Golf in Scotland: Explained


The game of golf originated
in Scotland in the 15th century and has been played here ever since. And with a legacy that spans back centuries
it’s safe to say we’re pretty proud of it. Nowadays we’re used to hosting some of
the biggest tournaments in the world, including the 2014 Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup 2019 and lots of Open Championships
including the first one ever in 1860. But how did it all begin? Back in the 1400s life in Scotland was a little different to put it mildly, there was much more fighting. So King James the First was keen for his
people to practice archery, to defend the lands against any invasions. To stop them being distracted by other activities the King banned football in 1424 and so did
his successor King James the Second alongside golf in 1457. Golf historians think golf started
to gain popularity between these two dates. Of course, other ball-and-stick
sports had started to emerge during the late Middle Ages, but Golf was unique in
the sense that the aim was to place the ball in a hole rather than hitting it
back and forth or aiming for a target as you would in tennis or hockey. It would have looked a bit different, but the foundations of the game were basically the same. Budding golfers at this time, would have hit the green with wooden
clubs and a ball made from goose feathers. To launch the ball into the air
would require a swift upright swing known today as the St. Andrew’s swing. Scotland’s coastline naturally welcomed
the game. The irregular terrain; humps, hollows sand caverns and streams created ideal challenges
for the early adopters of the sport. In other words, these otherwise little used lands made for perfect coastal links courses. Golfing on Sundays was very frowned upon back then but since the coastline was not fertile
and only used for sheep grazing, and it was far away from towns and prying eyes, if you wanted to sneak away for a cheeky
round of golf on the day of rest, you could get away with it. There’s a few stories floating around about golf, some of which stretch the truth just a wee bit. Rumour has it, that Mary Queen of Scots
was golf mad. In fact, some of her critics claim she played straight after the death
of her husband Lord Darnley. That’s cold, Mary. But let’s put the record straight. Lots of people wanted Mary executed at that time and this was one of many dubious claims that were made to discredit the Queen. There’s actually no evidence
to suggest she ever played golf. And another one. The Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the most famous and iconic courses in the world. However, despite the infamous rumor, the number of holes on a golf course was not
intended to match the number of shots of whisky in a bottle of single malt. Golfers at St. Andrews did reduce the number of holes from 22 to 18 in the 18th
century, but sorry to disappoint it had nothing to do with whisky. Though St. Andrews did create the standard course format that is still used in golf
courses throughout the world today. In the 1800s, as the railways spread across Scotland, golf started to become more accessible and the rise of golf tourism began. In fact, courses that were beside a railway saw golfers arriving in their masses. Places it would be tricky to reach before began to blossom into the
legendary golf courses we know today. It not only made the game more accessible,
but also opened up the game to women. The Mussleburgh Golf Club just outside
Edinburgh is the course with the earliest mention of a ladies competition
in 1810. And they weren’t the only ones. The Ladies Golf Club of St. Andrews was
founded later in the century too. Around this time, a little gathering of
professionals met at Prestwick to find out who was the best golfer in the world, and we said ‘hello’ to the very first Open Championship. Since then, the Open has
been played almost 100 times in Scotland. No tournaments were held during the
World Wars, or in 1871 when there was no trophy. In 1872 the Claret Jug was
introduced as the prize, which is now one of the most prestigious
trophies in the sport. There are now around 550 courses
to play in Scotland. There’s a wide variety to choose from, from iconic links courses dotted around the coastline, to parkland courses found inland, and characterised by smooth fairways and
carefully manicured greens. Scotland has a course to suit every budget,
style and level of play. The game itself has gone through a few modifications, but the traditional game has survived generations. Nowadays, golfers tend to use
clubs made from graphite, titanium, carbon fibre and tungsten, instead of wood. Millions of people tune in to watch the biggest men’s, women’s and junior
tournaments around the world, and Scotland proudly continues to host some
of the most prestigious tournaments as the home of golf. There is no finer place
to play a round of golf than the country that gave the game to the world. Learn more about golf at visitscotland.com/golf

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