Fancy a Game?
Golf is one of those games which seems to have been around forever, in fact it has, for centuries, to be exact, writes Tracy Hargreaves
But what is it that has made it so popular for so long? We’ve all heard the expression golf widow and that appears to be true of many who take up the game and leave their partners at home most weekends as they seem to get addicted. Maybe it’s being out in the fresh air, or the fact that it’s a challenging game, or was a place where business men did deals, who knows.
Golf originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland. It certainly wasn’t the clubs and ball that we play with today, more of an attempt to hit a pebble over sand dunes and around tracks using a bent stick. But the game stuck and became more popular. During the 15th century, Scotland prepared to defend itself, yet again, against an invasion by the ‘Auld Enemy’, however the nation’s enthusiastic pursuit of golf led many to neglect their military training, that the Scottish parliament of King James II had to ban the sport in 1457.
It was only in 1502 that the game gained the royal seal of approval when King James IV of Scotland became the world’s first golfing monarch. Perhaps this is why it has been seen in the past to be elitist and primarily played by men.
Golf clubs used to be places women weren’t allowed and certainly weren’t permitted to play the game. However, golf, like anything, has had to adapt to bring it into modern times, by encouraging women and children to take up the sport. According to a survey in 2015 by Golf Business magazine, most golf clubs in the UK had vacancies for members and Britain had one of the worst ratios in the world for the proportion of women who play golf compared to men.
The poll revealed that the top reason for female golfers initially taking up the game is because of a husband or partner who played. However, the survey found only a quarter of male golfers, including those who already did so, ‘are interested or very interested in playing casual golf with female golfers in the future’. The same research also discovered that the vast majority of men (78 per cent) who play golf have female partners who do not play the game.
More than one in two male golfers who have sons say their sons play golf, but just 12 percent of male golfers who have daughters say their daughters play golf. Today, that has changed, with some of the top golfers in the world being women.
In the UK we are lucky to have some of the finest golf courses, particularly in Scotland. St Andrews Old Links in Fife, Scotland, sits among some of the most spectacular scenery in the British Isles. It is probable that golf was played here back in the 12th century and as such the old course is the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world. The first ever 18-hole course was constructed at St Andrews in 1764, establishing the now recognised standard for the game.
With most other ball games, such as tennis, football and squash, the court or pitch is the same look and size, it’s just the venue that changes, whereas with golf every course is different, each with its own challenges.
A links is the oldest style of golf course and refers to an area of coastal sand dunes. In Lancashire we have several links courses, such as St Annes Old Links and Southport and Ainsdale as we are close to the sea.
Travel inland and there’s a plethora of golf clubs in Lancashire, which range in difficulty. Penwortham Golf Club, Preston Club, Shaw Hill and Ashton and Lea are just a few that offer players pretty much all year-round golf on beautiful parkland courses, with the opportunity to get involved in local tournaments.
Four classic and celebrated golf clubs have joined forces to establish the Lancashire Classic Golf Tour, which is an annual tournament between Penwortham Golf Club, Preston Golf Club, Fairhaven and St Annes Old Links.
The tour has been designed to attract golfers from all over the UK, golfers that want to spend four days enjoying a great golfing experience whilst taking in the outstanding views and attractions that the area has to offer. Its popularity is such that it gets booked up months in advance.
So, golf looks like it’s here to stay and can only evolve further. Next time your children want to play football, why not ask them to give golf a go. They could be the next Rory Mcilroy or Laura Davis.