Why No Agrees on Who Invented Golf

A golf-like game called chuiwan was played in Song Dynasty China.

There has long been disagreement about the origin of golf. The Scots claim that they invented it and the Dutch are adamant that it started in Holland. The word 'golf' itself is thought to have come from the Dutch 'kolven' but the actual roots of the game have never been traced.

Scotland claims to have invented golf

Scotland's claim is based on documentary proof of ancient golf matches going back to 1457 when the Parliament of King James II decreed that 'fute-ball and golfe be utterly cryed downe'. In other words, they wanted to ban these games. Apparently, the objection was that they interfered with archery practice and so put the realm in danger from invaders. Without skilled bowmen, Scotland could not fight off frequent attacks from the English and the Norsemen. So, golf was popular in Scotland during the middle of the fifteenth century.

The Dutch claim that golf originated in Netherlands

In Holland, a game called chole (also called choulla, or choulle) was very popular. It was very similar to golf in the way it was played. There were two players (or sometimes teams) and they used one ball to reach a target. A player had three strokes during his turn and then his opponent took over and could hit the ball into an obstacle to make it more difficult to play. In the rules of golf, it is, of course, strictly forbidden to interfere with the play of an opponent.

Ancient Romans played golf

A comparison of the rules of play point very strongly towards Scotland being the place where golf began, but historians have also found connections with a game played by the Romans. It was called Paganica and they played with a bent stick, hitting a leather ball and may have been introduced into Britain and Europe by the Romans who conquered most of Europe during the 1st Century BC.

The who invented golf argument spreads further

For many years the argument about the origin of this globally popular game remained between the Scots and the Dutch. Then archaeologists had better access to places like Egypt, and Persia. Chinese records were only written in Chinese and westerners did not have access to them until fairly recent times, but once the Chinese scholars added their information to the discussion, it became far more complicated.

There was a Chinese game played with a stick and ball from the 8th Century through to the 14th.

The game was called 'chuiwan' which translates to 'striking ball' (chui: to strike and wan: ball). According to a Chinese professor named Ling Hongling (Asian origin of golf ) the game of golf in China dates back to 935AD and is noted in records which come from the Song Dynasty. Holes were made in the ground and players had to hit a small ball with a stick and get it into each of the holes in turn. This is very similar to the way the game is played today.

Archaeologists claim that a game very similar to golf was depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics which decorated tablets and tombs, and ancient Persian scrolls describe another very similar game which was played by young men of the nobility.

During the Middle Ages golf-like games were played in many European countries. There was cambuca in England, chambot in France, and kolven in The Netherlands.

Who really invented golf?

Many countries vie for the honor of being the inventors of the game but the most popular and possibly the most romantic tale surrounds the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrew's. The legend here is that during the 12th Century, a shepherd was amusing himself by knocking stones into rabbit holes with a stick and he invented the game of golf at the place where the golf club was later built.

The story of the lonely shepherd and the rabbit holes is probably the one we would all like to believe. It's a wonderful tale but it does seem that the roots of the game of golf go way back to ancient Rome and possibly further, and the evidence suggests that the Romans did indeed introduce it into England and then Scotland and that it may even have filtered across into 10th Century China.


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Posted on Sep 12, 2009
Raymond H Lee
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Posted on Sep 12, 2009