Meeting Number 1715
April 28, 2005
From Ancient Greens to Tiger Woods: The Evolution of the Game of Golf
Fredric E. Rabinowitz Ph.D.
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
From Ancient Greens to Tiger Woods: The Evolution of the Game of Golf
By Fredric E. Rabinowitz, Ph.D.
“ Golf is an exasperating struggle, a succession of failures interrupted by periodic moments of bliss.” Columnist Jerry Sullivan
“Every round of golf is an opportunity to start over again. What more could we ask?” Professional Golfer Gary Player
Golf seems to have its roots in the ancient club and ball game called paganica, which was brought to areas of Northern Europe during Roman occupation in the first century. The modern game of golf appears to have originated on the sandy, gorse links on the east coast of Scotland in the fifteenth century. Old Tom Morris, affiliated with the St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Society in the mid to late 19 th century, was known as the first prototype golf professional, proficient as a master clubmaker, champion golfer, teacher, and golf course designer. Professional golf, which began with the British Open in 1863, has flourished in Europe and North America into the current media age with a long history of tradition and champions. The game of golf continues to be a popular with individuals from all walks of life who seek challenge, exercise, and comradery in a natural environment.
Ancient Origins of the Game
No real documentary evidence about the game of golf actually exists prior to the middle of the 15 th century however historians have found a club and ball game called paganica that was popular in the early years of the Roman Empire. The Romans, who occupied most of the island of Great Britain from the 40's to the early 400's A.D., played paganica with a bent stick and a leather ball stuffed with feathers. However the ball was much larger than what we think of as a golf ball, ranging from 4-7 inches in diameter. The spread of the Roman Empire with its appointed home country governors is thought to have expanded the game of paganica to other northern European countries particularly in France and Holland. It is believed by some that this game was the foundation for later ball and club games including cambuca, jeu de mail, chole, crosse, kolven, and pell mell which are thought to be potential precursors to golf ( Campbell, 2001).
Cambuca, a game played with a curved wooden club and ball made of feathers was played in England during the 1300’s. Under the rule of King Edward III the game was outlawed under the threat of imprisonment. During these warring times, men were instead required to practice shooting with bow and arrows. The ban on club and ball sports would spread to Scotland in 1457 under the rule of King James II, who believed that Scotland needed to produce better archers rather than better golfers.
In France, the game of jeu de mail, was another “golf-like” offshoot of paganica. The mail was a wooden mallet that was used to hit a hard wooden ball. The game involved playing on a half-mile long course with one’s own ball. The winner of the game was the one who needed the least amount of hits to get to the agreed upon destination. The mail had two sides, one flat for hitting the ball a good distance from a “good” lie and the backside was sloped for hitting the ball from difficult positions. Iron reinforced the club at the top and bottom, making it durable. The ball was made from a box tree, round and solid and about two inches in diameter.
Chole was similar to jeu de mail but involved two teams of players. Usually played in open fields in northern France and Belgium, chole introduced the first tee. The sticks were hooked and made of wood and iron. The ball, made of beech wood or leather, was teed up on the first shot. The goal of the game was to reach a designated point. There were defensive players who could shoot the ball into hazards and back in the direction the offensive players were coming from. Crosse was another version of chole. Crosse is a French word for stick. Games of crosse tended to be more like hockey than golf.
In Holland, the game of kolven or kolf was played. It was usually played indoors on a wooden floor or outdoors on ice. The idea of the game was to hit two wooden posts, located at opposite ends of the playing surface, with a relatively large ball, the size of a modern baseball. The stick was three to four feet long with stiff wooden shafts and smooth, brass heads to hit the ball. The game could be played by a number of individuals simultaneously or in teams. Historians believe that although it was similar to golf in using a club and ball, it is more likely that this game evolved into ice hockey as it moved onto the frozen canals of Holland in the winter.
Pell mell was another club and ball sport that resembled golf introduced to Scotland from France. However it has been recorded that Mary Queen of Scots in the mid-sixteenth century played both pell mell and golf suggesting that their origins might have been the same but that they existed as two separate sports.
Early Development of Golf
Although these other sports were similar, golf in a recognizable form, most likely originated in Scotland in the early fourteenth century, as a derivative of paganica. Only golf utilized the hole as the final destination for the ball. One popular theory is that fisherman returning from the sea used pieces of shaped driftwood to hit small rocks into rabbit holes, competing with each other to get the rock into the hole with the least amount of strokes. The coast of Leith and the area near St. Andrews are thought to be the original settings for the development of the sport of golf.
The earliest writings about golf exist in the historical documents of Scotland. The Scottish Act of Parliament, initiated by King James II of Scotland in 1457, banned golf from being played so that archery could be practiced. Under attack from England, the Scots were known for being outmatched in the shooting of bows and arrows. It is believed that since golf was banned in 1457, it must have been a strong presence in the life of the Scots long before that. By the way, the law banning golf was repealed in 1502 by the Treaty of Glasgow signed by King James IV of Scotland. James IV actually made the first recorded purchase of golf clubs in 1502 and was a devoted player. Historians found receipts for balls and records of lost bets that the royal house had to pay. James IV lost to the Earl of Bothwell in 1504 in the first officially documented match (White, 2002).
By a charter written in 1552, the residents of St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland were given the right to use the links for “golf, futball, shuteing at all times with all other manner of pastimes (Campbell, 2001). Other church documents that date back to the late sixteenth century show that parishioners were disciplined for playing golf on Sunday mornings when they were supposed to be in church. Golfers were fined for the first two offenses, were bound to the repentance pillar for a third offense, and ex-communicated for a fourth. James VI, who ascended to the English throne as James I in 1603, actually brought his golf clubs with him to England and had a royal seven hole course in Blackheath constructed. His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was an avid golfer. In one popular story, it was reported that she lost a match to one of her attendants, Mary Seton, paying off her bet with a precious necklace that has survived to this day. In 1567, she was reprimanded by the church for playing golf only days after the death of her husband Lord Danley. Her golf playing was seen as evidence that she was not sufficiently grief stricken. Soon after, she fled Scotland and married James Hepburn, the next Earl of Bothwell, and the prime suspect in Lord Danley’s murder (White, 2002).
Golf was not only a royal sport, but also a game that was played by a wide population of Scots. Those who were educated, religious, and had leisure time hastened its spread across Scotland and England. Edinburgh, the center of royalty, as well as Dunfermline and Perth, towns with royal palaces, became golfing centers. The major center for golf was St. Andrews, the home of Scotland’s oldest university and Church. The Bishop of Galloway was a golfer who was credited with spreading the game to the southwestern part of the country (Scharff, 1970).
The east coast of Scotland became a preferred landscape for golf. The terrain was marked with sand dunes, rivers, and wild grass that had once been covered by the ocean. The land was unusable for crops so it became a place for sheep to graze, for men to hunt rabbit and fox, and a perfect setting for golf. The windy, treeless landscape, with grass kept short by the sheep, rabbits and the hunting parties, was called “links land” (Saunders, 1997).
At first, the early game did not have separate tee boxes, fairways, and putting greens. The courses were very rough: full of gorse, rabbit holes, mounds, and sand dunes. Natural hazards such as ditches and walls were a part of the game, as were other people on the public land who might be in the way. The actual hole in the ground served two purposes. It was the final destination for the ball but also where each player would grab a pinch of sand to tee his or her ball up for the next hole ( Campbell, 2001). Eventually, the continual trampling by players over the years near the holes led to the formation of “greens” and the evolution of the putting stroke. Tee boxes were moved to a separate area since the greens became specialized surfaces.
Golf became more organized in the mid 18 th century with the formation of golf social clubs. The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers claimed to be the first club, founded in 1744. The Society for St. Andrews Golfers was founded ten years later (Saunders, 1997). The golf club doubled as a place to eat and drink for the mostly male patronage who indulged in the sport. The claret jug, today the trophy for the winner of the British Open, was symbolic of the alcoholic wine drink “claret” that the players consumed at their home clubs in large quantities. Among the earliest clubs were the Gentleman Golfers of Leith, Royal Blackheath, and Royal Burgess. The clubs competed, the winner for the year getting possession of a silver club and ball with their name inscribed on it. The Royal and Ancient Society of St. Andrews bought the silver club and ball and created a tournament that was open to all other golfing clubs in Scotland, Great Britain, and Ireland in 1754. By the 19 th century golf had spread farther south and east in Europe. The Royal and Ancient Society of St. Andrews and surrounding clubs became a Mecca for golfers traveling from Scotland, Ireland, and England.
While the courses in Scotland attracted golfers from all walks of life who had the time and inclination, in England, it was called a “gentleman’s game,” appealing to the bourgiouse. Those starting golf clubs in England utilized Scottish expertise in the design and building of courses, as well as the teaching of golf. Scots were brought in as clubmakers, caddies, greenskeepers, and teachers. Having a Scot administering an element of one’s golf club added authenticity to the golfing experience for the members. Perhaps the most famous Scot to develop seaside links in England was Old Tom Morris. Morris was known throughout the golfing world as a master clubmaker, championship golfer, teacher, and golf course designer affiliated with the St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Society (Scharff, 1970). He was recruited by the Royal North Devon Club to create the first seaside links in England in 1864.
In 1864 there were only three golf clubs in England, but by 1900 there were over two thousand. The late 1800’s were a time of exponential growth for the game of golf. The Victorian era in the British Isles created a middle class that had more leisure time and money to spend. Railroads expanded, connecting various cities in England with those in Scotland. Many golf courses were built next to train tracks. It was fashionable to imitate the royals in playing the game of golf as a symbol of power and upward mobility. Trips to St. Andrews in the summer to play golf soon turned into groups of golf aficionados supporting hometown golf societies all over England. The introduction of the mass produced and cheap “guttie” ball made from the gutta percha trees in southeast Asia and the number of golf club manufacturers utilizing the industrial age technology made golf less expensive and more accessible to those interested in taking it up (Campbell, 2001).
The Transitions in Equipment
While the earliest golfing equipment probably consisted of driftwood and rocks, the first clubs used in Scotland in the 1400’s were carved wooden shafts with weighted heads. It was not until the mid-1700’s that metal was used in the head of the club. A variety of long nosed wooden clubs became the arsenal for the average golfers of the mid-18 th century. The driver, called a “playclub”, was the longest. It had a straight face and allowed for distance off the tee. The “grassed driver” was more lofted and used in the fairway to hit the ball off the ground. “Spoons,” also known as “scrapers,” had increasing loft and decreasing shaft length. The “baffing spoon” was a precursor to the wedge, used to hit down on the ball to create high shots. From bunkers and hazards, golfers used a club called the “wooden niblick,” a precursor to the sand wedge. The putter was shorter in length in the shaft and heavier in the head of the club ( Campbell, 2001).
The heads of the clubs were made of fruit woods, including pear, cherry, plum, and apple. Eventually the wood of choice came from the Persimmon, a non-native tree that had to be imported from America. The shaft of the club was attached by a splice in the wood. This was a delicate connection since it was where the club got a bit of spring. A good and bad club could be differentiated by the way the head fit onto the shaft. The shaft itself was made from hazel, lemonwood, and ash, until hickory became the wood of choice for it strength and consistent, straight grain ( Campbell, 2001). Iron headed clubs were also a part of the golfer’s arsenal, becoming popular with those players who wanted to hit the ball farther and harder. These club heads were hand forged and competed with the wooden prototypes. The “cleek” had the loft of a middle spoon and the “lofter” competed with the baffing spoon for wedge-like situations on the course.
Hand making clubs became an art and trade that was passed from father to son. Utilizing the tools of carpenters such as saws, hammers, files, drills, screwdrivers, vices, and planes, as well as Bunsen burners to melt lead, clubmakers were usually affiliated with golf societies. They stamped their names on the clubs they made, making their work identifiable and creating fame for some. The popularity of irons in the late 1800’s led to the increased use of blacksmiths to make hand-forged heads and eventually to more mass production in the early 1900’s.
Steel shafts became the norm in the 1930’s, allowing for matched sets of clubs and precision specifications in regard to flex, weight, and size. The Royal Ancient Society and USGA created a 14-club limit rule to make sure that the player’s skill, rather than the equipment determined outcome. This issue would be faced again and again as modern materials and manufacturing techniques became more advanced in the late 20 th century. Light graphite shafts and lightweight titanium driver heads have led to increased ball striking distances by even the average golfer (Stachura, 2004). The USGA now tests for the “spring effect” on club faces and the professional tours have lengthened golf courses to compensate for the increased distances players can hit the ball.
Balls also went through a series of changes when better materials and designs were made available. Original balls were rocks, then round sculpted hard wood, eventually evolving into the “feathery,” which was popular from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. Featheries were made of leather and stuffed with poultry feathers. Ball makers could only create three or four balls a day because it was so difficult to stuff the needed quantity of feathers into the small stitched leather cover. Workers used a thin metal pole to stuff the feathers while holding the ball against their chests. These balls cost more than the price of a club and were precious commodities. In 1848, there was a revolution in golf ball manufacturing with the importation of “gutta percha,” the rubbery-like gooey sap that came from the gutta percha tree in the tropical forests of Malaysia. By boiling the hardened sap, it could be pressed into the shape of a ball, which became hard when it cooled ( Campbell, 2001). The balls were called “gutties.” They were mass produced and were much less expensive than the feathery. These balls could also be made into a standardized weight and size. The ball weight and the names of the maker were stamped on the outside of the ball.
Eventually, the rubber core replaced the guttie at the beginning of the 1900’s with most rubber companies making golf balls as a part of their manufacturing repertoire. Coburn Haskell patented a ball made from rubber in 1898. Dramatically, ball-striking distance improved utilizing the wound rubber ball with balata cover. In 1905, English Engineer William Taylor, developed the patent for the dimple pattern on the ball to improve aerodynamics. Spalding, a sporting goods company, purchased the US rights to Taylor’s patent in 1908, and created the commercial ball market in America (Healy, 2005). In 1935, chemical scientists created the vulcanized cover, which was more durable than balata. Surlyn, a synthetic form of rubber, replaced this cover in the 1960’s. Players could cut through these balls with a mis-hit iron or through ricochets off of hard surfaces.
Today ball covers are made of a thin synthetic urethane that is durable and fairly uncuttable. Variations of dimple size, shape and concentration have created balls that can be spun better, directed more accurately, or made to go longer distances by cutting down on wind drag (Golf balls 101, 2005). The cores are made of ionomer composites rather than rubber. The compression, density, and concentration of the inner cores can match up with a player’s ability, swing speed, and club use. Golf’s rule making bodies on both sides of the Atlantic (Royal and Ancient Club and the United States Golf Association) have tried to come up with standards of size and weight over the years, sometimes differing in their requirements. Since 1990 balls are now a standard size (1.68 inches diameter) and weight (1.62 ounces), but the variations in ball performance (as well as club performance) has created a backlash among traditionalists, who fear that golf technology has become more significant than skill.
The Spread of Golf Across the World
St. Andrews is considered the home of most golfing traditions, including the rules of golf and importantly the nature of the golf course itself. Golf links before St. Andrews were wildly diverse in terms of length and number of holes. The links at St. Andrews originally had 12 holes, the first eleven laid out on a small peninsula. Then the golfers would turn around and play the first 10 holes backward in toward the clubhouse. A separate green by the clubhouse gave the golfers 22 holes for the round. If two groups approached the green from different directions, preference was given to the group playing “out” toward the peninsula. Outgoing holes were marked by a white flagged pin and incoming holes were marked by a red flag. The members decided in 1764 to combine the first four holes into two, leaving 18 holes. The St. Andrews layout of 18 holes became the standard that exists to this day. The writing and enforcing of golf’s rules, initiated by the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, was taken over by the members of the St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club in the mid 1760’s (Scharff, 1970).
Golf spread rapidly across the world during the nineteenth century led by Scottish expatriates. It often followed the reaches of the British Empire. The Royal Calcutta Club in India was started in 1829. The Royal Melbourne Club in Australia was founded in 1891, the Royal Cape Club in South Africa in 1885, and the Royal Hong Kong Club in 1889. In Europe, Golf Club de Pau in France was started in 1856, the Royal Antwerp Club in Belgium in 1888, and the Rosendelsche Club in Holland in 1896. The first North American golf club was the Royal Montreal in Canada in 1873.
It is documented that Scottish officers who fought in the Revolutionary war brought golf to the American colonies in 1775. While the South Carolina Golf Club and Savannah Georgia Golf Clubs were founded in the late 1700’s, the game did not catch on outside these enclaves. The Dorset Field Club in Dorset, Vermont and the Foxburg Country Club in Foxburg, Pennsylvania claim to be two of the oldest golf clubs in the United States (founded in the late 1880’s), but the St. Andrew’s Golf Club of New York has the distinction of having its origins best documented.
According to club lore, it took the fortuitous trip to Scotland by Scottish expatriate Robert Lockhart in 1887 usher in the major presence of golf in the United States. Lockhart visited Old Tom Morris’s shop at St. Andrews, ordered six clubs and two dozen gutta percha balls, and had them sent to back to America on behalf of his friend John Reid, another Scot expatriate. On a relatively warm day in the middle of the winter in 1888, Reid took five of his friends out to the cow pasture near his home on the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York to lay out a three-hole course. That summer they cut the grass on a thirty-acre parcel and began playing to the ridicule of neighbors. In the fall of that year, they formed the St. Andrew’s Golf Club, named after the famous club in Scotland. In 1892, the St. Andrew’s Club moved to an apple orchard on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Reid was elected the President of the St. Andrew’s Club. He and his golfing buddies were forever known as the “Apple Tree Gang” ( Campbell, 2001).
Little did they know that their endeavor would inspire over a thousand other golf clubs in the United States by the year 1900. The Amateur Golf Association, now known as the United States Golf Association, was formed in 1894 by six golf clubs in the northeast: St. Andrew’s, Shinnecock Hills, Brookline, Newport, and Chicago. Theodore Havermeyer, the builder of the course in Newport, Rhode Island, was the first President. The Chicago course was the first in the United States with 18 holes. It would not be until 1951, that the United States Golf Association and the Britain’s Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews would agreed to jointly govern the rules and standards of golf throughout the world.
Golf would come to Redlands, California in 1897. Transplants seeking refuge from the harsh east coast winters from New York, New England, Chicago, and Scotland met at the Casa Loma Hotel in late 1896 to found the Redlands Country Club, the first course in Southern California. They leased land in the southern hills of Redlands where it still stands today, building a clubhouse and a nine hole golf course 2129 yards in length. George Lawson became the first club professional in 1901 (SCGA, 2004).
The Evolution to Professional Golf
Playing competitions between golf professionals turned into money events during the nineteenth century. The golf professionals, affiliated with their home golf clubs, gave lessons, collected fees, repaired clubs, worked as greenskeepers at times, and often played against each other in tournaments. The first professional championship at Prestwick in 1860 evolved into what is today the British Open. Prize money in 1863 was ten British pounds. The most famous early champions were Old and Young Tom Morris, the father and son duo who won seven Open championships between them in the 1860’s (Saunders, 1997).
In the late nineteenth century, three dominant British players changed professional golf. Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J.H. Taylor drew large crowds to the Open championships, with their brilliant play. Known as the Great Triumvirate, they won 16 British Open championships between 1894 and 1916. Harry Vardon was responsible for making the overlapping finger grip on the club the standard for golfers to this day. James Braid is known not only for his five Open championships, but also for his golf architecture design, and his diplomatic presidency of the new Professional Golfers Association (PGA). J.H. Taylor was also known as a great teacher and speaker in promoting golf around the world.
American golfers eventually challenged and overtook the British. Walter Hagen was the first American to win the British Open in 1922. He also won two U.S. Open championships and is known for his carefree attitude and swing that made him extremely popular. Bobby Jones, a lawyer, played as an amateur his entire golfing career. During an eight year period from 1923-1930, Jones won thirteen championships including the U.S. Open four times, the U.S. Amateur four times, the British Open three times, and the British Amateur once. These four tournaments were considered the Majors during that era. In 1930, he won all four, giving him the “Grand Slam.” He later created “The Masters” golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia, which would replace the U.S. Amateur as a major. Another major American golf figure of the 1920’s and 30’s was Gene Sarazen, who won the U.S. Open twice, British Open once, the USPGA three times, and the Masters once.
Following World War II, professional golf became more lucrative and popular. Ben Hogan, who was a dominant player in the late 1930’s, was by far the best golfer of the post-war 1945-1953 era. He won 64 events, including the U.S. Open four times, the Masters twice, the USPGA twice, and the British Open once. His swing is still considered one of the best in the history of golf. He is known for coming back from a serious car accident in 1949 in which he had to learn how to walk again. His win at the U.S. Open at Merion, PA in 1950 came as he was still wearing bandages as a result of his injuries.
The other dominant player of the post war period was Sam Snead, who would win a record 82 golf tournaments and seven majors during his career. Snead was known for his smooth swing and Virginia hillbilly roots. In contrast to the seriousness of Ben Hogan, Snead had a wry sense of humor and charismatic presence that made him popular with fans of the game.
The financially lucrative television era began in the late-1950’s, assisted by the presence of President Dwight Eisenhower, who was an avid golfer during his eight years in the White House from 1952-1960. This era’s first golf hero was Arnold Palmer. Palmer, an aggressive player, had a “go for broke” attitude toward his golf shots. His popularity was enormous. His followers at golf tournaments and on television were called “Arnie’s Army.” He won 62 golf tournaments and seven major championships in his career, including four Masters, two British Opens, and one U.S. Open.
One of Palmer’s main rivals during the early 1960’s was Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus, known as the “Golden Bear,” would win 18 major championships during a period from 1962 to 1986, including six Masters, five USPGAs, four U.S. Opens, and three British Opens. Over time, Nicklaus became the most popular player in golf history. His strong physique coupled with his long, powerful drives off the tee, made him a fan favorite to follow at tournaments. Nicklaus won 73 times on the PGA tour during his career, second only to Sam Snead, who had 82.
One of the other rivals of Palmer during the early sixties, was South African Gary Player. Player, known for his hard work ethic, won nine majors and 24 PGA tournaments in his career. Player won the British Open and Masters each three times, the USPGA twice, and U.S. Open once. Player, who continues to play on the senior tour to this day, was the second oldest player to win an event at age 62 in 1998. One of the other players who challenged Nicklaus, Palmer, and Player into the 1970’s was Lee Trevino. Trevino, the son of a Mexican immigrant gravedigger, overcame childhood poverty and prejudice to win 29 PGA tournaments, including two U.S. Opens, two British Opens, and two USPGA championships. Local San Bernardino and Redlands golfer Dave Stockton won eleven times on the PGA tour and fourteen times on the PGA Senior Tour. Stockton won two USPGA championships and was the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that beat the Europeans at Kiawah Island, South Carolina in 1991.
While few believed that Nicklaus’ majors records or Snead’s win totals would ever be challenged, the current era in professional golf is lead by 29 year old Tiger Woods who in his short career has already won over forty PGA events and nine majors including four Masters, two U.S. Opens, two USPGAs, and one British Open. Tiger’s popularity as a media hero has led to unprecedented marketing contracts for professional golfers, who are now paid to wear logos, appear in commercials, and use various brands of clothing and equipment. Prize money from corporate sponsors has pushed purses from $10,000 in the early nineteen fifties to an average of $7,000,000 today per PGA event. In 2005 it is not unusual for a tournament prize winner to take home close to a million dollars.
Breaking the Barriers of Race and Gender
The dark side of golf was apparent in the exclusionary rules of the Professional Golfers Association prior to 1961. It stated that only Caucasians could be members of the PGA. Most country clubs had similar rules that limited membership to whites only. In fact, Augusta Country Club, the home of the Masters golf tournament, only admitted its first Black member in 1990. Augusta has still never had a female member, a point argued in protest by Martha Burk, the President of the National Organization for Women, at the 2003 Masters (Armour, 2005).
Bill Spiller and Ted Rhodes, two African American golfers fought unsuccessfully for the right to play on the PGA tour in the 1940’s. It was not until Charlie Sifford played in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1961, that he was officially accepted as a member of the PGA (Smallwood, 2002). Sifford played in tournaments as an invited player before that, and actually was one of the leading money winners in the late 1950’s even though he held no status with the professional organization. He faced incredible obstacles while he played. He heard racial slurs as he swung, had his balls kicked out of the fairway into the rough, was heckled mercilessly, and was constantly on alert from death threats when he played in tournaments. At one tournament, in which he was playing in a foursome of Black players, human excrement was left in the hole on the first green. Sifford grew up caddying and playing golf in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He served in the armed forces and became the first African American player to win a PGA golf tournament in 1967 at the Greater Hartford Open. In November 2004 he became the first African American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame (Wanabwa, 2004). Sifford paved the way for golfers of color including Lee Elder, Lee Trevino, and more recently Vijay Singh from Fiji, and Tiger Woods, who has multi-racial heritage.
As early as the 16 th century women were involved in the game of golf. Mary, Queen of Scots, popularized the game for women in Scotland and in England. Playing golf was a symbol of a woman’s higher socioeconomic status into the 19 th century. The Ladies Golf Union was formed in 1893 to set the standards for women’s golf. Before this time it had been considered unladylike for a woman to swing a golf club above shoulder height, especially with the limited mobility of women’s attire pre-1900 ( Campbell, 2001). The first golf club for women in the United States was founded in 1894 in Morristown, New Jersey. Women played in amateur tournaments in the 19 th and 20 th centuries on both sides of the Atlantic. It was not until after World War II, that the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) was formed in the United States, offering small purses for tournament wins.
Cecil Leitch was the first prominent woman golfer of the modern era. She won 12 major amateur titles in Europe between 1914-1926. Her formidable opponent, Joyce Wethered, captured 8 titles from 1921-1925. Babe Zaharias was the most dominant female golfer in the United States in the 1940’s and 1950’s. She was an all-around athlete who won medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics and played baseball and basketball professionally. Zaharias was one of the founders of the LPGA and the winner of 41 LPGA events. She was also a multiple winner of the Western Open, U.S. Women’s Amateur, and British Ladies’ Amateur.
In the 1960’s, women’s golf also benefited financially and in popularity from the advent of television, although nowhere near that of men’s professional golf. Mickey Wright was a dominant player during this period, winning 82 LPGA tournaments, including four U.S. Women’s Opens and four LPGA Championships. One of her chief rivals was Kathy Whitworth, who won 88 LGPG tour events. Whitworth was the first woman to earn over a million dollars in career earnings. In the 1970’s and 80’s Nancy Lopez dominated the LPGA tour. She won 17 or her first 50 golf tournaments, winning 48 tour events between 1978-1997. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s Annika Sorenstam of Sweden became the best woman golfer in the game. In 2005 she passed Patty Berg for fourth on the all-time LPGA win list with 60. She has earned over $16 million dollars in her 11 year playing career thus far. Annika opened the door for other women to challenge men on the PGA tour by playing in the men’s Colonial PGA Tour event May 22-23, 2003 ( Anderson, 2005). Women’s golf has made tremendous strides in terms of competition and financial reward, but still lags behind the men’s professional tour.
Today there are 26 million golfers in the United States alone, playing on 16,000 golf courses. Golf’s popularity has paralleled the increase in leisure time and wealth of the middle and upper classes in western societies. With the spread of golf courses to Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia, there has been a bigger contingent of non-Americans playing on the U.S. professional men and women’s tours. The proliferation of golf course construction and advances in club and ball technology has made playing the game less expensive, a bit easier, and more rewarding for the masses. The popularity of players like Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam have led to increases in the number of people taking up the game, including children and those from lower socioeconomic classes.
The psychological challenge that golf provides has been called “intoxicating” and “addicting.” Playing golf is like having a “time out” from real life worries in a beautiful outdoor setting. At the same time, it seems to mirror life’s challenges and requires players to overcome obstacles and adversity again and again. Each shot, each hole, and each round of golf give players the chance to freshly start over. The knowledge that one could possibly hit a perfect shot on any given swing, keeps the game suspenseful and interesting for those who play. Golf friendships are low maintenance for the most part, contained to the time on the course with a specified task. On the other hand, many enjoy the interpersonal connections created on the course. A round of golf together might make a business deal easier to consummate or encourage friendship with an individual whose path one might not normally cross. For those needing exercise or a way to play out their competitive urges, the game of golf is often a benign vehicle for self-improvement.
Whether it is for the joy of striking a transcendent shot or the friendly competition that exposes both strengths and foibles, the game of golf provides a physical, emotional, and thoughtful way to feel alive and present in a stunning, natural environment.
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Biography of the Author
Fredric E. Rabinowitz, Ph.D. was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned his B.A. at Ithaca College, his M.A. at Loyola College, and his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri. Since 1984, he has been a Professor of Psychology at the University of Redlands and a private practice psychologist in Redlands, CA specializing in individual and group psychotherapy with men. Dr. Rabinowitz has been the Psychology Department Chair; Salzburg, Austria Program Director; Interim Johnston College Director, and will be the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to his faculty role. He was the Clinical Director of the Redlands-Yucaipa Guidance Clinic from 1994-1997 and has been co-leading a therapeutic men’s group in Redlands since 1987. Dr. Rabinowitz has authored and co-authored numerous articles and three books: Deepening Psychotherapy with Men (2002); Men and Depression: Clinical and Empirical Perspectives (2000); and Man Alive: A Primer of Men’s Issues (1994). Dr. Rabinowitz has earned Outstanding Faculty Teaching and Research awards in 1995, 1996, 2001, and 2002. He was elected as a Fellow to the American Psychological Association in 2004 and is currently the President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, a division of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Rabinowitz is a father of two children, Jared and Karina and a husband to Janet Rabinowitz since 1989. He is an avid reader, writer, skier, and golfer.