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History of golf


Golfing at Banff Springs Golf Course from the collection at Canadian Pacific Archives
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Golf first started with Scottish and English royalty and later spread to the main population. As a result, courses sprung up all over the U.K., the most famous being The Royal and Ancient at St. Andrews in Scotland. Established around 1552, it was also responsible for formulating the Rules of Golf in 1897.

Golf spread to all corners of the British Empire throughout the 19th century and was launched in the U.S.A. in 1888 by John Reid, a Scottish ex-patriot businessman, who imported a few clubs and balls from Scotland and set up a rudimentary three-hole golf course near his house in Yonkers, New York.
The players of this first course formed themselves into a club called St. Andrew’s (its name copied from its famous Scottish predecessor– complete with an apostrophe to differentiate it). Very soon this club was forced to expand, doing so by building a course on land studded by apple trees close to the Hudson River. These early club pioneers henceforth became known as the ‘Apple Tree Gang’. Very quickly golf caught on in the U.S. and by 1896, the number of courses had risen to over 80. Four years later, there were 892 courses. By the end of the 1920’s there were over 5,600 golf courses in the U.S.

World-wide, golf experienced similar patterns of growth during the twentieth century. The number of Japanese courses increased from around 30 before 1940 to 1700 by 1992. In the same period the number of golfers rose by 40% in Sweden and Switzerland, 50% in France and Spain and 60% in Germany. In China golf has been gaining ground with more than 200 courses developing over the past two decades. Mission Hills at Shenzhen is the world’s largest golf resort with 12 courses.

The combination of the expansion of the game of golf world-wide and the growth of international travel after 1945 led to an increase in golf travel . Ski resorts have developed golf courses to maintain tourism interest in the off season. Panorama in British Columbia, Canada, for example, spent $16 million building a golf course as part of Intrawest’s strategy to develop four-season resorts.