Golf: A Brief History of Tee Time
Looking back on the lineage of the links
By Jackelyn "Tam o' Shooter" Crawford
Most golfers would rather think about the booked tee times of tomorrow then the overshot pars of the past, but every once in a while, it's important to look back, not just on your last game, but on golf's history as a whole. After all, where would you be next Saturday on a sunny summer morning if no one had initially sowed the seeds of the greens, or blazed the fairway trails? Probably eating instant oatmeal or untangling extension cords or something. We've prepared a brief summary of golf's monumental events to give you a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the game.
Who took the first swing?
Like fish, chips and mushy peas, golf is mostly considered a Scottish invention that developed during the Middle Ages. But its bonnie Scottish roots have oftentimes been disputed, mostly because after a while, people need to debate something other than the merits of crushed ice vs. cubed (crushed melts in a second... what's the point of it?). Research suggests that in the 12th century, golf-esque games were played in both China and the Netherlands. The Dutch used sticks and leather balls to hit targets hundreds of yards away. To match the leather equipment, players dressed in cowhide cloaks, lambskin tunics and studded motorcycle boots.
"It's beautiful, just beautiful. I call it golf."
Like every word, golf sounds silly if you say it enough times. The strange, monosyllabic name of the game may have come from "kolbe," the German word for club, or "colf," the Dutch word for stick, club or bat (give the Netherlands another point!). There's a myth that golf stands for "gentleman only, ladies forbidden," but this is simply a backronym most likely borne from 1950s ad campaigns. Another popular misconception of what golf stands for includes "game on large field," which was recently used as a method for explaining the game to the cast of Jersey Shore.
Scotland - the putting propagators
While we can't quite figure out who to credit for the club, ball and beer cart aspects of golf, we do know that the Scots are to thank for introducing the hole, a.k.a the ball's home. We also know that they were avid players - so much so that in 1457 and subsequent years, the game was banned because it posed a distraction to the military's archery practice. This golf prohibition didn't last long, though - by the 16th century big wigs like King James IV and Mary, Queen of Scots were taking to the greens. Once royalty teed off, so did the masses, and golf's popularity soared like the popularity of cheeseburgers did after David Hasselhoff was filmed eating one. By the late 1700s, formal rules were established, the first championships were organized, and the famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews began promoting golf as an official sport.
Golf crosses the border
In the 19th century, the game spread to the rest of the U.K., the British Empire and the U.S., almost as swiftly as news spreads about Tiger Woods marital indiscretions. There are a few factors that contributed to golf's boom: Scottish soldiers and immigrants introduced it to the British colonies; the St. Andrews railway transported it from Edinburgh to London on a frequent basis; Sir Walter Scott's writings inspired more tourism and cultural interest in Scotland. However, the thing that made golf go viral before viral was a thing was gutty, a member of the Silly Putty family and a cheap, durable substance from which to make golf balls. This new ball was far less flighty than the previously-used feather one, and more affordable for all classes of golf lovers.
The course as a catwalk
Stereotypically, golf fashion reflects a distinct style, informally known as preppy-goof. It all started with the ruffled cravats and knee-length breeches and stockings of the 19th century. During the 20th century, styles morphed slowly but surely - trousers got longer, bowties were adopted then discarded, blinding colours and kooky patterns made an appearance, and loose-fitting, easy-breathing khakis and polo shirts became the norm. Argyle, the sweetheart of golf garments, has remained a timeless trend. Much to the contrary, the heavy wool coats of the 1930s were more of a one-decade wonder, once it was realized that excessive sweating didn't have its part in a gentleman's game.
Champions over the ages
Over the years, the icons of golf have ranged from the kilt-clad, dashing Scottish nobleman to the neon-outfitted, club-thrashing, cigarette-puffing American dude. Some of the greatest golfers of all time include Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Inspector Gadget, who scored several hole in ones at last year's Masters Tournament by extending his bionic club-swinging arm all the way from tee to green on his first shot.
According to Inspector Gadget and other prominent figures in the golf industry, the game stands to become a heck of a lot faster and a bit more interesting once all humans evolve into cyborgs, and the golf cart is replaced by the rocket-powered jet pack. Rumours have also been circulating about a golf app that allows you to shrink down to the size of the youngest kid from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and enter your smartphone to play a few virtual rounds.