It is probably best to use the phrase “golf as we know it” when giving the gentlemen of Scotland credit for its invention, however, the origin of golf is open for discussion as to being Chinese, Dutch or Scottish. Scotland is widely recognized as the birthplace of golf. One of the keys to establishing an accurate history of the game is giving credit to the Scots for adding a most important ingredient – the hole.
This important item is one of the key changes in the object of the game. Early golfers near the seashore on the east coast of Scotland hit pebbles and stones, and eventually balls, in a manner similar to games played in Holland and other European countries. But the men of Scotland made a rabbit hole the destination. The modern game grew from these humble beginnings.
The king of England has the dubious honor of having banned the game for a short time in the 15th century and also for making the first recorded purchase of custom made golf clubs. Acceptance of the game by royalty and the eventual establishment of formal clubs helped spread golf along the Scottish coast and later to inland sites.
The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, widely recognized as the first club devoted to golf, also established the game’s early rules in the early 18th century. A few years later the St. Andrews Society of Golfers came into being, and shortly thereafter, the 18-hole course.
Because of its rural beginnings, the game was first played with sticks that were curved at the end. But with the growth of golf organizations, players began to make clubs of wood and iron. It was about this time that a leather golf ball stuffed with feathers became the standard. Several decades would pass before metal club heads and shafts, along with the gutta percha ball, would vastly improve the length and accuracy of golf shots.