St Andrews  "The Home of Golf"

The History of the Game


Other games may claim to be the forerunner of the modern game of golf but there is little doubt that it originated on the east coast of Scotland, sometime in the Middle Ages, spreading from there to the rest of the world

Pretenders, such as the Dutch "Kolf" and the French "Jeu de Mail", are all lacking one vital factor, the use of a hole in the ground as a target. This Scots innovation clearly distinguishes golf from other ball and stick games.

The game was banned by King James II of Scotland in 1457 as it was interfering with his subjects archery practice, His edict provides the first written record of golf, but was widely ignored and archery practice continued to decline.

It seems likely that the game was being played in St Andrews well before the university was founded there in 1411, although the first record of the game being played in the town does not occur until 1552.

James' grandson, James IV, also tried to stop the Scots playing golf but was converted to the game. In 1502 treasury records show him paying 14 shillings for clubs and subsequent entries show bills for balls and even 14 shillings lost in a golfing wager with the Earl of Bothwell. This royal influence helped the game spread all over Scotland, even to the remote Orkney Islands.

By the end of the sixteenth century the people of St Andrews enjoyed the right to play over what is now the Old Course, then common ground granted to the community by the Bishop of St Andrews. But anyone caught playing "at the time of the preaching of the sermon" could be fined. Persistent offenders were sentenced to a spell on the "repentance pillar" or even excommunicated.

James Pett of St Andrews is recorded as supplying clubs to the Duke of Montrose in 1628 and in 1713 Henry Mill, also of St Andrews was supplying clubs to students at the university.

In 1754, 22 nobles and gentlemen from Fife founded the Society of St Andrews Golfers, a small group of men almost as well known for their eating and drinking as they were for their golf. In 1834 the club gained the patronage of King William IV and the title of "Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews".

The R & A first laid down a uniform code of rules for the game in 1897 and is now the Governing Authority for the Rules of Golf in all countries of the world, except the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Club's Championship Committee is responsible for the organisation of the Open Championship, the Amateur Championship and also the Boys and Youths Championships. It also acts as a private club, limited to 1800 members, 1050 from Britain and 750 from other countries throughout the world. Membership is by invitation and includes many who have given great service to golf.

The Open was first held in St Andrews in 1873, and 1995 saw the Championship return for the twenty fifth time.

St Andrews has produced many golfing giants, including Old and Young Tom Morris who dominated the Open during its early years. Each of them won the Championship four times between 1861 and 1872. Young Tom won the Championship Belt outright when he took the Championship for the third consecutive time in 1870.

Other famous players who came from St Andrews include Jamie Anderson, winner of three consecutive Opens from 1877 to 1879, and Willie Auchterlonie who won the title at 21 with a set of clubs he had made himself. He went on to found the famous St Andrews club-making firm which bears his name.

St Andrews is now a magnet for thousands of people every year who come from all over the world to visit the "Home of Golf" and play on its famous courses. The town has a growing reputation as a centre for the manufacture of golf related products and is home to the British Golf Museum, dedicated to the game's 600 year history.