Golf Clubs and Courses in Scotland - Origins

Origins

The exact origins of the sport of golf are unclear. The most widely accepted theory is that the modern game of golf originated in Scotland in the High Middle Ages. The first golf courses and clubs were established in the country. The first written rules originated in Scotland, as did the establishment of the 18 hole course. The first tournament structures developed and competitions were held between various burghs. The modern game was spread by Scots to the rest of the world.

The earliest reference to golf is the purchase of a set of golf clubs by James IV from a bowmaker of St Johnston (Perth) in 1502. Where he played is not known, but it is likely to have been on the open ground called the North Inch at Perth. It is recorded that Robert Maule of Panmure played golf at Carnoustie in the mid 16th century, as a wager for drink. Around the same time, in 1552, John Hamilton the Archbishop of St Andrews granted the right of the people of St Andrews to play golf and gather turf on the links, retaining his rights to the rabbit warrens there.

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

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