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While they are typically known for their love of bagpipes, plaid, and haggis, if there’s one thing that the Scottish are proud to claim as their own, it’s the sport of golfing. Read on as TeaTime-Mag investigates the ancient Scottish origins of what is now the high profile sport of golf.

Text by:Charlotte Mountford      
Country: Scotland

illions of men and women play golf across the world today, a game made famous by stars such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson; high profile players who compete in modern golf competitions with huge cash prizes, watched on televisions everywhere.

However the origins of golf are far older, even ancient. “Didn’t Mary, Queen of Scots golf?” asks Lori Albrecht, Ontario native and long-time golfer. The Queen Mary Stuart did golf. In fact, she was the first woman to have ever officially played golf. That was in the year1567, and today 22.8% of all golfers are women.

Now an elementary school teacher, Lori has been golfing since she was 18. “I was working at a resort in the Muskokas and golfing is such a culture in that area of Ontario. Muskoka is a high-end cottaging area for many of the people from Toronto. A friend introduced me to the game and we would play at a club beside our resort.”

Jenny Roney, 24, is a Scot living abroad. She jokes about learning to golf because it is in her blood. “The truth is I really started to learn because of my job, but it is nice to be learning something new that is related to my heritage.”

Historians agree that the game of golf as we play it today was born in Scotland. Yet, at first, the Scots considered golf to be more of a pest than a national treasure.

In 1457, King James II of Scotland banned the game of golf because it was distracting his military. Instead of learning to perfect their archery skills, his men were out playing golf all day. Golf became so popular that King James saw it as a serious threat to national security, so he banned it.

In many parts of Scotland’s east coast during the 16th and 17th centuries, parishioners were punished for playing golf on Sundays when they should have been in church. In 1599, anyone found guilty of golfing on a Sunday in St. Andrews was fined small sums of money for the first two offenses. If they were caught a third time they were excommunicated.

The first official golfer ever recorded was King James IV of Scotland, playing in Perth in 1502. The record was made after the king purchased some clubs from a local craftsman. King James IV went on to end the ban on golf in Scotland.

Early versions of golf balls were leather pouches laboriously filled with boiled goose feathers. They were easily damaged and very expensive. By 1880, the arrival of the gutta percha, or gutty ball, which was made cheaply from heated rubber, revolutionized the game. Golf exploded in popularity both in Scotland and overseas.

According to Jenny, Scottish people tend to be proud. “It’ll come out when they talk about how Irn Bru is really the best soft drink in the world, or how much they miss home. You see it when they get up at ridiculously early times to catch the footie, and befriend other random Scots in a bar,” she explains. “The pride comes out on a daily basis in all these wee ways. That includes saying the word ‘wee’ and not being embarrassed.”

She goes on to point out, “People should know that we invented the postage stamp, the microwave, the television, the telephone − yes, Alexander Graham Bell was Scottish! − penicillin and tarmac, among other things.”

Musselburgh Links, the oldest official golf course in the world, is located just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a full course as early as 1672. However, St Andrews Links, an hour north of Edinburgh, are home to the most famous golf courses in Scotland, if not the world. By 1691 St Andrews had been described as the ‘metropolis of Golfing.’

For many golfers the St Andrews Old Course is considered to be a site of pilgrimage and the home of golf. The course evolved over time, and it is believed golf was first played on what is now the Old Course as early as the 1400s. “Without a doubt I like it the best of all the Open venues,” Tiger Woods has said of the Old Course. “It’s my favourite course in the world.”

Yet despite its prestige and status, the Old Course remains a public course. Anyone with a ‘handicap’ of over 24 for a man and 36 for a woman can book a ‘tee time,’ or slot. In addition, public footpaths line the edge of the St Andrews links, so non-golfers can also enjoy their sweeping coastal beauty.

The beauty of the outdoors combined with the challenge of the sport is what makes golf so compelling. So while millions of people tune in to watch the pros play, Lori explains, “I certainly prefer playing. I play every Tuesday night with a ladies league in Elmira. I have my usual three golf partners and we so enjoy each other’s company for those nine holes.”

Lori continues to golf because, “I love the challenge in learning what on earth went wrong on the last shot, I love those amazing once-in-a-lifetime shots that keep you golfing, and I love spending quality time with friends, where phones and Blackberry devices are not part of our lives!”

For Jenny, it is also the social aspect of golf that keeps her swinging her clubs. “It has been a great way of connecting socially with new people − you start learning to play, and as soon as you mention it to someone you are all of a sudden made to feel a part of a whole new circle of people.”

And so it seems that the Scottish have good reason to be proud.

“I think that there are a lot of Scottish stereotypes out there − yes, we are all haggis-loving, kilt-wearing, scotch-drinking, and we play golf in the rain,” says Jenny, “but Scotland has so much to offer its visitors. It is a beautiful place with so much history.”

Fun Golf Facts
- Some historians believe the word “golf” came from the Early Scots verb “to gowff,” meaning to “strike hard.” Golf does not mean “Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden,” as has been claimed.
- Other countries such as France and Holland claim to have invented the game of golf, and records exist of games with a stick and ball being played in both the ancient Chinese and Roman civilizations. But all these early versions lack the feature that separates golf from any other ball and stick game: the hole.
- The first time the hole was used in a game resembling modern golf was in Scotland. How the hole actually evolved remains a mystery. There is one theory that fishermen on the east coast of Scotland hit rocks across fields with sticks as they returned home from a hard day of work on their boats. If the rock fell down a rabbit hole, even better.
-Early Scottish golf courses like St Andrews were usually laid out on ‘links’ land: soil covered sand dunes linking the land to the sea, as they were easier to maintain. This gave rise to the term ‘golf links,’ which is still used to describe courses on the coast. Links courses are the oldest type of golf course.
-The World’s Highest Golf Course is the Tactu Golf Club in Morococha, Peru, which sits 14,335 feet (4,370 meters) above sea level at its lowest point.
-Tiger Woods was introduced to golf at the age of nine months by his father.
-There are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball.
-There are three golf balls on the moon.


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Easy Summary

Around the world, millions of men and women play golf today. It is a game made famous by stars such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. They are high profile players who compete in modern golf competitions with huge cash prizes.

However the origins of golf are ancient. Historians agree that the game of golf was born in Scotland. At first, the Scots considered golf to be more of an annoyance than a national treasure. In many parts of Scotland’s east coast during the 16th and 17th centuries, people were punished for playing golf on Sundays when they had to be in church. .

The beauty of the outdoors combined with the challenge of the sport is what makes golf so entertaining. It is also the social aspect of golf that keeps people playing.

According to Jenny, a Scot living abroad, Scottish people tend to be proud. “It’ll come out when they talk about how Irn Bru is really the best soft drink in the world, or how much they miss home.” .
It seems that the Scottish have good reason to be proud because, “Scotland has so much to offer its visitors. It is a beautiful place with so much history.”

 

Comprehension

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Gowfing with the Scottish

Quiz

 

Grammar in Use

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Elementary. The Superlative.

Advanced. Gerunds.

Vocabulary

Gowfing with the Scottish.

Golf Terms.

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