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Top historical facts about Golf

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Golf is a popular sport for young and old and for players with wealthy and middle class backgrounds. It is not really a sport of the ‘working class.’ The term golf originated from an alteration of the Middle Dutch term colf or colve (a stick or a bat game called kolven).

According to official records, golf originated during the 1400s from a game played on the North Eastern cost of Scotland. However, there is strong historical evidence that golf originated in China. It was a ball and club game that is very similar to modern golf.

Professor Ling Hongling, argues that the Chinese precursor of golf was called Chuiwan. Chui means hitting and wan means small ball in Chinese. This game dates back to 943 AD in records written by Wei Tai of the Song Dynasty. Golf was then exported to Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries by Mongolians.The most interesting fact about the game of Chuiwan is that the rules of this game are almost identical to modern day golf.

However, some sport historians suggested that golf evolved from earlier sports involving a ball and a club in Europe and the entire Mediterranean basin. One of the earliest mentions of golf dates back to Middle Egypt in 2600 BC. The name of the game of this ancient golf sport is unknown. But it has been represented in images in the Tomb of Kheti. This image seems to indicate its popularity. The Egyptians probably brought this ancient game of golf to the Mediterranean area which was a flourishing marketplace.

The ancient Greeks also adopted this ancient game of golf. Later, the Romans called the game of golf paganica or paganicus which was quite popular. The Roman Empire and the Romans introduced their version of ancient golf to North of Italy and Northern Europe. It probably became the ancient root of several other sports played with sticks (or clubs) and balls.

In the Canterbury cathedral, there is a painted glass window in which a boy is can be seen holding a curved stick in one hand and a ball in the other. This painted glass window was made in the 13th century. The game the boy was playing was called Bandy.

In the book ‘History of Golf’ written by Robert Browning in 1955, it is suggested that golf is an offshoot of the Celtic/Gaelic game called hurley. This medieval golf game originated in a form of practice indulged by hurley players in places which they visited to play an ‘away match.’ One of these games was called Cambuca in England in the 1300s.

Like Paganica, this medieval golf game was played with a bent club and with a leather ball filled with feathers. One interpretation says that his game of golf involved striking the ball until it reached a specific goal marked on the ground. Other interpretations say that this game of golf was a competition between opponents with one attacking and one defending. All these golf games in England and Ireland (where it was called camanachd) have been played on both grass and ice. However, the grass version dominated because the climates of both countries were and still is relatively mild.
Published: 2007-04-21
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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