The Complete History of Golf: Part 2


It was the year 1603 when we last left off our look at the history of golf, but we must jump forward a hundred years or more before the next key event in the evolution of this fine sport came along.

From its inception, golf balls had been hard and rather awkward things, but in the year 1724 science made its first documented foray into the world of golf by introducing a revolutionary new ball, to replace the hard leather lump that had been the golf ball until that point. A leather bound bunch of feathers came along and made the game a lot more fun to play, and gave rise to all manner of new excuses for players to use when hitting a bad shot. 

Golf Ball on a Tee

Introducing the Featherie

There were many references to the ‘Featherie’ as it was called, dating back to as early as 1612, in very elusive terms. It can also be traced to the Netherlands with references dating back to a poem written in 1657. However as Scotland is the home of the game, and its history is so right with other historical treats, the first recognized written reference to the feathered golf balls is awarded to the Scottish man Alan Ramsay mentioned it in a poem cunningly titled ‘The Chronicles of Golf.’ If half way accurate the Chronicles will be greatly imagined, for everybody know that the length of a golfers putts are seldom as length as the tales he tells of them. 

Golf Ball By the Hole

Golf Fever Hits the New World

Five years later, in 1729, the grand old sport is first referenced in the United States. The game must have existed long before, for this initial reference is with regards the recording of a rather grand estate belonging to the then departed Governor of Massachusetts, one William Burnet. A most successful ex-pat, who lived from 1687 – 1729. He had royal ties, with his godfather being none other than William III, so it is no surprise that he played the great game, and unknowingly staring the grand tradition of American dominance in British games. Born in the Netherlands, and tutored by none other than Sir Isaac Newton Burnet was a fascinating man who like any respected British politician led a career surrounded controversy. 

Golf Ball and Golved Hand

Welcome to the Rule Makers Not Heart Breakers

For the next fifteen years, the game was played on both sides of the Atlantic in a happy go lucky way, with rules possibly made up on the spot like in a child’s game, or modified from game to game like those of Monopoly. Then along came The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who in 1744 created the very first golf rule book. These were the first official rule set, and thus the time and tide of the greatest game ever played was both set, and irreversibly altered.

The 1700’s continued to produce memorably golfing moments, when a decade after the rules were laid down, in 1754, the Society of St. Andrews Golfers was formed. It would be some years later, almost a century in fact, before they would change their name to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Now there is a name we can all recognized. 

Swinging the Golf Club

Leave it to the Scots

Those jolly Scots continued to revolutionize the game, and those St. Andrews folks in particular who seemed so intent on making their mark on the sport. In 1764 they were at it again when they took the great old course of St. Andrews and reduced it from the then 22 holes to the now standard 18. It was this bold move that saw the game take its true form. A move that revolutionized the game. Who knows how popular it would have become had that reduction not occurred, I mean, after all, how many of us would have the enthusiasm to play another 4 holes of bad golf at the end of standard round. 

Golf Hole and a Lake

The Eighteenth Century Set the Standard

The 1700’s were clearly a wonderful century for the game of golf. One that saw a great many boundaries broken, and advancements made that still hold true today. Several aspects play a part in the modern game.

Golf has a great history, and a royal past, but there could be little arguments against the eighteenth century being the one that is truly responsible for giving birth to the game we know and love today.


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