Nobody really knows when or where golf began.
Romans played games with a ball and a stick several hundred years ago. The Dutch used an implement to roll an object into a hole long, long ago. The Chinese used wooden objects to hit balls. When to celebrate Golf’s birthday is uncertain and the game may go back thousands of years.
What we do know is that golf was given an identity and a set of rules by the Scots in March of 1744. Fourteen in all, the rules were documented and the standard was set for competitions. Granted, a few of these rules are humorous when viewed against the evolved game of today. But, they certainly provide grounding when seen as the game’s adolescence. Please consider these morsels:
Rule No. 4 - “You are not to remove stones, bones or any break club for the sake of playing your ball, except upon the fair green, and that only within a club’s length of the ball.”
Got that? Don’t move the stones or bones.
Rule No. 10 - “If a ball be stopp’d by any person, horse, dog, or any thing else, the ball so stopp’d must be played where it lyes.”
If you bring your dog, make sure it knows when to stop your ball, preferably by the hole. It might sound like this, “Fetch. Stop. Drop. Good dog.”
Today, the game has 34 rules (not bad when you index for inflation) and there is companion book known as “The Decisions” book (to handle most of the “what if’s?” in golf). These contain information about everything from what type of ball is cool to different forms of play.
In many ways the game has changed a lot, become more sophisticated.
However, in just as many ways, the game is the same, players with sticks trying to correctly advance a small orb. Addicted, ambitious players trying to achieve perfection in an imperfect game.
This age of the game, the roots of the past, lends itself to a lineage of seasoned players; ‘Ballers’ who have enjoyed the game for decades. Of course, there is a splendid balance of golfers from the toddler to the retired.
Many have seen the images of a three year old Tiger Woods on the Merv Griffin television show striking a golf ball dead straight and we have a number of players at our club that can “shoot their age” (match their score) on any given day.
We don’t precisely know when this great game began and it doesn’t really matter when you begin or how long you have played.
The important thing is that you play.
Some would say we don’t play, because we get old.
But could it be that we get old, because we don’t play?
It reminds me of a phrase attributed to Satchel Paige, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” At any age, we can not only enjoy this great game, relish the time with our friends and family and we can improve.
Consult your local PGA or LPGA professional, get some instruction on technique, then make an investment in practice.
You will reap what you sow. I guarantee it.
Granted, it may take you a while to shoot your age. But, hey, every year it gets easier, right?
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.