Links to the Past
The state of Florida is rich in golfing history and home to some of the first courses in the country
It took four centuries for golf to make its way to Florida, but once it did, there was no stopping it. A two-hole course in Sarasota was the first, in 1886, followed by three holes surrounding a 17th-century Spanish fort in St. Augustine. Soon there were a dozen courses in the state, then 50, and today the total stands at more than 1,250, the most by far of any U.S. state — and trailing only four foreign countries. Indian River County alone boasts 19 golf courses, two of which date back 100 years.
The origin of golf is as clear as a Scottish fog bank. Several similar games preceded its invention, most notably a Chinese pastime known as chuiwan (“hit ball”), which dates back to the 10th century. A player would place a small wooden ball on a raised base and use an iron-headed club to hit a chip shot toward a hole marked with a flag. Follow-up shots to get the ball into the hole were made from a kneeling position. But there’s no existing proof that chuiwan traveled westward and/or influenced the development of golf in Europe.
The one thing that is certain is that the modern game of golf originated in Scotland. But the exact timing is vague, with the earliest written reference being a 1457 ban of the game by Scotland’s James II. He felt his subjects should be spending less time on golf courses and more time practicing archery, given the kingdom’s ongoing wars with England. It would be another 45 years before James IV lifted the ban when he took up the game himself.