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 Most likely the hole was originally made by a rabbit, many thousands of which roamed the velvety linksland on the Scottish coasts.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.
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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.