who invented golf

Uncovering the Mystery: Who Invented Golf?

Last Updated on October 24, 2023

Have you ever wondered who invented golf? Despite its long history, the originator of golf remains a mystery. Was it a single inventor or multiple people working together? How did Scotland become involved in this game’s history and development? In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look at who invented golf and explore possible inventors along the way. So grab your clubs and join us on our journey to uncover the truth about one of Britain’s most beloved sports.

Table of Contents:

The Origins of Golf: A Closer Look

The USGA has been investigating the roots of golf since 1894, exploring a potential ancient connection. According to their findings, an ancient golf club found in Scotland dates back as far as 1296 AD. This club could be evidence that people were playing a form of golf even before then.

Another theory suggests that the Chinese invented golf sometime between 960 and 1127 AD. While there is no solid proof of this, some believe they may have played a similar game using bamboo sticks and balls made from animal skins or feathers.

a golf ball

What we do know for sure is that by 1744, the modern-day version of golf had become popular enough for the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith to publish “The Articles and Laws in Playing at Golf”. This document outlines 13 rules which still apply today. The South Carolina Golf Club also claims credit for being one of the oldest clubs in existence – founded way back in 1786.

In 1858, the Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) was established by professional players, leading to the establishment of major tournaments such as The Open Championship, which debuted at Prestwick Golf Club in 1860. As golfing progressed, more and more courses sprung up across Great Britain and America, culminating in what we now refer to as “modern day” golf featuring iron clubs and leather balls rather than their wooden predecessors.

Walter Hagen’s eleven major titles and John Ball’s Career Grand Slam accomplishment ignited a spark that Arnold Palmer fanned when he won his first Masters Tournament in 1958, making professional tournament play accessible to the masses on television. During World War II, industrialisation allowed people to have more free time, which led to the increased popularity of golf.

Fast forward several decades later where Tiger Woods has earned himself 79 PGA Tour wins over his career along with 15 Major championships thus far, including 5 Masters Tournaments titles alone – making him arguably one of if not the greatest golfer ever known so far.

So although it is impossible to say definitively who invented golf or when it began, research points towards Scotland being where it all started centuries ago and many countries contributing something unique along its journey until eventually evolved into what we recognise today: a sport enjoyed by millions around the world.

Key Takeaway: Golf has been around for centuries, with some suggesting it began in Scotland as early as 1296 AD and others attributing its invention to the Chinese between 960-1127 AD.

Exploring Possible Inventors of Golf

The United States Golf Association (USGA) states that “golf was first played by a Dutchman in 1297 on an area called Loenen aan de Vecht” near Amsterdam. No proof exists to back up the USGA’s assertion that golf was invented by a Dutchman in 1297. Other theories suggest that ancient Chinese or Romans may have created similar stick and ball games which evolved into what we now call golf.

a golf ball on the ground

One possible inventor of golf is Sir John Foulis from Scotland, who wrote about playing “gowf” at St Andrews in 1672 – one of the oldest surviving references to golf being played anywhere in Britain at the time. This reference suggests he was likely familiar with some form of an early version of the game before then, although this cannot be confirmed either way due to a lack of written records during those times.

Another potential inventor is James Melville from Leith near Edinburgh, who wrote about playing “golf” around 1570 – making him possibly one of the earliest known players ever recorded. He described how he used wooden clubs and leather balls while playing on local links courses along coastlines such as Musselburgh Links, where Old Tom Morris eventually became famous for his course design work later on the downline.

Finally, let’s not forget the contributions made by legendary players like Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, to name a few. Their feats still inspire millions even after their passing. All these people together make up the rich tapestry of history behind the invention of what is arguably one of the greatest sports ever created: golf.

Key Takeaway: The invention of golf is shrouded in mystery, but many believe it originated in Scotland. There are a number of potential inventors who could be credited with modernising the game as we know it today – Sir John Foulis and James Melville being two such pioneers.

Scotland’s Role in the Invention of Golf

Golf has a long and storied history, with its roots stretching back to the 15th century. Though its exact beginnings remain unknown, golf is believed to have been played since at least the 15th century. Scotland is widely credited with playing a major role in developing golf as we know it today, and many historians believe that modern-day golf originated there.

a close up photo of golf ball on green ground

The earliest known reference to golf was from 1457, when King James II of Scotland banned his subjects from playing it due to concerns about military training being neglected. However, by 1502 golf had become so popular that an edict was issued by King James IV allowing them to play on Sundays instead of attending church services.

In 1744, The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith published what were believed to be the first written rules for playing golf. These rules laid down specific guidelines for how each hole should be played and established certain etiquette for players on the course, such as not distracting other players or talking during their swings.

Established in 1764, The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) of St Andrews, Scotland, is one of the oldest known golf clubs still standing today. This club set out new rules governing how courses should be designed and maintained as well as providing guidance on proper attire while playing golf – something that has remained largely unchanged since then.

Professional tournaments started popping up all over the UK, and some even spread to North America, where they were a hit among amateur players who couldn’t access expensive equipment or courses like those found in Europe. Eager to demonstrate their skill and fortitude, these amateurs eagerly embraced the opportunity for a cost-effective competition.

This growth continued until World War II when industrialisation caused a decline in interest due to a lack of resources available for leisure activities like sports competitions and travel restrictions preventing international events from taking place regularly anymore. Afterwards, things slowly started picking up again, thanks largely due to legendary figures such as Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer and John Ball Jr., who helped revive public interest in competitive tournament play through their successes both domestically and abroad.

Tournaments such as The Masters, British Open, PGA Championship and UBS Hong Kong Open attract professional golfers from around the world. Professional golfer Tiger Woods holds several records, including career Grand Slams won – four times winning all four majors consecutively – which have further increased global interest levels throughout recent years, making him one of the most recognised athletes worldwide.

Key Takeaway: Golf has been around since at least the 15th century, with Scotland being credited for developing modern-day golf. Professional tournaments began in the UK and later spread to North America, where they were a hit among amateurs but suffered a decline during World War II.


As we have seen, the mystery of who invented golf remains unsolved. It is probable that golf was the result of a long-term process involving many different people and cultures. From Scotland’s role in developing modern rules to ancient Chinese games with similar elements, many theories exist about who invented golf and how it evolved into what it is now. Despite all this speculation, one thing remains certain: whoever did invent golf left us with an amazing sport enjoyed by millions around the world.

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