David Gill: Those bored Scottish shepherds really started something!

By David Gill   |   Chairman, Farnham Sports Council   |
Tuesday 19th May 2020 9:07 am
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THERE aren’t many people in Farnham who haven’t tried their hand at the sport of golf at some stage in their lives, maybe at a pitch-and-putt course with family or friends or at a golf club. Culturally and historically, it’s been another notable activity in our area.

The place of golf’s birth, like the birth of many games, was disputed for centuries.

However, the most likely story of how the game started, most golf historians agree, is that in some ancient time Scottish shepherds became bored sitting out on the hillsides with no-one to talk to but flocks of sheep.

To break the monotony, they used their crooked sticks to knock pebbles around.

To take this activity a step further, they dug small holes in the ground and aimed the pebbles at them. As the centuries went by, the game developed and was mainly played by royalty and those in higher society. As long ago as the 15th century, King James IV of Scotland became the world’s first golfing monarch and in the 16th century King Charles I brought the game to England.

Mary Queen of Scots – regarded as the first woman golf player – introduced the game to France when she studied there and the term caddie derives from the name for her French military aids, known as cadets.

The first reference to golf at its now recognised historic home town of St Andrews in Scotland dates back to 1552.

During the 19th century, as the British Empire expanded to encompass the globe, so golf followed closely behind.

The first 18-hole golf course was constructed at St Andrews in 1764 and it is believed the first course to be established outside Scotland was the Royal Blackheath in London.

The Open Championship was founded in 1860 and is the oldest golf tournament.

The Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era brought with it many changes.

The birth of the railways allowed ordinary people to explore outside of their towns and cities for the first time and as a consequence golf clubs began to appear all over the countryside.

Mass production methods were adopted to manufacture the clubs and balls, making the game affordable to the average person and the game’s popularity grew in the 19th century and then exploded around the world as we moved deeper into the 20th century.

Let’s be honest, despite its attractions, golf is not a game for everyone; perhaps more than most sports, it requires a degree of skill that is honed only with a great deal of patience, dedication and the payment of a few golf club fees!

Though there are many high-profile men’s and women’s major and international golf competitions all over the world, not much beats the biennial competitions between Europe and the United States for drama and excitement.

Europe are the current holders of the Ryder Cup (for men) which, itself, has produced some of the most memorable moments in sport; and Europe pipped the USA in the 2019 Solheim Cup (for women) in a dramatic finale.

This area around Farnham has had its fair share of top golfers, ranging from the former professional golfer and the Voice of Golf Peter Alliss, from Hindhead, right through to the teenage golfer Lottie Woad from Farnham Golf Club who was the 2019 Surrey Ladies’ county champion.

We even have the current blind world golf champion in Jason Bastable from Farnham who practises with a golf net in his back garden and a bus route along the A325 takes him conveniently to Blackmoor Golf Club, where they’ve offered to help him to regain his world title.

There are good number of outstanding, well-established 18-hole courses in the area offering great golf.

There’s also the place where most people in Farnham begin their golfing life – the nine-hole, par-three course at Farnham Park.

Let’s hope the joy and the sound of golf comes back soon. It is one of the most difficult sports to master but for those good enough, you’ll be missing the satisfying thwack of a driver smacking a dimpled ball into the distance.

* Quiz answers: 1 (b), 2 (b), 3 (a), 4 (c), 5 (c). If you got more than half, you can be proud of yourself. If you got all five right, you’re a serious golfing champion – and for the rest of you, there is a chance of redemption, there’s a different sport with a quiz again next time!

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