The Sport of Golf

Golf is a sport in which individual players or teams hit a ball into a hole using various clubs, and also is one of the few ball games that does not use a fixed standard playing area. It is defined in the Rules of Golf as "playing a ball with a club from the teeing ground into the hole by a stroke or successive strokes in accordance with the Rules."

Golf is said to have originated in the Netherlands, but has been played for at least five centuries in the British Isles. Golf, in essentially the form we know today, has been played on Scotland's Musselburgh Links (today the world's oldest golf course) since 1672, while earlier versions of the game had been played in the British Isles and the low-countries of Northern Europe for several centuries before that. Although often viewed as an upperclass pastime, golf is an increasingly popular sport across all sections of society.

A Brief History of Golf:

The origin of golf is open to debate among Chinese, Dutch and Scottish. Golf was mentioned on February 26 in the year 1297 for the first time in the Netherlands in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht. Here the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. Whoever hit the ball in a target several hundreds of meters away the least number of times, won.

The Scots however regard golf to be a Scottish invention, as the game was supposedly mentioned in two 15th-century laws prohibiting the playing of the game of "gowf". Scholars, however, suggest that this refers to another game which is much akin to shinty or hurling, or to modern field hockey rather than golf. They point out that a game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was played in 17th-century Netherlands rather than Scotland. This is backed up by the fact that the term golf is an alteration of Dutch "kolf" meaning "stick, "club" and "bat."

The oldest playing golf course in the world is The Old Links at Musselburgh. Evidence has shown that golf was played on Musselburgh Links in 1672 although Mary, Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567.

World Popularity of Golf:

In 2005 Golf Digest calculated that there were nearly 32,000 golf courses in the world, approximately half of them in the United States. The countries with most golf courses in relation to population, starting with the best endowed were: Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Wales, United States, Sweden, and England (countries with fewer than 500,000 people were excluded). Apart from Sweden all of these countries have English as the official language, but the number of courses in new territories is increasing rapidly. For example the first golf course in the People's Republic of China only opened in the mid-1980s, but by 2005 there were 200 courses in that country.

The professional sport was initially dominated by British golfers, but since World War I, America has produced the greatest quantity of leading professionals. Other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and South Africa are also traditional powers in the sport. Since around the 1970s, Japan, Scandinavian and other Western European countries have produced leading players on a regular basis. The number of countries with high-class professionals continues to increase steadily, especially in East Asia. South Korea is notably strong in women's golf.

The last decade or so has seen a marked increase in specialised golfing vacations or holidays worldwide. This demand for travel which is centered around golf has lead to the development of many luxury resorts which cater to golfers and feature integrated golf courses.