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How the game began

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On March 6, 1457 James II of Scotland had golf and football banned because they were interfering with archery practice. We know that golf has been around for over 550 years. Most would accept that Scotland is the home of golf because of the evidence available and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is considered to be the games leading authority.

Historians cannot be sure that the game of golf actually started in Scotland, and there are a number of possible predecessors to the great game. Roman soldiers played paganica, a game played with curved sticks and a feather stuffed ball. It was probably more like hockey than golf. During the Ming Dynasty (1350-1400) in China a game called suigan was played, where a ball was hit with a stick while walking. The French played Jeu de mail where object to hit a ball through one or more iron hoops in lowest number of strokes. It caught on briefly in England around the early 1600's, but died out by 18th century. It sounds a little like croquet rather than golf. Chole was the game played in Belgium. Teams would use iron clubs to smite an egg-shaped ball across country to hit a designated target, but they played in teams and had opposition. Colf was played in Holland in the 13th century, and this seems to be the closest relative to the game we call golf.

It seems safe to accept that the game as we know it emerged in Scotland. There shepherds knocked balls around paddocks and into rabbit holes in an area close to St. Andrews.

In 1744 the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was formed and 13 rules were drawn up for an annual competition between sportsmen from any part of Great Britain and Ireland. The Society of St Andrews Golfers a few years later and in 1834 became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews when King William IV became their patron.

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The game spread to Canada where The Royal Montreal Club was formed in 1873 but did not reach the United States until 1888. A hundred years on and the U.S. is the dominant force in the world of golf. Japan and China, however, are emerging as powerhouses of the future.

Australia comes in before the U.S. in terms of golf clubs being formed. There are a number of different claims made (as always) for being the first. Royal Sydney Golf Club is the oldest golf club in Australia. Formed in 1882 is has existed continuosly as an entity since then. For seven years (1888-1895) it did not have a course. Hence The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, formed in 1891, has existed continuously since then and claims to be the oldest club in Australia. Records show that golf was first played in Australia at Ratho Estate near Bothwell in Tasmania. This was either in 1822 when the Reid family first settled the land, or in 1842 when they returned from a trip to Scotland. The Ratho course claims to be the oldest course in Australia, and is the one survivor of the four or five courses local farmers made on their own land.

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[Check out History of Equipment]