Golf is a fascinating game and you can fall in love with it at the age of 2 and continue playing it at 92. Besides, it is believed to be the only game played on the Moon and in outer space, so we can confidently say that it is a universal game. There are many interesting circumstances surrounding its origin, rules, famous players and achievements on the field and in this post you will find a compilation of just a few of the most curious facts.
Origin of golf
There are many debates around the origin of golf and the Chinese claim that a similar game was played in their country back in the 10th century. At present, however, there are two countries that can claim to be the motherland of modern golf – the Netherlands and Scotland. A game resembling golf, called apocryphally, was developed in the Netherlands in the Middle Ages and the first record of it dates back to 26 February 1297. It was played with a stick and ball and the aim was to get the ball into a target several hundred yards away with the least number of strokes. There are some historians who also claim that in the 17th century the Dutch played a game of colf/kolf in which they had to putt a small ball into a hole. Colf was considered a dangerous game back in that ages and there are several documents showing that it was banned, one of which is from 1360 when the council of Brussels stated that anyone playing colf will be fined 20 shillings or his overcoat will be confiscated. Nevertheless, the game didn’t disappear but thrived. The first recorded game of kolf/colf was played by the Dutch settlers of Fort Orange (present Albany, New-York) in December 1650. It is interesting that the game was played all year round, including on ice during the winter.
On the other hand, Scots claim that the modern game of golf, as it is played today on 18 holes, originated in Scotland. It is curious that the actual written evidence of it comes from a document issued by the Scottish Parliament and King James II of Scotland in 1457 that bans golf and football, since they distract the men from their military practice. There were subsequent similar Acts in 1471 and 1491, where golf was even described as “an unprofitable sport”. Rumour also says that Mary, Queen of Scots, played golf after her second husband was murdered.
All in all, golf proved to be a worthy game that survived through the ages despite the numerous bans and was loved both by the masses and the nobility.
Interesting stories of modern golf history
Golf is played around the globe and not only. On 9 February 1967, while on the Moon to conduct science experiments, Alan B. Shepard used a modified six-iron to hit a golf ball. At the same time his colleague Edgar Mitchell throw a javelin and thus they competed in what Mitchell later described as “the first lunar Olympics.” The golf ball and the javelin are still on the Moon, while the iron can be seen at the USGA Golf House in Far Hills, N.J.
Golf was again played outside the boundaries of the Earth on 22 November 2006 this time in open space, when Russian cosmonaut Michael Tyurin hit a golf ball while performing his fourth space walk. The ball weighted only 3 grams, while a standard golf ball is 48 grams, to avoid damage of the space station in case it hits it.
Some curious golf-related facts have Asian origin. In Japan the golfers have a “hole-in-one” insurance. This is to cover their expenses in case they hit a hole-in-one, because the tradition is to invite all your friends to a party with presents to share the luck. In China on the other hand, despite claiming to have something to do with the origin of golf, the development of new golf courses was banned. Well, it doesn’t mean it has stopped because investors simply avoid stating that they are constructing a golf course when submitting the plans for approval.
What does golf stand for?
There is a popular myth that the word golf has nothing to do with Dutch or Scottish old words of colf/kolf or gowf but that it is an acronym, which means “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden”. Interesting what Marlene Hagge, the co-founder of the LPGA Tour would say about that. Or Annika Sorenstam, who is considered to be the greatest female golfer of all times.