I recently had a call from a Queen Anne resident, one of my regular readers, who was about to fulfill a lifelong ambition of taking a golfing vacation in Scotland and wanted some information on golf. So let's talk about golf.
The game of golf is perhaps the oldest of sports, supposedly started by bored shepherd boys tapping pebbles into rabbit holes with their crooks. The gentle game of hitting a small white ball with a club has become one of the world's great recreations. Yet in Scotland, where it all began, the game was so much frowned upon by King James I that he banned it in 1457.
The king issued an order that golf "be utterly cryit downe" - stopped, in other words. He wanted his subjects to take up archery instead; there were so many wars with the English that he needed archers, not golfers. Later, the Scots Parliament under James III passed a similar act banning golf because it interfered with national defense. And yet another act was passed in 1491.
Luckily, the ban was not enforced for long, and today the visitor touring Scotland can find some of the world's finest, most historic and most challenging courses, from the Moray Firth in the North to Ayrshire in the Southwest. Golf remains, next to football, the favorite Scottish sport, with most of the courses open to the public.
In 1502, with Henry VII on the throne of England, a treaty of perpetual peace between Scotland and England was signed by the Scottish James IV in Glas-gow Cathedral. At that time, this King James apparently decided to become a golfing enthusiast. He bought clubs and balls from a bow-maker in Perth. Two years later we find an item in the royal accounts of two guineas being paid out for the king's game of golf with the Earl of Bothwell.
Mary Queen of Scots caused some resentment when she went off to play golf just after her husband had been assassinated. By this time the game was well established, and in 1552 St. Andrews had a course. Leith, near Edinburgh, got one in 1593; and at Dornoch, 200 miles north in bracing Sutherland, links were set up in 1616.
The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith (later known as the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers) are credited with being the founders of golf clubs in Scotland. They competed in 1744 for a silver cup presented by the city of Edin-burgh. It was the Gentlemen of Leith who drew up the first 13 rules of golf. Today the same 13 rules apply to the now 34 in operation.
In 1754, the Society of St. Andrews Golfers was formed. Soon after, other societies followed. The first recorded competition took place in 1766.
In England, in 1834, three years before Victoria came to the throne, King William IV became the societies' patron. The caddies of the time performed various duties: clearing the course of "the noisome populace," retrieving the balls from the holes, chasing off rabbits or other wildlife and lugging around a collection of loose clubs. (No bags in those days.) Men played in jackets and ties and boots in the style of the period. Later on, Englishmen wore plus-fours (knickerbockers) and hacking jackets and ordinary outdoor shoes.
St. Andrews, on Scotland's East Coast in Fife, is a town dedicated to golf. Its Old Course is claimed to be the most famous and best beloved in the world. Most of the great names in the history of the game have played there; so have film stars such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. It is still the ambition of millions of golfing enthusiasts to visit St. Andrews for a golfing week.
North from Fife, across the Tay Estuary by rail or road, is Carnoustie, a seaside town that has staged several British Open Championships and was the scene of Ben Hogan's Open triumph in 1953. The county of Angus has many other excellent courses. Still farther north on Scotland's East Coast, the courses on Royal Deeside and others attract thousands of golfers; in particular, the popular Aboyne, Ballater and Braemer provide good sport.
The visitor heading for the scenic attractions of the Firth of Clyde and the country of Robert Burns in Scot-land's Southwest will find the Ayrshire coast has a string of courses, from Irvine down to Girvan. The names of Gailes, Ba-rassie, Troon, Prestwick, Ayr and Turn-berry spell magic for the enthusiast.
There are over 400 courses in Scotland. Most are seaside links with sandy soil and springy turf, but there are also many fine inland courses amid magnificent scenery. The courses are open to all, with no prior introduction needed. The price is surprisingly reasonable.
In the '20s, when the sport grew to great popularity, a note of fashion was introduced by an enterprising American, Walter Hage, who popularized comfortable wool cardigans and pullovers in pastel shades.
If golf is your bag and Scotland is your destination, you can combine scenery, Highland games and history. If you'd like more information, drop me a line. Here endeth the history lesson and the travelogue. All you ever wanted to know about golf. TTFN