A History of Golf since 1497
A Game Becomes a Sport
The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith (1744) was the first club and was formed to promote an annual competition with a silver golf club as the prize. Duncan Forbes drafted the club's rules, which were
Your tee must be on the ground.
You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee
You are not to remove stones, bones or any break club for the sake of playing your ball, except on the fair green, and that only within a club's length of your ball.
If your ball comes among water, or any watery filth, you are at liberty to take out your ball and bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any club and allow your adversary a stroke for so getting out your ball.
If your balls be found anywhere touching one another you are to lift the first ball till you play the last.
At holeing you are to play your ball honestly for the hole, and not to play upon your adversary's ball, not lying in your way to the hole.
If you should lose your ball, by its being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the spot where you struck last and drop another ball and allow your adversary a stroke for the misfortune.
No man at holeing his ball is to be allowed to mark his way to the hold with his club or anything else.
If a ball be stopp'd by any person, horse or dog, or anything else, the ball so stopp'd must be played where it lyes.
If you draw your club in order to strike and proceed so far in the stroke as to be bringing down your club; if then your club shall break in any way, it is to be accounted a stroke.
He who whose ball lyes farthest from the hole is obliged to play first.
Neither trench, ditch or dyke made for the preservation of the links, nor the Scholar's Holes or the soldier's lines shall be accounted a hazard but the ball is to be taken out, teed and play'd with any iron club.
The club was later renamed the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers with a clubhouse erected in 1768 (moved to Musselburgh, Lothian in 1836).
The first reference to golf at the historic town of St Andrews was in 1552. The clergy allowed public access to the links a year later. In 1754 the St Andrews Society of Golfers was formed to compete in it's own annual competition using Leith's rules. Stroke play was introduced in 1759 and in 1764, the 18-hole course was constructed which has of course become a de-facto standard. The first women's golf club in the world was formed there in 1895. King William honoured the club with the title 'Royal & Ancient' in 1834 and the new famous clubhouse was erected in 1854. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A) became the premier golf club because of it's fine course, the publication of rules, it's royal patronage and it's promotion of the game as a proper sport.
Of course, by this time golfers were using proper clubs and balls. Club heads were made from beech or the wood of fruit trees such as apple. Some club heads for were made from hand-forged iron. Shafts were usually ash or hazel. Balls were made from tightly compressed feathers wrapped in a stitched horse hide sphere. The sport was somewhat exclusive due to the expense of the handcrafted equipment. After 1826, perimmon and hickory were imported from the USA to make club heads and shafts respectively. Today these antiques are highly prized by collectors.