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Golf, a sport that consists of an open course, single ball, a series of small holes, and various clubs—is known as one of the stuffier, more traditional, more rigid sports played in the United States. At some sports games, crowds go wild with face paint, banners, and beer, but on the golf course, a reserved, modest, tasteful spectatorship if preferred. With such a contrast to other types of popular sports, what makes golf a game worth watching or playing?
One of the many reasons to enjoy golf is its history. Many modern-day sports have ancient counterparts, and golf is no exception. Its early predecessor was paganica, which involved a bent stick and leather ball. However, golf evolved more quickly than some of the other sports that are popular today. Modern golf—or something akin to it—emerged in Scotland in the 1400s, and it moved to England in the 1500s. For a while, it was even outlawed, because its popularity was thought to distract people from civic duties, such as military services. In its European manifestation, golf was known as an elite sport for both men and women, favored by the ruling class. Mary, Queen of Scots, is known to have played, for instance. Established groups or clubs of golfers formed in 1744, first with the “Gentlemen of Honor” or the “Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.”
In the 1800s, the sport developed, creating comprehensive rules and implementing rules about standardized equipment. This is when the formality of golf was solidified, elevating golf from an informal game with no distinction between amateur and professional to a game with matches, bets, and spectators. As professional golf made strides, golf superstars came to light, such as Bobby Jones and Walter Hagan, in amateur and pro games respectively. In the 1930s when many from that generation of golf pros retired, some changes were ushered in, such as even more sophisticated equipment. With slightly modified conditions, the number of hits required to reach holes lowered, and potential speeds increased, introducing a new degree of competition.
Today, that competitive spirit is alive and well in golf, making it a fascinating sport for those who prefer a traditional spectator atmosphere that seems non-traditional by today’s norms at sports games. Place bets, or be mesmerized by the grad trophies that are on the line—the Wanamaker Trophy, the Ryder Cup, the Claret Jug, the Amateur Championship Trophy, the Masters Trophy, or the US Open Trophy. Instead of enjoying a can of Arizona's Arnold Palmer at home, buy tickets to the game that is synonymous with his name to get the full golf experience.