Thursday, February 05, 2015

Golf Trip Reflections: How it Started in Scotland

You can name a lot of places within the schedule your golf trip. But all people who at least knew the basic history of the sport would consider Scotland as a pilgrimage site. As far as tradition goes, Scottish people have patented the invention of modern golf as we know it. Have you ever really stopped to consider how it all started? Here is a simple but out-of-the-box breakdown of modern golf's very humble beginnings:

The Dutch contraband
Like all modern sports, it has potential foreign predecessors. Around the early middle ages it was known as kolf, an indoor sport in Netherlands that, for some reason, earned the ire of the authorities. So the Dutch did what all law-abiding citizens would do – bring it overseas. So when it was sold it across the North Sea, it was one of the few contraband goods that hit the market for commoners and aristocrats. There goes the first golf vacation in Scotland. By around early 1400's, Scottish people finally understood why it was banned in Netherlands (or did they?) so they followed their neighbor's example and prohibited it.

Banned by James the Fiery Face
James II was crowned king of Scotland in March of 1437. He earned the nickname Fiery Face because of the vermilion facial birthmark often associated with quick temper. You might expect a king who just executed a courtier and banned golf because the latter held clubs with a wrong hand. But ironically, he was far from what one would expect from a “fiery face”. His reign was regarded for its relative peace and prosperity. If a king stoops to chat amiably with commoners, you'd know for sure he's quite too reasonable for medieval standards. So there must be a very good reason for banning golf, right? According to him, it disrupts archery practice (like all other sports).

When Sweet Mary decided to hit some balls
Golf was banned throughout the reign of the Stuart dynasty since these monarchs are at a perpetual feud with their southern neighbors. But its prohibition has gone crazier when the Scots were under the rule of Queen Mary in 1567. Apparently, her fondness for golf was repeatedly mentioned when her husband was murdered. George Buchanan, a Scottish historian, commented how golf “is a sport clearly unsuitable for women”. Clearly in this day and age, we know that is not true.

Thus, modern golf didn't have so much beginner's luck in Scotland. Here we are centuries later and golf trips have become an activity excepted by many.

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