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A Brief Early History of Golf

There is general consensus that the Scots were among the first who invented golf, although there is some evidence that the game was started in Holland as the word “golf” is derived from the Dutch word “kolf”. However, it is known that the Scots developed the game using a number of clubs to hit a small leather ball stuffed with feathers (called a feathery ball) to a hole in the ground (typically these were rabbit holes). Many thousands of rabbits roamed the Scottish coast (play was primarily on the east coast as the west coast was too wet to play). 

The first true golf course was St. Andrews, Scotland. The first golf played in North America that was documented was in Charleston, South Carolina (as it was noted in the local newspaper “The Gazette” that mentioned events at the South Carolina Golf Club in 1786).

Where did golf terminology come from?

The term “Birdie” originated in the United States in 1899. A foursome playing at the Atlantic City CC, one individual hitting a great shot said “that was a bird of a shot” (Bird was American slang for anything great). They determined when one plays one under par that it be called a “Birdie”.

The term “Eagle”, a score that is two under par, being a big birdie should be called an “Eagle” as it is a big bird.

The term “Par”, is a standard term in sports, where it simply means level or even.

The term “Bogey”, comes from a song that was popular in Britain in the 1890’s, “The Bogey Man”. Looking for the Bogey Man was as difficult as hitting a perfect score.

Golfing terms came into use much the same way that new words are being invented and added to dictionaries and used on the internet.

The first set of written “Rules” (13 rules) was in Edinburgh in 1744. To keep the grass cut back they used cattle and sheep to help the golfers from not losing balls.

St. Andrews has become known as “the home of golf”.