Herefordshire golf club
Herefordshire golf club, shropshire, gloucestershire worcestershire, wales, breaks uk, putting, greens
This is the most common question I get asked. It is not, as is widely supposed, an acronym for "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden"! Here's the story:
The word "golf" is recorded as long ago as 1457, in the statutes of the Scottish Parliament, when the sport was banned because it interfered with archery practice. The word was also spelled "gowf", reflecting the way the Scots pronounced it. Some say the word derives from an Old Dutch word "kolf, kolven" meaning club.
This is a question I'm asked quite often. I lost some email today, including one asking about the origin of 18 holes in a golf course, so I thought I'd put the answer here in case the author of the lost email returns...
The answer is that it's an accident of history. In the early days, golf courses had no standard number of holes. On 5th May 1858, new rules were issued by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, Scotland, for its members. Among these was the stipulation that "one round of the links or 18 holes is reckoned a match...". At that time the course at St Andrews had 18 holes, and that became the standard for golf courses around the world.
Golf's origins are lost in history, but in its present form it is generally agreed to have been played in Scotland near St Andrews in the late 1400s. A lot has been said about fanciful links to a game played on frozen ponds in Holland earlier, but I think the connection with Golf is too tenuous to be credible. Golf as we know it was first recorded in Scotland in the region around Edinburgh in the 15th Century.
It became quite notorious then, and was even banned for a while by the King of Scotland, as golfers had become so obsessed with the game that they neglected their archery practice. (Not much has changed.)
In the subsequent 500 years, the game has advanced from one played with simple hand made clubs and leather balls stuffed with feathers to the game we know today, based on clubs designed by computer using advanced materials such as titanium and zirconia. The biggest changes to the game have been in systematisation of the rules and playing field, and the technology employed in the clubs and the balls.
Actually hitting the golf ball towards the hole remains a dark art. It is as much a mystery now as it was in Fifeshire in the 1400s!
The 1920s also marked the change of names of the clubs from terms like cleek, mid-iron, mashie, jigger and niblick to the familiar numbering system (which arose in the US). The names of the wooden clubs took a bit longer to change from driver, spoon and brassie, but the coming of the new "metal wood" varieties has made these names archaic, with the exception of the driver. The lofts of the clubs and their shaft lengths also became standardised with the number system, though things had undoubtedly been heading that way much earlier.
The final phase has been the adaptation of computer aided design (CAD) to club design. This has led to some odd designs, but all the major manufacturers use CAD these days. Using finite element analysis you can go a long way to simulating club performance before manufacture.
The peripherally weighted irons in widespread use today, designed to "expand" the sweet spot on the club face, are a recent and effective attempt to do something which designers have tried to do since 1900, in one way or another.
The benefits from changes to the design of clubs have been less spectacular in recent years, with arguably the major effect being on the psychology of the golfer. If you have the latest "Whammo" monster driver, you just know you're going the hit the ball as far as Greg Norman. Objectively, the improvements have been more modest.