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History of golf in Scotland

Scotland is widely considered the Home of Golf and the country's history is so intertwined with the game, it is impossible not to recognise the important relationship between the game of Golf and Scotland.

Golf, or 'Gowf' as it was originally known, has been played in Scotland since long before the 16th century, one of many 'ball and stick' games played in the Middle Ages. The game developed from there, and 'Gowfers' were made up at that time mainly by the citizens of St Andrews, Aberdeen and Leith. This is not surprising considering the rolling greens and sandy links native to the area; a terrain made up of essentially natural golf courses.

The game caught on fire amongst the Scots, from the locals to highest levels of royalty. In fact, St James II of Scotland actually tried rather unsuccessfully to ban golf during the middle part of the fifteenth Century when Scotland was preparing to defend itself against an English invasion. The Scots had become so obsessed with the game that they were neglecting their military training in favour of playing a few holes, and although the ban was reintroduced in 1470 and again in 1491, the game's popularity continued to grow as the Scots simply ignored the ban.

Even Mary Queen of Scots herself was embroiled in quite a bit of golf gossip when she caused a scandal playing on the links at St Andrews just 12 days after her husband's funeral in 1560. Mary was one of the first women to play the game of golf, which she did both in Scotland and in her time in France, which helped to spread the game early on in history.

The deepest and also most well-documented relationship between the game and Scotland begins at St Andrews, which is officially considered to be home to the modern game of golf. St Andrews Links offers seven courses, including the Old Course, which has hosted more Open Championships than any other golf course in the world, and a ballot is required to 'win' tee time on the course. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was formed in St Andrews in 1754 and was one of the governing bodies of the game until 2004.

The marriage of Scotland to Golf as we know it today was the result of a marriage between the daughter of Thomas Buddo, a ball-maker based in St Andrews, to a Mr. Robertson in the early 1600s.The family became a golf-ball making dynasty, designing the early versions of the modern day ball, and the business grew to at least four Robertson families employing over 25 ball-makers in St Andrews during the mid 19th century.

At this time, better transport links reached the area of St Andrews in the mid 1800s, allowing the game of golf to spread throughout the British Isles, with the first Open Championship held at Prestwick golf course in 1860. Open Championships continued at Prestwick and on top Scottish links throughout the 19th Century.

In the 20th century, rather than attempts by a King of Scotland to eradicate the game, two great wars were responsible for severe setbacks to the game of Golf. World War I decimated the sport as it robbed Scotland of some of its greatest players and future hopefuls, and World War II completely destroyed many of the actual golf courses – with the Old Course at St Andrews staked with massive wooden poles to prevent aircraft landings, and Turnberry turned in to a runway for British armed forces.

The sport survived the two world wars, albeit most successfully on American soil, and has remained at the heart of Scotland through to the 21st century.

Of course the entire history of Scotland's love affair with golf can be experienced at the British Golf Museum, located in St Andrews. The museum explores the history, players both past and present, tournaments and the history of the equipment traditionally used in the sport of Golf in Scotland.
St. Andrews
Carnoustie Golf Links
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
Muirfield Golf Course
Loch Lochmond Golf Club

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