also meant there’s been an increase in arm injuries among golfers since their stroke is harder to control. This makes sense given that people tend to throw things further when they’re bigger!

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