The Early History of Golf in the U.S.

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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 to...

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...ip. 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.

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