Red-letter dates in the history of golf
Golf as we know it – a game played on land from one point to another – probably began somewhere on the east coast of Scotland in the late 14th or early 15th century. It may though have some antecedents in "Colf", a Dutch pastime dating from the 13th century that could only be played when the canals of Holland froze over and involved hitting a puck-like object across the ice to a pole sticking out of it. So the start of Championship golf at Prestwick in 1860 is relatively recent, its 150th anniversary being celebrated back at the club of its origin in 2010.
1297 - December 26th: date of the oldest recorded game of "Colf" listed in the archives of the Dutch town of Loenen aan de Vecht, near Utrecht.
1350 (circa) - Completion of Gloucester cathedral. A detail of the stain-glass windows, the "Crécy window", shows a person playing "chole", a forerunner of the game of golf.
1457 - A Scottish act of parliament bans the practice of "gowf", deemed to be interfering with archery practice for the archers of King James II, then at war with the English.
1567 - Mary Stuart (1542-1587) is severely rebuked for playing golf just a few days after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley.
1744 - Creation of the first golf club by master freemason William Saint-Clair de Roslin: The Gentlemen Golfers of Leith (later to become The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers), a body which then wrote the first thirteen rules of golf.
1754 - Constitution of the Society of St Andrews Golf.
1764 - The golf club of St Andrews lowers the number of its holes from 22 to 18.
1766 - The first English club opens at Blackheath.
1829 - In India, the opening of the Royal Calcutta golf club, the first course outside the British Isles.
1848 - Appearance of the gutta-percha ball.
1856 - Foundation of the first golf course in Continental Europe at Pau (France).
1858 - The Royal and Ancient of St Andrews decrees 18 holes to be the standard for all full length golf courses.
1860 - On October 17th, at Prestwick in Scotland, eight players contest the first Open Championship over 36 holes. The tournament is won by Willie Park, with a score of 174, edging out his compatriot, "Old" Tom Morris, by two strokes.
1867 - Creation of the first ladies club, the Ladies Putting Club of St Andrews.
1870 - "Young" Tom Morris wins the Open Championship for the third consecutive year and with it The Belt outright. Creation of the first Australian golf club, Royal Adelaide in South Australia.
1871 - The Open not contested as there is no longer The Belt to compete for, nor the resources to purchase another one. A Silver Claret Jug was commissioned to be played for the following year.
1872 - "Young" Tom Morris records his fourth win at The Open Championship, and so becomes the first holder of the Claret Jug.
1873 - Royal Montréal becomes the first golf course to open in North America.
1875 - Death of "Young" Tom Morris; he was 44 years old.
1885 - First playing of the British Amateur, won by Allan MacFie. Creation of the first golf club in Africa, Royal Cape in Cape Town, South Africa.
1888 - Inauguration of the first course in the United States, the New York St Andrews Yonkers. There are now 150 golf courses around the world.
1891 - The diameter of the hole is set at 4.25 inches (108 millimetres).
1892 - At Muirfield, The Open Championship is played over four rounds for the first time.
1893 - The first playing of the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship at St Annes Old Links.
1894 - Foundation of the United States Golf Association, whose first president is Theodore Havemeyer. The Open Championship is played in England for the first time, at Royal St Georges, Sandwich and won by J.H. Taylor.
1895 - The first US Open and US Amateur Championships are held at Newport (Rhode Island). They are won by Horace Rawlins and Charles Blair MacDonald. The first US Women's Amateur is played and won by Miss Brown.
1898 - The American pair Coburn Haskell and Bertram Work designs the first 2-piece ball, made from a rubber core and balata covering, the Haskell ball replacing the gutta-percha.
1900 - During a tour to the United States, England's Harry Vardon wins the US Open, becoming the first "overseas" winner. Golf becomes an Olympic sport for the first time at Compiègne in Northern France.
1902 - Birth of Robert Tyre Jones in Atlanta, Georgia on March 17th.
1903 - Foundation of the first Japanese golf course near Kobe. Walter J. Travis becomes the first overseas winner of the British Amateur.
1905 - Introduction of the first handicap system approved by the USGA.
1906 - The first edition of an Open Championship – The French - in Continental Europe, at the Golf de Paris (La Boulie).
1907 - French golfer, Arnaud Massy, becomes the first overseas player to win The Open Championship.
1908 - Death of "Old" Tom Morris.
1909 - The first double of winning both the British Ladies and US Women's Amateur in a single year is accomplished by the American Dorothy Campbell.
1910 - Willie Anderson, four-time winner of the US Open, dies at the age of 32.
1913 - At Brookline, young American amateur Francis Ouimet, aged just 20, beats the two established champions of British golf, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in a play-off for the US Open.
1914 - The sixth and final win by Harry Vardon of The Open Championship, still the most by any one player. A young Walter Hagen (22) wins his first US Open.
1916 - (There was no British Amateur Championship that year because of the Great War – so Chick Evans could not have done the double). Foundation in New York of the American Professional Golfers Association (PGA). The first edition of its own championship, the PGA Championship, is won by "Long" Jim Barnes.
1919 - The Royal and Ancient assumes responsibility for running the British Amateur Championship, and a year later does the same with The Open Championship.
1921 - The first rule is laid down concerning the size of the ball. It shall not exceed 1.62 inches and must not weigh more than 1.62 ounces. An unofficial match between amateurs of the United States and Great Britain is played at Hoylake, the site of that year's British Amateur Championship.
1922 - The United States wins the inaugural Walker Cup match at The National Links out on Long Island.
1923 - Bobby Jones wins his first "Major", the US Open at Inwood GC on Long Island.
1925 - The USGA authorizes the use of steel shafts. The Royal and Ancient follows suit in 1927.
1927 - The inaugural Ryder Cup, to be contested by professional golfers from the United States and Great Britain is played at Worcester, Massachussetts, and led by 5-time winner of the PGA Championship (match play), Walter Hagen, is won by the United States.
1929 - The eleventh and final win in a major championship for Walter Hagen - The Open at Muirfield in Scotland.
1930 - Bobby Jones wins his Grand Slam (US/ British, Open/Amateur Championships in a single year) and following this unprecedented achievement – one never matched by either Amateur or Professional - retires from the game. He is just 28.
1931 - The "large ball" (1.68 inches) is adopted by the United States Golf Association. Dr Stableford develops a point-counting scoring system that is still widely used today.
1932 - The Curtis Cup, a match between lady amateurs from Great Britain and the United States, is played for the first time at Wentworth in England.
1933 - On January 13th, Augusta National, founded by Bobby Jones, opens for play in Georgia, USA.
1934 - The first Augusta National Invitational, soon to be universally known as the Masters, is won by American Horton Smith.
1935 - By recording a "2" at the par 5 15th, (an albatross or double eagle) during the final round of the Masters, Gene Sarazen squeezes into a play-off and goes on to complete the first modern grand slam in golf: the US Open (1922), The Open Championship (1932), the PGA Championship (1933) and the Masters (1935). His 4-wood shot at 15 established the fame of the Masters and became "the golf shot heard around the World".
1937 - Death of Harry Vardon.
1938 - Sam Snead collects eight wins on the American professional tour. The winnings of "Slammin' Sam" for the1938 season amounted to the astronomical sum of $19,534.The USGA adopts the rule whereby a golf bag should contain no more than fourteen clubs.
1938 – Golf is broadcast live for the first time by the BBC in Great Britain.
1939 - Byron Nelson's one and only win in the US Open.
1940 - After ten years as a professional, Ben Hogan wins for the first time on the US Tour.
1945 - Byron Nelson wins 18 of the 31 tournaments he plays on the American tour that year (including eleven in a row); an achievement never likely to be repeated.
1946 - Patty Berg wins the first Ladies US Open at Spokane and the only time the championship was contested as match-play.
1947 - Golf is broadcast on TV for the first time in the United States.
1950 - Creation of the LPGA.
1951 - American Francis Ouimet becomes the first non-British captain of the Royal and Ancient of St Andrews. Release of the film "Follow The Sun", relating how Ben Hogan returned to the highest level of the game after a terrible car crash at the beginning of 1949.
1952 - Worldwide standardization of the rules of golf and the scrapping of the "stymie".
1953 - A year of grace for Ben Hogan, who wins the three majors he plays (Masters, US Open, Open Championship), an exploit known as the "Triple Crown". He was unable to attempt the Grand Slam, being unable to return to America in time for that year's PGA Championship. The first Canada Cup (later to become the World Cup in 1967) won by Argentina.
1954 - Although stricken with cancer (to which she would succumb two years later), American golfer Babe Zaharias wins her third US Ladies Open Championship.
1957 - Japan wins the Canada Cup, initiating an explosion of interest that leads to it becoming the second largest golfing nation after the United States.
1958 - The match-play format is dropped at the PGA Championship and replaced by 72 holes of stroke play. The first edition of the World Men's Amateur Team Golf Championships (the Eisenhower Trophy) takes place at St Andrews. The first of four wins by Arnold Palmer at the Masters.
1959 - Creation of the Asian professional golf tour.
1960 - Arnold Palmer revives the Grand Slam concept. After winning the Masters and the US Open, he crosses the Atlantic to play in the centenary Open Championship at St Andrews. His dream fades when only coming second, one stroke behind Australian winner Kel Nagle.
1962 - The first success in a Grand Slam tournament by a 22 year-old Jack Nicklaus, who beats the great Arnold Palmer in a play-off at the US Open at Oakmont, at that time known as "Arnie's back yard". "Arnie's Army" takes an initial dislike to Nicklaus, an animosity that lasts for several years!
1963 - New Zealand's Bob Charles becomes the first "leftie" to win a Grand Slam tournament by winning The Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
1964 - The first World Ladies Amateur Team Championships (the Espirito Santo Trophy) is won by France. Mickey Wright wins her fourth US Open Ladies Championship.
1965 - By winning the US Open, South African Gary Player becomes the third player in history to complete the modern Grand Slam (Americans Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan being the others). Jack Nicklaus joins this threesome the following year by winning The Claret Jug at Muirfield.
1967 - The death of Francis Ouimet on September 3rd.
1969 - The death of "Sir" Walter Hagen on October 6th.
1970 - American professionals break with the PGA of America and create the PGA Tour.
1971 - On February 6th during the Apollo 14 space mission, astronaut Alan Shepard hits a 6-iron shot on the moon's surface. In the space of three weeks, the American Lee Trevino wins the US Open, the Canadian Open and The Open Championship. Death of Bobby Jones on December 18th.
1972 - Creation of the European Tour.
1974 - The "Big Ball" (1.68 inches) is accepted by the Royal and Ancient and is used at The Open Championship for the first time.
1975 - Lee Elder is the first coloured player to be invited to the Masters. American Tom Watson wins his first Open Championship.
1976 - The first playing of the British Ladies Open is won by Jenny Lee Smith.
Jack Nicklaus ends the season as the top-ranked American golfer for the eighth time.
1978 - The first metal woods arrive on the scene. Nancy Lopez becomes the darling of American crowds by winning nine LPGA tournaments in her first season as a professional.
1979 -Following years of American domination in the Ryder Cup, Europeans included alongside British players for the first time – much due to the emergence of a young Seve Ballesteros on the world stage – Seve promptly winning that year's Open Championship, becoming only the second Continental (after Arnaud Massy) to do so.
1980 - Severiano Ballesteros becomes the first European to win the Masters at Augusta.
1983 - American Tom Watson wins his fifth Open Championship, but his first in England, at Royal Birkdale.
1984 - The official opening on August 25th of the first golf course in China at Zhongshan in Guangdong Province.
1985 - The first victory by the Europeans in the Ryder Cup played, and the first of four played at the Belfry, near Birmingham.
1986 - The sixth and final win in a Major Championship for Jack Nicklaus at the Masters. At the age of 46, the "Golden Bear" takes his record of Grand Slam wins to eighteen.
1987 - The first win for the European team in the Ryder Cup on American soil, at Muirfield Village (Ohio).
1990 - Creation of the Solheim Cup, the ladies' equivalent to the Ryder Cup. The R & A decides that from now on only the big ball will be allowed.
1994 - Creation of the Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour's equivalent to the Ryder Cup and to be played in "off" years between the United States and a team from the Rest of the World.
1996 - The concept of slow play makes a first appearance in the rules of golf.
1997 - After winning three US Amateur titles, a much-heralded Tiger Woods wins his first Grand Slam title at the Masters aged just 21, "Tiger" winning at Augusta by 12 strokes over his nearest rival. Death of Ben Hogan on September 25th.
1999 - Death of Gene Sarazen on May 13th.
2001 - As he dons his second green jacket at Augusta, Tiger Woods becomes the first player in history to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time after winning the US Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship from the previous year. Not quite a grand slam but certainly a "Tiger Slam". Resulting from the 9/11 attacks, the Ryder Cup, due to be held a week later at the Belfry, is cancelled. It was resuscitated the following year and thereafter held in even-numbered years.
2003 - All the pundits thought it would be Phil Mickelson, but forty years after Bob Charles, it is the Canadian Mike Weir who becomes the second left-handed golfer in history to win a Grand Slam tournament, the Masters at Augusta.
2004 - After a dozen or more years battling in the Majors, Phil Mickelson finally wins his first Grand Slam event at Augusta. This same year, Arnold Palmer bids farewell to Augusta in front of his huge following.
2005 - Jack Nicklaus plays his final Open Championship at St Andrews, an emotional ending as the Golden Bear signs off with a birdie on his final hole. Colin Montgomerie tops the European rankings for the eighth time.
2006 - The Europeans win the Ryder Cup for the third time in a row. As in 2004, the US team is defeated on the Irish fairways of the K-Club (18.5 to 9.5), the Europeans winning each one of the five series of matches. The death of Byron Nelson on September 26th.
2007 - Arnold Palmer hits the inaugural drive at the Masters and thus becomes the event's "Honorary Masters Starter".
2008 - Tiger Woods wins his fourteenth Major, beating compatriot Rocco Mediate in a play-off. Irishman Padraig Harrington makes it two-in-a-row at The Open Championship in July. A month later he wins the PGA Championship, becoming the first European since Tommy Armour (1930) to win the final leg of the Grand Slam. Swedish golfer Annika Sörenstam, winner of ten ladies Grand Slam titles and with 70 other victories worldwide, announces her retirement in December.
2009 - Golf is reintroduced as an Olympic sport and will join the Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Tom Watson, aged almost 60, just fails to win a 6th Open Championship at Turnberry and so join Harry Vardon on that magical number. South Korean Yong-Eun Yang becomes the first Asian to win a Grand Slam event and, in so doing, is the first player to beat Tiger Woods in a Major when Woods was leading, or sharing the lead, going into the final round.
2010 - Jack Nicklaus joins Arnold Palmer in hitting the inaugural drive at this year's Masters and so reviving atradition started by Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod in 1963.
2011 - The death at the age of 54 of Seve Ballesteros.
2012 - After almost 80 years with only men as members, Augusta National opens its doors to lady members. One of two elected this year is Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State during the George W Bush administration. In September at Medinah, Europe won their 5th Ryder Cup out of 6 contests, overcoming the largest ever last day deficit by a visiting side on either side of the Atlantic. 10-6 down after the fourballs and foursomes, Europe won the first 5 singles matches and eventually won 8 ½ pts out of 12 on the last day.