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The Beginnings and Traditions of Golf


It is believed that the game of golf originated from a game called paganica, played by Roman soldiers during their occupation of Britain and not in Scotland as is the popular belief. The game used a curved club and a leather ball stuffed with feathers.


CAMBUCA, another game played with a club or mallet and a wooden ball was played during the reign of King Edward, III.


In 1363, Edward issued a decree to all of the country’s sheriffs to ban all games and cambuca. The east wing of Glouster Cathedral hangs a stained glass panel of a person in a toga hitting a ball with a curve-ended stick toward a target hole.


There is a French game of Jeu de mail that was played on an open course with a target called a touchstone.  The jeu de mail player that struck the touchstone first was the winner.  If the player’s ball left the course which was played on a road, he was penalized three strokes. The Dutch played a golf-like game in the 17th century with four holes called het kolven. Historic 17th and 18th century Dutch paintings depict players on land and on ice striking a ball with a stick toward a target which was sometimes a hole.


In 1457, Scotland’s King James II, decreed “that fute-ball and golfe be utterly cryed downed, and not be used,” so as to encourage his people to practice archery which was the manner in which the country was defended.  When James IV married a daughter of England’s King Henry VII, the ban against golfe was finally lifted.  In fact, James IV himself asked his Lord High Treasurer for 9 shillings to buy clubs and balls and for 42 shillings more to pay a golfing debt.  In 1834, King William IV agreed to become patron of the St. Andrews Society of Golfers, which then became know as”“The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.”

Why are golf course often referred to as “the links?  Links are formed when the sea recedes along the coast leaving wild and undulating wastelands of sand and wild grasses.  Golf in Britian was first played on links of land along the eastern coasts of Scotland and it is from that natural evolution that the Old Course at St. Andrews evolved.



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