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Essay/Term paper: The early history of golf in the us

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Position Papers

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The game of golf is one of the oldest of today"s modern sports. Its exact beginnings are not known; however, some historians trace golf back to the Stone Age while others claim it originated from the "idle antics of shepherd boys knocking small stones into holes in the ground with a crook while their flocks grazed nearby" (Peper 1). Researched back to the time of the Roman Empire, it is also believed the sports-oriented Romans played a forerunner of the game of golf called paganica. This sport involved the use of a bent stick and a ball stuffed with wool played in the open countryside.

Golf comes to the United Sates

The legendary beginnings of golf in the United States can be traced back to the mid-1600s. One of the first published references to golf in America was in 1659 referring to the ban on golf in the streets of Albany, New York. The next substantial reference to the game comes from Charleston, North Carolina in 1786. At that time, a local Charleston newspaper ran a story about the formation of the Harleston Green Golf Club. The Harleston Green remained in operation for approximately twenty-five years, closing about the time of the War of 1812. Around the same time period, approximately1795, another golf club opened in Savannah, Georgia. References to this golf club continued until 1811 again apparently closing just before the beginning of the war. The War of 1812 served to destroy the desire to play golf. It wasn"t until the late 1870s, well after the Civil War ended, that there was a resurgence of golf in the United States.

Golf fever springs up throughout the United States

Charles Macdonald was an early founder of American golf. He recalled playing golf in the Chicago area as early as 1875. Another promoter of golf, a young man named Andrew Bell from Burlington, Iowa, was initially exposed to golf when he went to Scotland to attend the University of Edinburgh. Upon his return to the United States in 1883, he laid out four informal golf holes on the family farm and played a few rounds with his friends. In 1884 Colonel Hamilton Gillispie, a former Scotsman who went into the lumber business in Florida, was known to hit golf balls in a field that is now the main street of Sarasota (History of Golf 7). Also in 1884, the Oakhurst Golf Club was formed in North Carolina now famous for it"s first hole from the Club"s Homestead course, celebrated today as the oldest golf hole in the United States.

St. Andrews Golf Club is founded

On February 22, 1888, John Reid invited four of his neighbors to his cow pasture across the road from his home in Yonkers, New York to witness a makeshift demonstration of golf. Reid, born in Scotland, had immigrated to the United States as a youth bringing with him an interest in the game of golf. Golf was by then a well-established and popular sport in his native land. Just a year before, Bob Lockhart, a friend of Reid"s, was planning a business a trip to Scotland. At Reid"s urging request, Lockhart brought back with him a few golf clubs and balls. Reid laid out three golf holes in his cow pasture and on February 22, 1888, Reid and his neighbor John Upham gave an exhibition on the Scottish game. The curious neighbors, watching the sport, were keenly interested to the point where they wished to participate. Within a few months, the men formed a group known as the Men of St. Andrew"s. As their interest in the game grew, golf clubs and balls began arriving from Scotland. By the end of the summer, the three original holes in the cow pasture had become inadequate. The Men of St. Andrew"s made their first move to a thirty-acre meadow owned by the local butcher. In November of that same year, during a dinner party at Reid"s house, the St. Andrew"s Golf Club was formally organized. Reid became the President with John Upham as the Secretary. Over the years, St. Andrew"s was moved two more times eventually ending up at its present site in Mt. Hope at Hastings-on-Hudson where, despite claims to the contrary, it survives as the oldest golf club in America.

Golf as an organized sport

As the game of golf rapidly spread throughout the country, a rivalry began to develop between golfers from the mid-west and East Coast. Charles Macdonald, often described as a rich, stubborn, and temperamental gentleman, was in the center of this competition. After losing two major tournaments in the same year – one at the Newport Club and the other at St. Andrew"s – Mr. Macdonald refused to accept the winners of those matches as the national champions. Macdonald argued, "There could be no consensus as to a champion unless all of the nation's golf clubs agreed to a yet- unestablished common set of rules or an official national organization sponsored the contest" (qtd. in Doyle 4).

In an effort to stop Macdonald"s claims from doing irreparable damage to the game, representatives from the five leading golf clubs met at the Calumet Club in December of 1894 and agreed to form the Amateur Golf Association of America. The association was later renamed the United States Golf Association. It"s goal was to "promote the interests of golf, to promulgate a code of rules for the game, to hold annual meetings at which competitions shall be conducted for the amateur and open championships in the United States" (Doyle 5). By 1896, clubs listed as USGA members numbered sixty with applications for twenty-five others being considered for membership. Today, the USGA membership exceeds 5,500 clubs throughout the United States. Golf, being one of the oldest of today"s modern sports, thrives in popularity continuing to entice young and old, male and female, rich and poor players.

Works Cited

Simpson, W.G. "The Origin of Golf." A Tribute to Golf. Ed. Thomas Stewart. Harbor Springs, Michigan: Stewart, Hunter, and Associates. 1990. 78.

Golf Magazine"s Encyclopedia of Golf. The Editors of Golf Magazine. New York, NY: Harper-Collins 1993.

Doyle, Kathleen. "In John Reid"s Cow Pasture." Sports in America.

Sept. 1988: 34-38.

Peper, George. "The Father of American Golf." Golf Magazine.

Dec. 1995. 118.

Peper, George. "Birth of the USGA." Golf Magazine.

Dec. 1994. 124.

Hannigan, Frank. "The History of the game of Golf." Golf Digest Magazine.

Jan. 2000. 171.

Fields, Bill. "Changing the course of history." Golf Digest Magazine.

Sept. 1999. 17.

McCord, Robert, R. Golf: an album of its history. Short Hills, NJ:

Burford Books. 1998.

Anderson, David. The story of golf. New York:

W. Morrow. 1998.

Menzies, Gordon. World of golf. New York:

Bantam. 1982.


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