The History of England

from Celts through 20th century


Category: Sport

More and more people in Britain are finding out that golf, after all, is not a good walk wasted, since it is a “walking’’ game. They are taking to the links* in numbers that may soon require a crash programme of new courses to meet growing demand. A total of 60 new courses — two-thirds of them municipal — were completed in England between 1971 and 1972, and more are under construction. Many more municipal courses are required, particularly in England, where in the past, the game has been confined very much to private clubs and those who can afford the high membership fees. In Scotland, with its high proportion of municipal courses, golf has always been very much a working-class sport — and the trend is now beginning to be seen in England.

But what of the origins of the game of golf? It is suggested that the Romans may have downed their armour from time to time to take part in a similar type of game. The Dutch have also a claim. The word “golf’’ certainly derives from the Dutch word “kolf’’ — meaning a club.

Originally the balls were made of leather; stuffed with feathers. In 1850 these made way for the _ solid gutta-percha (guttie) balls. Half a century later came the invention of the rubber-cored ball which, because it led to lower scores, became very popular.

Today’s ball has a semi-fluid core surrounded by strips of rubber, wound under high tension. It, of course, has a dimpled surface, and there is astory behind this. In the “guttie’’ days the ball had a smooth surface and its flight was erratic. Then it was noticed accidentally that the older, scarred balls travelled more accurately, so the golfers themselves hammered and dented them before play.

All golf equipment has become more sophisticated, but even today some of the world’s top golfers still rely on an old hickory-shafted putter* which would not have been new even in their grandfathers’ time.

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