Why is golf so important to Scotland?

Craftypups gifts for golfers

The Open golf tournament will be held at Royal Troon on 18th – 21st July this year, so lots of sports fans and tourists will be heading to Scotland to catch a glimpse of the top players in action. But how has golf become associated so strongly with Scotland, the “home of golf”?

Games involving hitting a ball with a stick into a target using the fewest strokes have been recorded from as early as the 13th century in the Netherlands, who called the game “colf”. Dutch settlers played the first game of “colf” in what is now the USA, in 1650. The word “golf” is derived from a variety of phonetic spellings in historic Scottish documents, such as “gowf”, “goff” and “gowfe” whose own origins can be linked back to the Dutch “colf”. Although the Dutch game is seen as having a major influence on the beginnings of golf, the introduction of the modern game with its 18 holes and associated rules are generally agreed as originating in Scotland.

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The first official mention of golf in Scotland is in an act of parliament in 1457, which banned it, along with football! James II’s monarchy was under threat from powerful nobles and foreign invasion, and although military training was compulsory for all males over the age of 12, many of them preferred playing golf or football to honing their archery skills. In addition, golf was being played in public places, including churchyards and streets, and was deemed dangerous, as well as unprofitable, hence the legislation to redirect people's focus to their archery practice – it clearly didn’t work that well in 1457 though, as there were further bans in 1471 and 1491! Of course, there have always been different rules applied to the wealthy elite, and the golf ban was no exception. The King and other wealthy Scots played on open land, often the links, using expensive handcrafted equipment, like the clubs made in Perth for James IV.

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The first “golf international” was held at Leith Links in 1681, as a result of a challenge by the Duke of York to two English nobles who’d claimed the game had been invented by the English. The Duke chose John Paterson, a local golf champion as his partner in the Scottish team, and paid him enough to build a mansion in what is now known as the “Golfers Land” area of Edinburgh. They used “featherie” balls, made from leather, which was stitched together and filled with goose feathers, recorded as being made in Scotland from at least as early as 1554.

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Thomas Kincaid, a serious golfer studying medicine at Edinburgh University, kept a diary from 1687 - 1688, which included detailed instructions on how the game of golf should be played, along with an early handicapping system. The claim of St Andrews as the home of golf originates from a description by the Regent of the university in 1691, Alexander Munro, that the town was the “metropolis” of golfing.

The first golf club in the world was formed in 1744. The Company of Gentlemen Golfers drew up formal rules and regulations for the game, to be applied at their annual competition at Leith Links. These rules are generally recognized as the basis of the modern game.

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The continued popularity of golf and its contribution to Scotland's economy is evident by the buzz around the Open golf tournament. Amateurs and professionals alike will be glued to the action taking place on the Ayrshire coast at Royal Troon this July!

Craftypups have a range of golf-related gifts, perfect for any golf enthusist, be they a weekend hacker, scratch golfer, armchair expert or somewhere inbetween. Coaster, mug or bottle opener, they'll love one of our practical gifts to help them relax as the tournament progresses!