There is no universally accepted derivation for
the word 'golf.' One of the most common
misconceptions is that the word GOLF is an
acronym for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden. This at
least is definitely not true.
documented mention of the word 'golf' is in
Edinburgh on 6th March 1457, when King James II
banned ‘ye golf’, in an attempt to encourage archery practice, which was
Before the creation of dictionaries,
there was no standardised spelling of any given
word. People wrote words phonetically. Goff, gowf, golf, goif, gof, gowfe, gouff and golve have all been found in
documents in Scotland.
Most people believe the old
word 'gowfe' was the most common term, pronounced 'gouf'. The Loudon Gowf
Club maintains the tradition of this terminology.
A minority of people hold the view that golf is a
purely Scottish term, derived from Scots words 'golf', 'golfand' and
'golfing', which mean 'to strike' as in 'to cuff'.
It seems most likely that the terms golf, chole and kolf,
which were the names for a variety of
stick and ball games in Britain and in continental
Europe, are all derived from a common word of a pre-modern
European language, following Grimm's grammatical
law, which details the clear phonetic similarities of
(and chole and kolf) are all presumed
to have originally meant 'club'.
Golf has also been associated with the German word
for club 'kolbe', (Der Kolben).
It is also probably related to the Dutch word and game 'kolven'.
In 1636, David Wedderburn used
the word Baculus, which is
Latin for 'club' as the title for his 'Vocabula',
listing Latin terms for golf, which supports
this derivation. The Vocabula
contains the first clear mention of the golf hole, the essential element of
modern links golf and is thus the first unambiguous proof of the existence
of the game in Scotland. More details are to
on the page on
Aberdeen Kings Links looking south to former
Queens Links site of first golf hole.
It is therefore likely that all these terms
including golf have a common origin and the Scottish use flowed from there.
Robert Browning and David Hamilton, who both
researched this to a great depth, broadly
come to the conclusion above in
their golf books.
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