The game of golf as we know it was first played in the 15th century in the Kingdom of Fife, which today is part of Scotland. Although similar ball-and-stick games have been recorded as far back as 100 BC, none had the one essential element of the modern game that Scotland introduced – the hole.
By the middle of the 15th century, people in east Scotland so passionately played their game that they were neglecting the national defense, especially archery practice. The game was thus banned, but even though the ban was twice reaffirmed, many people ignored it and enjoyed the game as before, especially in and around the town of St. Andrews. Within 2 years of the lifting of the ban in 1502, Scotland’s King James IV had become an enthusiastic player.
It wasn’t until about 1750, though, that golf acquired the trappings that today are so elemental to the game. Some manufacturers of clubs and balls began to acquire reputations for their high quality while some players began to be recognized for their superior skills. Meanwhile, courses were designed and tournaments were organized.
Around the same time, groups of players formed golf clubs and established formal rules for the game. The first of these, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, was formed in 1744. The group drew up a set of rules that heavily influenced the rules established 10 years later by the Society of St. Andrews Golfers. These rules form the basis of the game as it’s played today.