The Etymology of Golf: From Colf to Club

Categories: GolfHistory

The word 'golf' has originated from Dutch word 'colf'. It is translated as 'club' in English. Golf was frequently referred to as 'spel metten colve' meaning a 'video game with clubs' in the medieval ages. On Dec. 26, 1297, in Northern Holland, the citizens played the video game of colf to celebrate the Kronenburg Castle. 'Colfers' or golfers can also be seen in the Dutch art work of that time duration. According to legend, golf started when shepherds near St. Andrews started hitting round stones into the rabbit holes using their wood crooks.

Another group provides the theory that Scottish fisherman amused themselves with this video game when they returned from their boats. Roman emperors in the days of Caesar played a golf like video game called 'Paganica' which involved striking a plume filled ball and a stick. A similar video game was played by the Celtics called the 'Shinty' and the people from Laos played 'Khi'. The origins of the game are still debated by many nations but it is usually presumed that the Scots in the Middle Ages were the very first addicts of golf.

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Scots have made the most significant contribution since they refined the video game completely. However, all countries have added to making the game what it is today. China, England, Rome, Belgium, Laos all had a game or 2 in history which used sticks and balls. In 1338, areas were marked in Germany by hitting pebbles with crooks. The greater the distance covered by the pebble the larger the territory owned by the Shepherd.

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According to the Dutch historian, Steven J. H. van Hengel, Golf originated from the games of 'Chole' and 'Jeu de mail'.

The game of golf has actually existed for more than 500 years. It can be traced back to the times of James II of Scotland. He banned golf on March 6, 1457 because it hindered archery practice which was severely needed in times of war. In the year 1603 the golf enthusiast and Scottish Baron James VI introduced the game to the English. For many years the video game was used unequal, rough land with no rich greenery and basic holes were dug in the ground. King Charles I endorsed this video game and popularized it in the 16th century.

While studying in France, Mary Queen of Scots also introduced Golf to the French people. The term caddie is French for the word ‘cadets’. It was intended for the queen’s helpers or the French Military. The period between 1750 and 1850 has been very important in the history of Golf. During this era, many young golfers were discovered and clubs were formed. Allan Robertson, the first popular golf star was discovered during this time. In 1843, a very important contest took place between the best players which included Willie Dunn and Allan Robertson.

Golf grew further during the 1848-1852 period because of many significant events that took place turning the game from local to global. The Gutty Ball introduced in this era drastically changed how golf was played. Tom Morris, the greatest exponent of Gold was also born during this time. The oldest golf course recorded in history is The Old Links at Musselburgh Racecourse. Mary, Queen of Scots played on this course in 1567. No golf society or club was formed before 1744. Some golfers from Edinburgh joined together finally in 1744 to form the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Many years later ‘St. Andrews Golfers’ was formed and the name was changed in 1834 to ‘Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews’. In 1888, Golf became increasingly popular in United Stated. A Scottish man named John Reid constructed a three hole course near his home in New York. The same year he constructed a golf course on a 30 acre site and formed the St. Andrews Club of Yonkers. The game took off from these humble beginnings and soon became a national sport. The next century saw the arrival of more than thousands of golf courses and clubs all around the United States.

Through the years better equipment has helped to change how the game is played. Since the 19th century, we have seen technologically advanced mowers and the introduction of newer golf ball designs and metal shafts. Wooden shafts have been completely replaced today. The golf ball has also evolved through the years. Golf was first played with a feather filled leather ball. These balls were relatively expensive which is why it was commonly played by the Royals. In 1848, Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson made a ball using packing material of Gutta Percha.

This ball enhanced the pleasure of playing golf. However, many golfers realized that nicked balls had better flight as opposed to smooth gutta balls. Hence the balls became uneven textured. Today, Golf has broken all boundaries and is played by almost every nation. Talent is emerging from Sweden, Taiwan, Japan etc. Perspectives regarding Golf have also evolved thanks to young golf stars such as Tiger Woods. It is no longer considered a boring game or played only by the elite older generation. Golf is loved and adored by millions around the world.

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The Etymology of Golf: From Colf to Club. (2016, Sep 22). Retrieved from

The Etymology of Golf: From Colf to Club
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