The game of golf traces its origins to the east coast of Scotland,
where it was played on links or linklands - stretches of sandy,
grass-covered common lands that lay between farmable fields and
the seashore. It is not known when golf was first played, but by
1457 it was so popular that the Scottish King James II banned it
because too many Scots were out golfing instead of attending mandatory
In the 16th century, golf club making became a specialized profession.
By the 18th century, a set of clubs consisted of "longnose
playclubs" for driving; grassed drivers, and short, medium,
and long spoons for fairway shots; and "baffing spoons,"
which were similar to modern wedges. Players also commonly carried
driving, approach, and greens putters. Club heads were made from
tough woods such as black thorn, beech, holly, pear, or apple; shafts
were made from ash or hazel, and later American hickory. About this
time, St Andrews, an ancient university town on Scotland's east
coast, became a center of golf club making.
In 1618, the game was revolutionized when the Featherie -- a feather-filled
golf ball -- was introduced. Featheries remained popular until 1844,
when they were replaced by gutta percha balls made from Malaysian
rubber. Steel-shafted clubs were introduced in the 1890s, but were
not legalized for competitive play until 1929. Now-popular graphite
shafts were introduced in 1973.
Scotland's golf legacy also includes the game's culture. The oldest
extant golf course in Scotland, Musselburgh Links, dates from 1672.
The most renowned golf course in the world, the Royal & Ancient
Golf Club of St Andrews, was founded in 1754 by "22 Noblemen
and Gentlemen of the Kingdom of Fife." The "Royal &
Ancient" has played a pivotal role in the game's history: it
developed and continues to administer the official Rules of Golf
(today, in conjunction with the United States Golf Association),
and it administers the Open Championship and other key golfing events
worldwide. Playing the Royal & Ancient's Old Course is considered
the pinnacle of many a golfer's career.
Several Scottish players also have had an enormous impact on professionalizing
and shaping the modern game. Perhaps the best known historical figure
is Old Tom Morris (1821-1908), a St Andrews native who began his
career apprenticed to golf ball maker Alan Robertson and went on
to become an accomplished golfing champion, golf course designer,
and golf club maker.