Was golf originally played by men….or was golf originally a ladies game? (Heaven forbid!)

Sometime last year I visited the Ming exhibition at the Asian Arts museum in San Francisco. My interest was piqued by a hand scroll in colored ink on silk, exquisitely beautiful, which featured in part the “beauty and pleasantry” of the Court ladies’ lives in the Inner Palace. This wonderful scroll, attributed to Du Jin (1465-1500), depicted the ladies going about their favorite pastimes, including the serving of snacks (no surprise there!), kicking a ball (Did ladies of that period really play soccer or, better still, American football? – my mind is really going overtime trying to picture that one!)…and, even more curious…playing a GOLF game…Wow!

I, needless to say, did a double take; And, yes, it showed ladies (not men wearing kimonos!) holding a club which was clearly a golf club as we know it today; perhaps not your new Nike square headed driver, but depicting a regular iron, complete with grooves on its face, together with a small golf ball sized ball and a hole. So here we clearly see ladies in China in the late 1400’s playing a golf-like game inside the walls of the Imperial Palace.

You, like me, may have heard that the letters GOLF actually stand for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden”. Although there is clearly no truth in this being the origin of the name “golf”, as this type of word play was not in vogue at that time, over the years there has certainly been a particular school of male golfers who think women should be kept well away from the course…

Where did golf really start? And was it played by men or women? A few searches on Google and a quick look at other resources did not provide a conclusive answer.

It would seem that there are many different countries who would like to claim that golf started with them. And there is a certain amount of evidence to support each and every claim. Certainly a golf-like game was played in many counties, not just in Scotland or China, but also in Rome, Holland, Belgium, France and England, to name just a few of these claimant countries.

In China, records show that their particular golf like game, called “chiuwan”, was played five hundred years before golf was ever mentioned in Scotland (far earlier also than the date of the scroll I spotted at the Ming exhibition). This particular version was played with 10 clubs, not 14, and there is no reference to it being played over 18 holes and totaling an average par of 72. It is suggested by Chinese researchers that golf could have found its way to Europe compliments of Mongolian travelers sometime in the late middle ages.

The Dutch not only claim to have instigated the game of golf, but also lay claim to naming the game. The Dutch word “colf” actually means club, and colf morphed into golf.

These are just two examples of how golf may have started in Countries other than Scotland.

So, how do the Scottish respond to such claims? They agree that stick and ball games have been played all over the world for centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes, did indeed originate in Scotland. And the name golf may very well have come from the Dutch.

And as to whether it was originally played by men or women, the rich or the poor, it is clear that both sexes and people from all levels of society have played golf-like games for many centuries.

Roseanna Leaton, specialist in golf hypnosis downloads to train your mind to play great golf.