History of Golf - Part One The Beginnings

By George WhiteJune 26, 2002, 4:00 pm
Since the beginning of time, man has preoccupied himself with a stick and a rock, making his drudgery into a game.
In the earliest of times he swung the stick at the rock, propelling it towards some predetermined destination. This, it can be said, was the precursor of golf. Unfortunately, it also is the precursor to just about all the sports that require a ball and some object to propel it.
What country invented golf? Many countries did. If there were sticks and objects that could be hurtled along, then there was golf. Though the name didnt come into being until some time in the 15th century, there were many, many games of early man that could be called an ancestor to golf.
Nearly every area around the world has some claim to the origination of golf. Scotland, of course, has its claim. But so do China, Rome, England, France, Holland, Belgium, even Laos. Every country has a game consisting of sticks and balls, and every country is correct in its assumption that it invented the game. But there is no one country where golf actually began.

History - 1862 golf photoSome say that it was first played by shepherds tending their flocks, passing the time by hitting rocks to targets with their shafts. Games would have developed between competing shepherds, playing across links land and back to their villages.
One theory is that fishermen on the east coast of Scotland invented the game to amuse themselves as they returned home from their boats.
Other games which included a ball, a stick and some form of a target included paganicain Rome, a Celtic game called shinty, and khi in Laos. The Chinese claim a form of golf ' chui wan (beating a ball) ' was played as early as 300 BC. The Roman scribe Catullas describes the game of pangea ' an ancient forerunner of modern hockey and hurling.
Roman emperors in Caesars empire apparently played the relaxing game of paganica using a bent stick to drive a soft, hair-filled or feather-stuffed ball. The use of hair-filled balls can be traced to the spread of the Roman empire, and similar balls were later used in Europe. Over the next five centuries, the game developed on several continents.
Shepherds implements were definitely used in games to hit rocks, we know. In 1338, German shepherds were granted special dispensation to mark their territories by striking a pebble with their crooks. The distance covered was the extent of their grazing rights, a serious use of the rules of the game.
The Irish played a very rough game called camanachd and the English played a game, cambuca, in the 1300s. The goal of cambuca is unclear and it may have even been a competition between enemies with one attacking and one defending.
The late Dutch golf historian Steven J. H. van Hengel, acknowledged as one of the foremost experts of the origins of golf, believes that golf was probably a mixture of the implements used in chole and the rules of jeu de mail, both games imported into Holland.
Chole, which still survives in Belgium and under the name of soule in Northern France, is a halfway stage between hockey and golf. A cemetery gate, a door, a big rock or other large object ' often as far distant as 12 miles away ' could serve as the goal. One player or side would get three strokes at the object, after which the opponent or opponents would get to whack the object in the opposite direction (dechole).
The origin of the name golf is believed to be the Dutch word of 'colf,' which means 'club.' In the medieval ages, golf was also known as spel metten colve, which literally meant 'game with clubs.'
Van Hengel traced colf back to Dec. 26, 1297, in the town of Loenen aan de Vecht in northern Holland. On that day, the local townsfolk played four holes of the game to commemorate the relieving of the Kronenburg Castle exactly one year before. The fact that colf was chosen to mark the occasion is proof that the game was already popular by that time, says Van Hengel, although he couldnt say for how long. Colfer, or golfers, were a common sight in contemporary Dutch artworks, suggesting their popularity then.
'Colf' continued until the early 18th century when it suddenly fell out of fashion, to be replaced in Holland by kolf, a considerably shorter game played on a course only 25 yards in length. The ball was large, about the size of a baseball, and struck to a post set at either end of the field. The object was to knock the ball from one end to the other, hit the post, and leave the ball as near to the surrounding wall as possible.
Van Hengels theory of colf eventually giving way to golf is supported by the frequent trading links between Holland and Scotland from medieval time. The game of colf is believed to have traveled from east to west, across the North Sea.
The first recorded reference to chole, another derivative of hockey, was made in 1353. And from this same period of time, around 1350, the stick-and-ball game of kofspel was played in Holland. The Dutch called a similar game kolven. From this came kolf, or in England, gowf.

History - 1872 golf photoHet kolven was played in the Holland and the Low Countries. It was played in open spaces and the player had to drive a ball a good distance, aiming at goal ' a door or a tree, perhaps. Het kolven was played in the American colonies as early as 1657.
The earliest traces of golf being played are said to date back to 1340, where in a sketch from a stained glass window ' the Great East Window ' in the east wing of the Gloucester Cathedral, England, scenes of the Battle of Crecy in France showed a man apparently preparing to strike a ball in a golf-like manner. It was probably not actually golf, but the old English game of cambuca or the Flemish game of chole. This was more than 100 years earlier than the first written Scottish golf record.
The French staked their claim with a game called jeu de mail.' Jeu de mail was played since the 16th century; also a game called mail a la chicane, another forerunner.
In 15th century London, pall mall was a game that derived its name from an early playing place of another game. This contest consisted of knocking a ball from one pre-determined place to another, sometimes as far as neighboring villages. Many believe that golf emerged when pall mall was completely ousted from the towns onto the nearest common land, or land that was not owned by any individual.
Certainly, kolf, as it was known in the Netherlands, or goff, as it was referred to in England, was a pastime enjoyed by 15th century kings and commoners. All early fore-runners, though, resembled croquet or billiards or cricket more than golf. Unfortunately for those countries who lay claim to originating the sport, they all lacked just one thing. And it was left to the Scots to make the final refinement.

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

Getty Images

Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.