St Andrews: the Experience of Visiting Golf’s Origination

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History is written by the victors, the saying goes, and upon visiting St Andrews, one learns that golfing history is no different. As far back as 1691, St Andrews, in the Fife region of Scotland, has been credited as the birthplace of golf. The origins of the game trace all the way back to the 1400s with the two types of golf being played in the very early days.

One form for the game was for the commoners (plebeians, peasants, etc. or whatever you want to call them) and it was actually played in city streets, and led to building damage and personal injury. It’s safe to say that they didn’t have top notch equipment either, not like the premium products you’ll find at mgigolf.com. It really is astounding- how far the game has come since the middle ages. 

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Back during the time of the game’s Scottish roots, you didn’t have anything like the golf ranges of today, where everything is planned perfectly and you have a smooth sailing to drive your balls off the tee. 

Believe it or not, a man was actually killed in 1632, in Kelso Scotland upon being struck by a golf ball!

The second form of golf was played by the nobles (patricians, manor born etc. or whatever you want to call them) and it took place in wide open rural spaces. Obviously, you know which form of golfing eventually won out.

 

And of course, common sense prevailed as the safer, saner form of golf took hold. Scotland established and innovated golf, but there were “ball and stick games” being played well before the 1400s.

Yes, one learns much at the British Golf Museum in St Andrews, a must stop for any sports scholar. I’m not a golf person at all, but then again I’m also not an auto racing person at all and I still made sure to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum when I was in Indianapolis.

When you think of golf these days, you think country clubs, well-to-do, conservative, old, rich white males. (That was pretty much the crowd coming of the bus and walking in the same direction as me to The Old Course in St Andrews)

Believe it or not, the sport was once considered avant-garde, taboo and rebellious. The first written mention of the world golf came in 1457 when King James II tried to ban the game.

They failed, but future Jacobite administrations and parliaments again tried to ban the sport in 1471 and 1490. If you were named King James (no, not Lebron), then you tried to make golf illegal for various grounds. The rationale was that the sport distracted from attending church services or training for military service.

You can’t be golfing, you need to be practicing your archery skills! For the good of the defense of the nation!

Eventually, things changed among the royals as King James V, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I, Bonnie Prince Charlie and more were all keen players of the game.

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In the 1800s the rules established at St. Andrews became the rules that every golfer must abide by. That’s the game we all know and love today, and enjoyed by Al Czervik, Ty Webb and Danny Noonan in 1980.

The caddyshack at St Andrews is on a very picturesque North Sea beach.  These West Sands are also were the iconic “Chariots of Fire” scene was filmed.

In 1897, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews would formally become the governing body for the rules of golf.

The tiny and quaint coastline town of St Andrews has six golf courses, but there’s so much more to see there than just golf. It’s all walkable too, so you can see every site worth seeing in about half a day.

If you really wanted to see absolutely every single tourist attraction worth your time in detail, a full day would more than cover it.

Just know that getting there can be an adventure as the town has no train station and all roads leading in are winding and hilly.

St Andrews also boasts the remnants of a castle overlooking the seas, a beautiful and historic university, and the ruins of an old cathedral that also reside on the coast.

Ironically, it was in the cathedral gift shop, of all places, where I found this Scottish post card celebrating the Britney Spears style schoolgirl fetish; plaid skirt thigh high socks and all. Speaking of schoolgirls, and boys, men and women, St. Andrew’s University can boast of many firsts. They are the oldest school in Scotland, they admitted the first woman in the British Isles in 1862 and also created the first student union, and first marine lab.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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