The history of golf

Two people playing a game of golf together

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Golf is a ball game that is considered quite different from any other ball game. Usually, the game is played on a course with an arranged progression of 18 holes. There could also be smaller courses, with an arranged progression of 9 holes. The sport is played for the lowest number of strokes by an individual player, or the lowest score on the most individual holes in a complete round by an individual or team. Stroke play is the name for the lowest number of strokes by an individual, and match play is when an individual or team has the lowest score on the most individual holes in a complete round. Stroke play is the most common format at all levels, but especially at the elite level.

The 18-hole round was created at the Old Course at St Andrews in 1764, and the first major and oldest tournament in existence is The Open Championship, which was first played in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1860. This is one of the four major championships in professional golf, and the other three being played in the United States, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Masters.

While the modern game of golf originated in 15th-century Scotland, the ancient origins of the game are unclear. Some historians trace the sport back to the Roman game of paganica, in which participants used a bent stick to hit a stuffed leather ball. As the Romans conquered most of Europe, paganica spread throughout the continent during the 1st century BC, and then eventually evolved into the modern game as we know it today. That is one theory. Others think trace the game back to chuiwan ("chui" means striking and "wan" means small ball). It is a Chinese game played between the 8th and 14th centuries. The game´s origins are much debated and there are several more different theories of where it first occured.

The modern game originated in Scotland, where the first written record of golf is James II´s banning of the game in 1457, as an unwelcome distraction to learning archery. In 1502, James IV liftet the ban when he became a golfer himself, with golf clubs first recorded in 1503-1504. The standard 18-hole golf course was created in 1764 at St Andrews. The oldest surviving rules of golf were compiled in March 1744 for the Company of Gentlemen Golfers, later renamed The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. The world´s oldest golf tournament in existence, and golf´s first major, is The Open Championship, which was first played on 17 October 1860 at Prestwick Golf Club, Ayrshire, Scotland. Two Scotsmen, John Reid and Robert Lockhart, first demonstrated golf in the U.S. by setting up a hole in an orchard in 1888, with Reid setting up America´s first golf club the same year, Saint Andrew´s Golf Club in Yonkers, New York.