The game of golf was devised in Scotland in the 14th or 15th century. In 1457, the Scottish Parliament banned golf and football for fear that they would interfere with archery practice. Mary Queen of Scots was educated in France and introduced the game there. The young men who attended her on the golf course were known as “cadets” which became corrupted to “caddies”. The game was popularised in England by Mary’s son, James V1 of Scotland when he became James 1 of England, and by James’ son Charles 1.

The first golf club was established in Edinburgh in 1744, followed by St Andrews in 1754. Outside Scotland, the first club was Royal Blackheath, near London, established in 1766. Outside Great Britain, golf spread through the British Empire. The first club outside Great Britain was established in Bangalore, India in 1820. Australia’s first club was in Adelaide in 1870 and South Africa’s first club was established in Cape Town in 1885. The first club in the America’s was founded in Montreal in 1873; the first in the United States was established at Yonkers, New York in 1888. By 1900, there were over 1,000 golf clubs in America. Golf became enormously popular in Japan from the period of American Occupation after the Second World War.

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The world auction record for a golf club is £92,000.

"Featherie" golf balls
“Featherie” golf balls

Early golf balls (“featheries”) were made of pieces of softened leather sewn together and stuffed with boiled feathers. From about 1848, these were replaced with “gutties” made from gutta percha, which is a hard rubbery material. Indentations, usually in a mesh pattern) were soon added to the surface to help the ball fly straighter and longer. At first, these were hand chiselled. From about 1875, moulds were used to shape and pattern the balls in one operation. The rarer (and much more valuable) hand chiselled balls can be distinguished by the irregularity of the pattern. From about 1890, the “bramble” pattern (all-over pimples resembling a berry) was introduced. In 1898, a ball with a rubber core was developed and, in 1905, the modern dimple surface was introduced. In the late 1920s, the size and weight of golf balls was standardised (although the American standard ball is slightly larger than the British). Standardised golf balls are not generally considered to be collectable.

Early golf club heads were from from beech, the wood of fruit trees or (from about 1750) hand-forged iron; the shafts were usually ash or hazel. From 1826, persimmon and hickory were imported from America to make the heads and shafts, respectively. These clubs, especially the “longnoses” (drivers) and “niblicks” (wedges) were easily broken and a played could expect to lose at least one club during each round of golf. With the introduction of the gutty ball in 1848, longnose drivers were replaced by “bulgers” similar to modern woods. Experiments with metal shafts began in the late 1890s but they were not allowed under the rules of golf until 1929. The convention of numbering clubs dates from the 1930s. Cast, rather than hand-forged club heads, were introduced in 1963 and graphite shafts in 1971.

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