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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Think You Know Your Golf?

The Open Championship is one of the most coveted trophies on the golfing calendar. And with more twists and turns than you can shake a 9 iron at, don’t expect it to be a quiet affair at Royal Liverpool next month.

With millions of dollars at stake, golf has become something of an arms race over the last two decades. Perhaps it’s the “Tiger” effect, but fitness, psychology, club technology, ball technology, swing technology and any number of other minute details are now analysed and assessed to help the world’s elite make marginal gains. 

The result: that one or two per cent difference that means either making the cut or making a swift exit.

Yes, golf has come a long way. But it didn’t always have the same glitz and glamour it does today. Read today’s blog and you’ll see what we mean.

Who invented golf?

The Scots have an affinity for golf and inventing the gentleman’s game is a source of national pride. But in actual fact (and whisper this quietly) the origin of the game probably derives from Holland: well, the name at least.

“Kolf”, meaning “club” in Dutch, was played as early as the Middle Ages. That said the Scots are responsible for the invention of the hole – an integral part of today's sport, you’ll agree.


Inventing the hole made golf so popular in Scotland that King James II banned it. In 1457 Scottish archers were so busy playing golf they forgot to defend their country against the English invasion. The king took swift action, banning golf and football until 1502.

Golf as a sport

In the 18th century things got serious. This was no longer a game for the common man but an affluent pursuit. Rules were introduced and specialist equipment made. Golf had become a sport and clubs began popping up across the country. From 1744 onwards, the Gentleman Golfers of Leith even offered a silver golf club to whomever was talented enough to win their annual competition.


The game soon spread to England and France, thanks largely to Scottish kings and queens. But when golf was first exported to America in the 19th century it failed to take off in the same way.

It took until 1913 for Francis Ouimet of Massachusetts to break the Brits’ domination of the sport. The American had taken the week off work, and found himself in an 18-hole play-off with the two favourites, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. When he finally overcame his two rivals, it made front page news in the States and suddenly interest in the sport spiked – and it’s never looked back since.


Some believe a 64 year old named Mike Austin holds the record for longest drive. In 1974 he hit a golf ball an incredible 471 metres – an exceptional feat of strength, flexibility and coordination. The longest drive on Earth it may be; but not the longest drive in history. That record belongs to astronaut Alan Shepard who landed on the moon with a set of clubs in 1971. He proceeded to hit the ball ‘miles and miles and miles’ with just one hand, and for all we know it’s still going. Must be something in the air . . .

Buy Bunkered magazine

For more fun facts, tournament calendars, interviews with top golf pros, reviews and much more, why not try a Bunkered magazine subscription. Bunkered is the ideal way to get all the news on the Open Championship while improving your game, with eight editions released each year.

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