History of Golf - Part Three The 18th and 19th Centuries

By George WhiteJuly 10, 2002, 4:00 pm
The sport of golf, which seemed like such a staple in Britain in the 1600s and early 1700s, slowly faded in the latter 1700s. The Industrial Revolution was about to blossom, towns were expanding, and the old links were quickly being gobbled up for more industrious pursuits.
 
Town centers decayed, along with town finances. Epidemics swept through the countryside and many old courses were turned into burial plots. Men slowly migrated to the numerous factories that were constantly springing up, working many overtime hours. Sundays were the only off-days, a time just long enough to rest from the back-breaking work and get ready for Mondays.
 
The sport might well have died altogether were not for the Freemasons. Their enthusiasm alone virtually sustained the game from extinction. For about 100 years, from 1750 to 1850, they played the game with regularity. Golfing societies slowly formed, which were mostly members of the Freemasons. Royalty played very little or none at all during this period, but golf was kept alive by the Freemason groups.
 
Edinburgh, Scotland, claimed the first golfing society. The Gentlemen Golfers ' later known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and today in residence at Muirfield ' claim their club was already under way in 1744, when they petitioned the city of Edinburgh for a silver club for annual competition on the Links at Leith. Leith was a port town only a short distance from Edinburgh. This was followed in 1754 by the gentlemen of St. Andrews, Scotland, banding together to form the St. Andrews Golf Club. St. Andrews is today known as the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
 
The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh also puts forth a claim to have been the first golf club. They claim to have been in existence since l735, but those claims appear largely unsubstantiated. At any rate, the earliest golf societies seemed to be as preoccupied with dining as they were with golf. Numerous references in the early journals are made to dinners and not many to golf. Such would be the nature of the Freemasons, who were very big on pomp and circumstance and such fineries as meals served just so.
 
St. Andrews eventually became the traditional center of all golf, thanks partly to a publicity stunt. The Society of St. Andrews Golfers had an open competition ' everyone was invited, regardless if he were a member of the society or not. St. Andrews contributed a silver club to the winner. In a short time, St. Andrews became the premier golfing town. And in 1764, when the St. Andrews course finally settled on 18 holes (down from its previous 22), 18 became the accepted number for all golf courses.
 
With golf spreading across city boundaries and matches being played among competitors from several regions, written rules began to appear. The first such written set is for the Edinburgh competition by the Gentleman Golfers in 1744:
  1. You must Tee your Ball within a Clubs length of the Hole;
  2. Your Tee (area from which the ball was hit) must be on the ground;
  3. You are not to change the Ball which you Strike off the Tee before that hole is played out;
  4. You are not to remove any Stones, Bones any Break Club, for the sake of playing your Ball, except of the fair Green, & that only with one Clubs length of your Ball;
  5. If your Ball come among Watter or any Wattery filth, you are at liberty to take out your Ball & bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any Club and allow your adversary a stroke;
  6. If your Balls be found anywhere touching one another you are to lift the first ball till you play the last;
  7. At holeing you are to play your Ball honestly for the hole, and not to play upon your adversarys ball, not lying in your way to the hole;
  8. If you shoud lose your Ball, by its being taken up or any other way you are to go back to the Spot, where you struck last, & drop another Ball. And allow your adversary a Stroke for the misfortune;
  9. No man at holeing his Ball is to be allowd to mark his way to the hole with his Club or anything else;
  10. If a Ball be stoppd by any person, horse or dog, or anything else, the Ball so stoppd must be played where it lyes;
  11. If you draw your Club, in order to strike & proceed so far in your stroke, as to be bringing down your Club; if then your Club shall break in any way, it is to be accounted a stroke;
  12. He whose Ball lyes farthest from the hole is obliged to play first;
  13. Neither Trench, Ditch or Dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholars Holes or the Soldiers Lines, Shall be accounted a hazard. But the ball is to be taken out Teed and playd with any Iron Club.
The Gentleman Golfers of Edinburgh were the first to exercise control of a links. They leased the Leith Links in 1787 at the rate of 37 pounds per year, primarily to control the cattle which grazed here. Others in town leased the links to pasture animals, and though the golfers were tolerant, they did not like the idea of unlimited numbers of cattle on their course.
 
About the year 1830, though, golf had reached its absolute low point. Interest in golf at Leith had ebbed. The Gentlemen Golfers ' later known as the Honorable Company of Golfers ' was about to drown in a sea of debts. The military invaded the links, and with it the town citizens followed, trampling the course, and now numerous sheep followed.
 
In 1834 the Edinburgh golf clubhouse was sold to pay off huge debts owed by the Gentleman Golfers. The town of St. Andrews sold its course in 1799 to, of all things, a rabbit breeder. Estimates were that only 20 rounds a day were played there on a good day. Golf also declined in the west coast of Scotland. The Glasgow Herald reported in 1854 that, We have lost one of the oldest of our Scotch games, viz. the Golf, which used to be regularly played upon the Green of Glasgow, not only by boys, but also by many of our first-class citizens.
 
The gents of wealth, however, kept the game alive during this period. They werent beholden to the factory hours. Almost single-handedly they ' many of which were Freemasons ' persisted in their games, even branching out to playing in the summers. Golf in Scotland had been largely a winter game, the summers devoted to crop-growing.
 
Along about 1850, though, the sport was on the rebound. Wages improved. The epidemics faded out. After 1850, the textile industries which abounded in Britain gave time off from work ' two weeks was the standard, as well as Saturday afternoons. The Victorian Age was on the horizon, a time in which morals were greatly improved. Health and attention to sobriety were now the watchwords.
 
Eventually, the golfers of St. Andrews were able to rescue their course back from the rabbit warrens. In 1821, James Cheape of Strathtryum bought the links and saved the Old Course for golf. The introduction of the gutta percha ball around 1850 took the place of the old featherie, making golf cheaper for all. Railroads were coming into being, making it much easier to get to outlying courses.
 
The invention of the mower was critical. Before, it was hardly possible to play in the summer on inland courses because the grass would grow to such unwieldy lengths. It was cut back, when possible, by scythes. In most areas, cattle and grazing sheep kept the terrain leveled enough in the winter so that balls were not lost. But by 1840, the lawnmower started appearing at courses.
 
The St. Andrews Society of Golfers reached royal status in 1834. Murray Belshes had approached King William IV asking him to be their patron. The King not only agreed, but permitted the Society to rename itself The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. St. Andrews has since become known as the Home of Golf, since the Edinburgh golfers had left Leith and had yet to re-establish itself. There was no challenge to the claims of St. Andrews.
 
From that time on, the authority of the Royal and Ancient has been undisputed, with the exception of North American where the United States Golf Association is the preeminent authority. It was time for yet another era in golf.
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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?''

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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.

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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. 

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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.