Golf was invented in Scotland, and dates back to at least the 17th century, possibly even earlier – the name is believed to come from an Old German word, ‘gowf’, meaning a club or bat. The oldest golf course in the world is Musselburgh Links, but there are many vary old golf courses in Scotland, most famously St. Andrews. It is believed that the reason golf courses today have 18 holes is that St. Andrews only had room for nine, but the early golfers decided to play the course through twice each time.
Golf’s Scottish origin is a matter of some controversy among the Dutch, the Chinese and the French, who all claim that they had much similar club-and-ball games much longer ago. While there is no doubting they did, however, it seems clear that there is more to golf than just the club and the ball, and that golf as it is played today was at least perfected, if not entirely invented out of thin air, in Scotland.
Since then, little has really changed about the game. The grass has got shorter and smoother, as lawnmower technology has improved, the wooden clubs have been replaced with metal ones, and the balls have been improved by the addition of rubber, but that’s about it.
It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that golf really started to spread all over the world. There were no golf courses in China until 1985, but now there are more than 200. Since the Second World War, golf has become insanely popular in Japan, even though they don’t really have the space to build the courses – they have become pioneers of indoor and virtual golf. Today, it is thought that there are over 30,000 golf courses in the world – that’s well over a hundred for every country, although some countries obviously have far more courses than others, particularly in the English-speaking world.