This interactive look at the sport of golf spans several centuries and identifies some of the significant historical anecdotes, developments, issues, players and events.
Created by glassja on Jan 31, 2011
Last updated: 03/27/11 at 09:42 AM
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Eldrick “Tiger” Woods joined the PGA Tour at the age of twenty, and golf has not been the same since...Only 35 years old, Tiger has already climbed to #3 on the all-time career victory list, and easily leads in career winnings - even before endorsements and sponsorships. Tiger’s golf prowess and fierce competitiveness have led to incredible dominance, extensive golf records, and the phenomenon called the “Tiger Effect.” The record he seems to want? Tiger is chasing the “Golden Bear.”
IMAGE: Allison, K. (Photographer). (2007). Tiger Woods. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/2311062920
After coming to America to attend the University of Arizona, Annika won the 1991 NCAA Individual Golf Championship, turned professional, and proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year Awards for the European Tour and the LPGA (1994). The incredibly talented and competitive Swedish-born golfer went on to dominate the women’s game for two decades, winning every major title - many more than once. Annika’s impact on the game extends beyond personal statistics. Annika helped forge corporate sponsorships in the women’s game, increase galleries, television ratings, and set a new standard for personal fitness.
IMAGE: Allison, K. (Photographer). (2008). Annika Sorenstam. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/2549546384/
In addition to all of the NASA tests and soil sample collections, the Apollo 14 mission a very famous sport exhibition on the lunar surface: the first golf ball ever hit on the moon was struck by Alan Shephard. Shephard couldn’t legitimately carry a golf club on the space flight, so he apparently cut off the head of a six iron, and put club head in the pocket of his space suit. After the soil samples were dutifully collected, Shephard retrieved the 6-iron club head from his pocket, and fastened it to the bottom of the soil collection device. Having concealed two golf balls, he was able to take a couple of golf swings on the most exclusive course known to man!
IMAGE: Pucci, M. (Photographer). (2009). Alan shephard. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_night_flier/3582180335/
Jack William Nicklaus turned pro in 1962 at age twenty-two with a sensational rookie year, scoring an upset win over Arnold Palmer at the US Open at Oakmont, PA. The “Golden Bear” holds the incredible record for winning 20 major championships in his career. Nicklaus, whom many consider to be the best golfer ever, also set the standard for mental toughness, strategic play, and focus under pressure.
IMAGE: Craighead, S. (Photographer). (2005). Jack Nicklaus Medal of Freedom. [Web]. Retrieved from http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2005/11/images/20051109-2_p110905sc-0250jpg-515h.html
Having already been touring as an Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in track and field, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias was finally declared an amateur for women’s golf in 1938, With her natural athleticism, competitiveness, and commitment to practice, Babe was soon dominating golf and winning numerous major women’s tournaments during the 1940s and 1950s.
IMAGE: Unknown Photographer. (1977). Babe Didrikson. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php?action=viewone&id=177
Gary Player was the first “international” player to break into the elite level of the golfing world, when he won the British Open in 1959, just two years after turning professional. While becoming the world’s “most traveled athlete,” the South African native claimed 166 professional victories over the course of five decades. The “Black Knight” has often been described as a perfectionist and his fanaticism with fitness was far ahead of the sport. Many current professionals have idolized him as the groundbreaker for non-Americans and non-Europeans finding success in the sport of golf.
IMAGE: Lady, 11390. (Photographer). (2008). All black. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/ wiki/File:All_Black.jpg
Four years after his birth on September 10th, 1929 in western Pennsylvania, Arnold Palmer picked up his first golf clubs - ones that his father cut down to fit the toddler. His winning ways continued with countless victories on the junior circuit, in high school, at Wake Forest University, and throughout a stint in the Coast Guard. After a stellar performance to capture the 1954 US Amateur Championship, Arnold turned professional at the age of twenty-five. Arnold Palmer became more than just a successful golfer; “The King” combined his mass appeal and golfing dominance with being an impeccable sportsman, businessman, course designer/consultant, and one of golf’s earliest advertising spokesmen. The masses who were drawn to golf to follow this captivating athlete were dubbed “Arnie’s Army.” Arnie has won, been awarded, or honored with almost every prize possible - all except the coveted PGA Championship.
IMAGE: U.S. Coast Guard. (Photographer). (1953). Arnold Palmer Coast Guard 1953. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ArnoldPalmerCoastGuard1953.jpg
With golfer Walter Hagen leading the way, and businessman Rodman Wanamaker providing financial backing, the Professional Golfer's Association of America became a reality in 1916. The trophy for the PGA Championship still bears Wanamaker's name.
IMAGE: Peelie, N. (Photographer). (2010). Pga logo. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/38088619@N04/5351567325/
Ben Hogan was born on August 13th, 1912 in a small town near Fort Worth, Texas; he was only exposed to golf at age eleven, and spent his teens and twenties struggling to make ends meet. Even with a somewhat lackluster beginning, Hogan is always on people’s lists of “Greatest Golfers of All Time” due to his 9 “Major” titles and 62 career victories. Hogan’s career had to span the decades of the Great Depression, a stint on the Air Force, and a nearly fatal car accident. One of Hogan’s nicknames was “The Surveyor” because of his workmanlike dedication to practice (at a time when few spent time on the range), meticulous preparation, tremendous ball-striking skills, and precision-oriented shot making abilities.
IMAGE: Leondard, M. (Photographer). (2008). Ben hogan. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 66622362@N00/3014100561
In 1897, Margaret Curtis (as a thirteen year-old) placed fourth in her first US Women’s Amateur Championship. Although health problems caused Curtis to miss several prime years of golf competition, she won three US Amateur Championships as she led the way for women breaking in to the sport of golf. Today’s “Curtis Cup” competition between America and Great Britain honors the extraordinary careers of Margaret and her sister Harriot. IMAGE: Unknown photographer. (2003). Margaret Curtis. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_night_flier/3582180335/
At age fourteen, Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones played in his first USGA tournament, the U.S. Amateur Championship at Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia, PA. Bobby’s father introduced his son to golf at a very early age, and young Bobby showed early greatness, winning his first children’s tournament when he was only six years old. Jones went on to study and earn college degrees in mechanical engineering (Georgia Tech) and English (Harvard) prior to attending law school (Emory) for a brief time before passing the bar exam, and joining his father’s law firm. Jones led a busy and impressive career - all while playing some of the best golf in the world, against the best golfers in the world. People might know that Bobby Jones won an incredible number of "Major" golf championships (13) and that he won the original “Grand Slam” of golf, but most don’t realize that he competed as an amateur (being a lawyer by profession), and only played in competitive golf events against the “pros” until he was twenty eight years old.
IMAGE: Kellar & White. (Photographer). (1916). Bobby Jones Age 14. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dlnwelch/4530200198/
As the interest in golf spread from Europe to the United States, Mexico, and even India, golf competition was added to the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, France. By the turn of the century in 1900, there were already over 1000 golf courses in America.
IMAGE: Unknown photographer. (1900). J.O. Olympics Paris. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JOParis_1900.jpg
Born in Rochester, NY in 1892, Walter Hagen achieved tremendous success on the golf course with titles in eleven of sport’s “Major” championships. However, off the course, “The Haig” earned just as much attention as one of the most flamboyant figures the sport has seen. Hagen established (what is now) the trend of wearing colorful golf attire, spent money frivolously, pioneered product endorsements in golf, and charged appearance fees for exhibition matches. Even with all of his “deals,” it is incredible to learn that Hagen earned an amazing $100,000 per year during the 1920s! The wild stories about Hagen are as impressive as his many golf victories.
IMAGE: Pietzker, S. (Photographer). (1914). Walter Hagen 1914. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Walter_Hagen_1914.png
With the advent of newer materials and mass production of the equipment, the cost of golf became more affordable, and not exclusive to the affluent businessmen and Royals that were the early golf enthusiasts. With golf becoming accessible to the common person, the golf boom officially began.
IMAGE: Welch, D. (Photographer). (2010). Lydia with old clubs. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dlnwelch/4530200198/
“Father of professional golf”
During the 19th century, early golf “professionals” made a living by hand crafting clubs, golf balls, caddying, instructing or playing for bets. Allan Robertson did each of these very well: he was born into a family of golf club and feathery ball makers in St. Andrews, Scotland on September 11, 1815. Allan worked for his father before inheriting the very successful and lucrative business that supplied clubs and balls to Scotland, Great Britain and America. He was recognized as the premier feathery ball maker of the era, and today, “Robertson” balls are priceless as collector’s items.
Historical accounts indicate that Allan Robertson never lost a golf match that had money riding on it, and probably intentionally kept matches close until the final hole to help keep the betting odds closer to his favor. Considered by most accounts to be the best of his era, Robertson was the first golfer to score under 80 on The Old Course at St. Andrews.
IMAGE: Rodger, T. (Photographer). (1850). Allan robertson. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Allan_Robertson_1850.png
The new style golf ball was called “featheries” because skilled craftsmen stuffed wet goose or chicken feathers into a slightly wet leather pouch of horse or cowhide. The craftsmen then rolled the wet leather pouches into balls, stitched them, and them set them aside to dry. As the golf balls dried, the leather shrank and the feathers expanded, causing the golf ball to be very firm, but still softer than the earlier, primitive wooden balls. Since these were painstakingly made by hand, at only a rate of four of five balls per day, they were extremely expensive!
IMAGE: mrpbps. (Photographer). (2009). Old golf balls. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrpbps/3677201657/
One of the earliest golf clubs in Scotland, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews eventually became THE standard for all that was golf. A true links style course, St. Andrews is situated along the coast of Scotland, where the unpredictable winds create as much havoc as the holes themselves. By 1764, St. Andrews modified several of its playing holes to total nine. Golfers played the nine holes going out from the clubhouse along the sea, and then played the same nine holes coming back. Therefore, 18 holes became a “round” of golf. When all of the United Kingdom deemed St. Andrews as the official rule-making body of golf, all clubs and courses had to follow their example and create 18 holes as the official number.
IMAGE: McKinlay, G. (Photographer). (206). Royal & Ancient Clubhouse. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_&_Ancient_Clubhouse.jpg
Mary, Queen of Scots gave her royal stamp of approval to golf while she played the sport during the mid 1500's. Some accounts indicate that Mary had a cottage at St. Andrews and played frequently at The Old Course, earning the nickname "Mother of Golf." Mary fell into disapproval when she was seen playing golf instead of mourning her husband shortly after his death.
IMAGE: Blairs Museum. (Photographer). (1561). Mary Queen of Scots. [Web]. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Queen_of_Scots_Blairs_Museum.jpg
The Scottish begin playing “golf” on land with the target being a hole in which to sink the golf ball. In Scotland, most of the play is on sandy, seaside parcels of land edges with fuzzy shrubs called grouse. This style of topographical layout becomes the traditional “links” style characteristic of Scotland.
IMAGE: Maringolo, E. (Photographer). (206). Golf hole. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/emaringolo/334487488/
The origin of golf seems to be in dispute, with many countries and cultures claiming to be the first to play the game. In Holland, the Dutch played a game with a stick and a ball, but they played on the ice of frozen canals that dotted the small country. In 1421, the Dutch brought this early form of “kolf” (meaning “club”) to Scotland, but by the 15th century, the Scots were playing “golf” on land and using a golf “hole“ as a target. With the addition of this designated hole/target, the modern game of golf (as we know it) was born.
IMAGE: Golf Europe. (2011). A History of Golf. Retrieved from http://www.golfeurope.com/almanac/history/history1.htm