Click name for early golf
history of location
Most of the
early references to golf in Scottish official records are either to ban it
or to condemn those playing it. The first documented mention, as is widely
quoted, is in Edinburgh on 6th March 1457, when King
James II banned ‘ye golf’, in an attempt to encourage archery practice,
which was being neglected. This royal ban was repeated, for the same reasons, in 1471 by his son, James III, and again in 1491 by his grandson, James IV. Even when the ban was effectively lifted in 1502
in Perth, there was over a
century of complaints and convictions by the Kirk from 1580
until 1724 against golf on the Sabbath
official (royal) line, voiced by King James VI in
1618, was that golf on the Sabbath was acceptable, so long as it was not during the
times of service, because Sunday was the only
day the great mass of
people would have free to play. It was not a view shared by the Kirk. Indeed
Sunday golf at St Andrews only began at all during the Second World War and
is still not permitted on the Old Course, though this is
more to do with preserving the course rather than religious strictures.
Golf in its early days in Scotland may well have had two distinct forms. One
was a ‘short’ game similar to ‘kolf’ played in the Netherlands - a
commoners’ game round churchyards and village greens, hitting balls at
targets in the landscape. It is this type of golf that was
probably the subject of the early legal and church prohibitions. From this developed ‘links golf’, played with a variety of clubs to holes,
marked by flags. This is golf as we know it.
The first type of golf continued even after 'links' golf
was being played and it appears to have been a
less organised and
somewhat dangerous game, with at least one death recorded in 1632 in Kelso of an
innocent bystander near a church.
The question therefore arises as to whether any
early mention of golf is evidence
of the modern links game or of the short game, which died out
in Scotland and in
the Netherlands. The links game
established by 1636 as documentary evidence from Aberdeen shows. It is
likely the modern game developed over the course of the
century after 1502 when the golf ban was lifted,
but it may well have emerged earlier.
The ‘royal’ ban may never have affected important
individuals, and may even
have had the effect of encouraging play on the links, out of sight of
dates above allow some degree of latitude on the interpretation of the golf
played, but probably reflect the links game.
As golf would have been being
and officially in dozens of places in Scotland from 1502 onwards,
these dates are just the first mention
we have for each location.
Modern golf was created
by a democratic process of continuous development of dispersed innovation, gathered and regulated by common agreement.
Long may this continue.
More details of the possible genesis of the game
of the Links game.
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