History of Golf in Scotland

History  Scotland Golf Courses

From the Romans to today, people have played games using a stick to hit a ball,. These games have evolved into anything from hockey to golf. One of the early forms of ball and stick games was "jeu de malle", in which a ball has to be hit from one place to another in the least number of hits. No doubt because this form of mass participation in hitting balls caused problems in towns, it was eventually only allowed in the rural areas. This is thought to be an early origin of golf

Golf as we know it seems to have been born on the "links land", the rolling sandy lands between the sea and the towns along the east coast of Scotland. Towns like Aberdeen, St Andrews and Leith. For around five hundred years the game of golf has evolved and developed in these links lands. By the 19th century the Great Golf Clubs had been founded, and competitions were taking place. As with many British sports, the distinction between Amateur and Profession was established.

The first professional is accepted to have been Allan Robertson, although his grandfather Peter Robertson who died in 1803, was also thought to have been a golf pro, but no records of Peter exist. Families of Robertsons made golf balls in St Andrews in the 18th century

Makers of golf clubs also became established , the McEwans in Musselburgh and Philp in St Andrews..

Then the great players developed - Douglas Rolland from Earlesferry seven miles south of St Andrews and later his nephew James Braid, one of the all time great golfers.

By the end of the 19th century Harry Vardon (from  Jersey) and Henry Taylor (from   Devon.) were the leadinfg players as golf became widely established outside Scotland. And together with James Braid, these three won 16 Open titles between them

Soon golf emerged as a sport in the USA, and Vardon and Taylor travelled there to compete. Braid never did aompete in America, but he did design golf courses in Scotland, including Gleneagles and Nairn. Most US courses wanted to employ a Scots as club professional, and all the early US Open winners were born in Scotland

World War I destroyed virtully a whole generation of young men. Very few local Scots became champions following that war. Though George Duncan did win the Open at Deal in 1920. Most of the winners came from either American born golfers or ex-pats like Jock Hutchison (the last St Andrews born player to win the Open) and Tommy Armour (the last native Scot to win the Open at Carnoustie in 1931) . And many ex-pat Scots became golf course designers in the USA

The Open Championship was then dominated by a number of Americans Walter Hagen  ( four times a winner 1922, 1924, 1928 , 1929), Jim Barnes, Gene Saracen, Densmore Schute. ANd of course Bobby Jones in 1926 and 1927

Then  World War II came. The links courses were on sandy beaches just right for a sea bourne assault, and the courses themselves suitable landing places for paratroops. The beaches and sand dunes were covered in concreete tank traps, the Old Course was spiked to stop gliders landing, Turnbetty was turned into a military airport

America was never hit as much by the war, and at the end of it the United States became the home of the best players in the world. Strangely enough the Americans did not dominate the Opens as they had between the wars - perhaps there was too much money to be made from golf at home! Snead won the first post war Open at St Andrews in 1946. Hogan only came once - winning at Carnoustie in 1953. All the other winners were English - Cotton, Burton, Daly and Faulkener

Then the Australians (Peter Thompson 54, 55, 56, 58, 65)and South Africans (Bobby Locke in 47 and 51) took over. Followed by farflung countries from Japan and Taiwan to Sweden and Spain. Very few Scots achieved world class

The game itself was changing. The links courses of Scotland were not reproduced in other countries. AMerican golf course architects were building long difficult courses with soft holding greens - not the hard running greens of  the links. The technique of hitting a ball off a grassy fairway was also very different ot the one of hitting it off a bore links fairway. ANd the Americans played with a different "big ball"

The televisio, sponsorship and big, big money came into the game. Eventually the R&A followed the money route, employing Mark McCormack to promote the game. The European Tour was developed to bring money into the game here. The Ryder Cup opened to European players, and players like Ballesteros (Spain) and Faldo (England) became tournament winners. Eventually Sandy Lyle (brought up in England of a Scots family) won the Open in 1985 at Royal St Georges and the Augusta Masters in 1988

And following Lyle, Sam Torrande, a Scot, never won a major, but was a regular Ryder Cup player. Then Colin Montgomerie
became an international star. Scottish golf started to flourish again in the 1990's - winning the Dunhill Cup in 1995. Golf is alive and well in Scotland today.

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