The Romans played a game using a curved club and a ball made of feathers which could possibly have been the beginnings of the game of golf. Some historians claim that the game originated in The Netherlands and that the term “golf” comes from the Dutch word “kolf” meaning club.
Golf history is a very controversial topic. This is because people differ about who invented golf (Chinese, Netherlanders, Scottish…) A similar game is mentioned on Dongxuan memories, Chinese book from the XI century. It is also mentioned that on 1297 in the Netherlands a man played with a club and a ball in a similar game. The person who would take the ball to a certain place at hundreds of meters with less hits would win the game.
One of the theories is that golf originally dates back to fifteenth century Scotland, where, as the legend goes, golf had 18 holes because whisky had 18 measures.
Though most golf courses haven’t always had 18 holes, when the St. Andrews course was built it had 11 holes, due to its terrain topography. Players could complete the 11 holes and begin anew until a total of 22 holes. Later on, many of the holes were redesigned for its short length, reducing the number of holes from 11 to 9, this way every round consisted on 18 holes.
It soon became increasingly popular, so much so that King James II had to ban the sport so that his subject’s wouldn´t abandon the practise of the art of defence for war. Around 1500 that ban was lifted because golf had become so popular and because the ban had been ignored. In its beginnings, golf enabled both noblemen and commoners to compete against each other on equal footing. The first match of which data is available, was the game played in 1682 between the Prince of Wales and John Paterson (a skillful shoemaker).
In 1744 the first golf association was founded in Scotland, and in 1745 also in Great Britain, the first rules of golf were conceived. The first golf associations were organized in the eighteenth century: the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (1744), and the St Andrews Society of Golfers (1754).
Golf was introduced in England in 1608. The earliest golf clubs that were founded outside of England were the Calcutta Golf Club of East India (1829) and the Royal Bombay Club (1842). The first golf club established in America was Canada´s Royal Montreal Golf Club, founded in 1873. In 1888 the St Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers was founded in New York.
It is really not important who invented the game, it has evolved throughout the years though. Most changes occurred on the XIX century, on the equipment needed to play. The turf-cutter invention made the game easier. Ball’s designs evolved using rubber and artificial materials that made the ball able to fly larger distances with a single swing. Tees (supporting stick made of wood or plastic used to place the ball on the starting Tee), they also made the drives easier.
There is no discussion about golf history that would be complete without touching the advances that have been made on the golf clubs during the years. Metal clubs came to the golf world around 1930. Until then most of the clubs were made of wood —that’s why they’re called “wood 5…” although they’re actually made of metal or titanium. The last advance on clubs design was graphite; this material makes them more flexible and light. This makes the swing much easier.
When we talk about golf history we can discuss where did it originated but golf, as we know it today, comes without a doubt from Scotland.
Golf in Spain
The first Spanish club was created in Las Palmas in 1891, when some British citizens founded a society over a golf course. This golf course was built on a place called Loma del Polvo. Some time later they would abandon that site and move in the current place Bandama.
In 1900 golf had some regulation innovations, among them the invention of PAR (Professional Average Result), that is used to measure handicap.
In 1904 it’s created in Madrid the “Madrid Polo Club”, situated on the “Hipódromo de la Castellana”. Ten years later it would be moved to some lands donated by Alfonso XIII; this would be called on forth “Real Club Puerta de Hierro”. The first competitions of Spain took place there. In 1910, the “Real Club de Golf Lasarte” (San Sebastián) appears. A year later it’s founded in Bilbao the “Sociedad de Golf de Neguri.” This two premises would change their sites to Jizkibel and Galea respectively. With an authentic look of Scottish link, it was built in 1912 in Zarauz a course of 9 holes. That same year, in Barcelona, the lost “Real Club de Golf de Pedralbes” returned to action. In 1919 it’s founded the “Club de Golf de Ant Cugat”, instigated by British inmigrants from the “Vallés” area, and in 1922 it’s created the “Club de Golf de Terramar de Stiges.”
Thanks to the General Direction of Tourism it’s created the “Club de Campo de Málaga”, that would become the golf pioneer in Andalusia and in Costa del Sol. Here we can see the connection between tourism and sport becomes more and more obvious even at this point in time.
Before the Spanish Civil War four more clubs are founded: “Club Pedraña” and “Club Cerdaña” (1929), “Club de Campo de Madrid” (1930), “Club de Golf de Tenerife” (1932.) During this years golf had became a popular game among the wealthy classes. If we watch closely, this first courses are found near the great cities and near high class vacation resorts.
At this time, golf is understood as a “religion”, not a business. There are clubs managed by the members themselves. They are non-profit associations and so they divide the expenses among all members. But just as it happened on the USA —around 1930 there were 1 124 clubs and 2 million golfers— it happened in Spain. Golf changed from being a passion to a big business.
Great figures of golf appear as the great Severiano Ballesteros. They capture the attention of mass media for their triumphs on international courses. This way golf becomes more famous in Spanish society creating instantly a considerable amount of federated players.
The Mediterranean Basin and the Balearic and Canary Islands become the main golf destinations, mostly due to the quality of the golf courses in Costa del Sol, Balearic Islands and Canary Islands and their tourist infrastructure. This fact makes the golf course’s construction rate rise, in order to satisfy the demand of golf tourists that visit Spain.
The golf courses mean an increase on the zone value where they’re built. This is why the construction of golf courses conected to living premises began.
The golf industry is developed in our country at the end of the 70′s and over the 80′s, although due to the economic crisis of the 90′s and to excessively ambitious golf courses construction projects banks take control of several golf premises. But this negative situation derived in a widespread rise of awareness about the importance of the golf sector that meant a professional management of this sport since 1996/97.
The Ryder Cup held on Valderrama (Cádiz) aided the international promotion of Andalusia and Spain as a privileged golf destination. Currently we might be living the definitive consolidation of this sport in Spain.
Pitch & Putt
Pitch & Putt began in Ireland during the first half of the twentieth century. Pitch & Putt golf courses (which were small replicas of the big courses) were built in popular vacation spots by golf enthusiasts to satisfy their love for the sport.