History of Golf - Part Two The Early Years

By George WhiteJuly 3, 2002, 4:00 pm
The hole ' it was the final bit that was missing in the stick-and-ball exercise. And the Scots were most likely the first to use a hole in the ground with the stick and ball. Most likely the hole was originally made by a rabbit, many thousands of which roamed the velvety linksland on the Scottish coasts.
Men on the east coast, in the Kingdom of Fife ' home to St. Andrews ' would hit a pebble around a course laid out by Mother Nature. Golf was far more popular on the east coast than the west coast. The difference was that the west coast was much damper, due to the persistent rains which sweep across that terrain. And the golf balls were highly susceptible to dampness, since they were stuffed with feathers.
Rabbit runs proved to be ideal fairways ' an old sailing term which meant the easiest direction to navigate. The rabbits linked their burrows in the dunes by means of these runs, and foxes and hunters expanded the runs. Sheep and other animals were known to hunker down in the raw winds, wearing away the grasses and preparing the bunker areas. It became a wonderful place to play, with fairways and bunkers and, of course, a hole that was in place already, thanks to the proliferation of rabbits.
The sandy playing areas also were good for something else ' tees which were used to begin play and to continue play after each hole. Early golfers scooped sand to make a tiny platform for their initial shots.
For all these reasons, Scotland is widely considered to be birthplace of golf. And it began haphazardly, a way of hitting a pebble or other roundish object into a hole by means of a stick or club.
It is known that golf was played at St. Andrews before the founding of the university there in 1403, and there is sufficient evidence that it was being played in one form or another in Scotland as much as a century before that, about 1300.

History of Golf - 1863 GolfBy 1457, the game of gowf or golfe (as it was known in the British Isles) was so firmly established in Scotland, and its playing so widespread, that King James II had an Act of Scottish Parliament to ban it on Sundays so as to preserve the skills of archery. He declared that fute-ball (soccer) and Golfe be utterly cryit doune, and nocht useit! Fute-ball had been banned by his father, King James I, in 1424.
The English were a constant threat and the Scots were inferior to the English in matters of the bow and arrow. Residents of Aberdeen, St. Andrews and Leith on the east coast were the main culprits ' they played and played. That was the first documented reference to todays game ' the edicts of Parliament in 1457. In many parts of Scotlands east coast, parishioners were constantly being punished for playing golf at the time of the preaching of the Sermon.
Two more attempts were made to restrict the playing of gowf, James III banning it again in 1470 and 1493 ' although the people largely ignored it. And the Scots finally had to pay the consequences. At the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, the Scots were assaulted by English bowmen and were no match for them. England routed the Scots, who had spent so much time playing golf.
Kirk Session (church court) records in the 16th and 17th centuries contain many references to men playing at the gowf. At St. Andrews in 1599, miscreants were fined small sums for the first two offenses before use of the repentance pillar. After that, the culprits were deprived of office ' excommunicated from the church.
King James IV (King James I of England), the grandson of the king who originally tried to ban the sport, also tried to prevent the playing of golf. But he, too, found it hopeless and gave up, eventually beginning to play the game himself. The Treaty of Glasgow lifted the ban in 1502.
James has the first recorded purchase of a set of golf clubs, also in 1502, his treasurer paying 14 shillings to an archery bow-maker in Perth, Scotland. Records of his expenses show that from then on, there was a steady stream of bills paid from his royal account for golf clubs and golf balls. History also records several lost bets that were debited from the royal bank account.
King James IV played in the first officially documented match, pitting himself against the Earl of Bothwell in 1504.
It was during this 16th century that it became firmly established on Scotlands East Coast. By this time, the game had gained respectability among high society and was even played by Mary Queen of Scots. She played golf with one of her attendants, Mary Seton. Seton won one match with the queen and was presented with a famous necklace.

History of Golf - Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots eventually was executed after a golf match. She played golf at Seton House shortly after the mysterious murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, in l567. Did she commit the murder? Circumstantial evidence suggests she did, though it never was proven. But at the least, many thought her playing golf during the mourning period was just unacceptable, and she herself was put to death at the age of 44..
During this period golf was expanding to England. Political powers in that country provided for land grants to the links ' narrow strips of land only a couple of hundred yards wide that connected the sea to the villages. These links proved to be ideal golf areas, what with the spongy surfaces and the seaside vegetation.
Membership to the clubs and golfing societies which suddenly flourished carried a considerable amount of prestige. Gentlemen Golfers were considered privileged groups who played a legal, honorable, and respectful sport.
It was the royal acceptance of the game that helped spread it throughout the country and beyond. Golf had spread as far north as Montrose in Scotland and inland to Perth, Scotland, by the beginning of the 16th century. It was most likely taken there by James IV.
The earliest centers of golf all had associations with royalty. In the case of St. Andrews, the two pillars of Scottish society were located there ' education and the church. St. Andrews is Scotlands oldest seat of learning, and it was also a powerful church stronghold.
Scotlands capital city of Edinburgh was the seat of the Scottish court, and golf was intertwined throughout the city aided by the royals. The Scottish towns of Dunfermillon and Perth also had royal palaces and they, too, developed strong golf connections.
By the start of the 17th century, golf was actively pursued from the southeast of Scotland and beyond to the far north, to the remote Orkney Islands.
The premier golf course of the time was at Leith.. Indeed, King Charles II was busily engaged in a round at Leith when he got the news of the Irish Rebellion of 1642.
Leith was also important 41 years later, in 1682, when the first international golf match was played. The Duke of York and George Patterson played the match representing Scotland, defeating two English noblemen. Indeed, the game of golf has been primarily an activity of upper-class citizens for much of its existence.
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.