Looking for fun facts about golf? From its origins in ancient Rome to why it was once banned, we’ve got loads of fascinating golf facts for you!
Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world, but did you know its history dates all the way back to the early 15th century?
The game has developed so much over the centuries. For example, a standard 18-hole course was only introduced in 1764, a full 300 years after it was first invented!
Golf is obviously very different today, so we’ve put together these fun facts about golf to ensure your knowledge of the game is up to par. Hopefully these facts will come in handy if you’re ever out on a course with a very slow player!
Don’t let the concept of hitting a ball with a stick fool you – the game is not easy at all.
Professional players argue that there’s far more to the sport than hitting a ball across a field, with 90% of the challenge being purely mental. That mental fortitude is often key to conquering the top tournaments, especially when you consider that the longest game of golf on record lasted a staggering 82 days.
Of course, golf isn’t only about winning, it’s about striving for perfection, right? With over 40,000 golf courses worldwide to visit, you’re sure to see some beautiful places on your travels.
Right, we’re about to tee off. Here are 15 golf facts that will amaze you!
Table of Contents
15 Fun Facts About Golf
1. Golf is the tenth most popular sport in the world
Golf’s popularity has grown considerably since its inception at the beginning of the 15th century, and is now the tenth most popular sport globally.
It enjoys an audience of around 450 million fans worldwide, with over 6 million tuning in for the 2020 PGA Championships, one of the sport’s most prestigious competitions.
2. The game doesn’t have a standardized playing area
Golf is highly diverse in terms of the terrain it’s played upon. No two courses are the same, varying in physical geography, hazards, and grass type.
This contributes to the game’s difficulty, requiring players to assess the terrain quickly and determine the appropriate club and shot for the course and hole in question. If it’s windy, all calculations are thrown out the window.
3. Terrain itself can pose a significant obstacle to players
While no two courses are equal, the same can be said about each shot taken. The terrain your ball lies in can drastically alter the trajectory of your shot, with rocks, water, and sand some of the more popular hazards encountered on the course.
A fairway shot will always be much easier than one taken from a sand bunker, where the granularity of the sand can make for unpredictable shots, the bane of golfers worldwide.
4. The word golf comes from the Netherlands
Though the game itself was born in Scotland, its name is rooted in the Dutch word for ‘club.’
Pronounced ‘kolve’ or ‘kolf’ in Dutch, the term was introduced to the Scots in the 14th century. Eventually the Celtic dialect modified its pronunciation over time to ‘gouff’ or ‘goff’ before it eventually morphed into the name we know it by today.
5. Golf was initially played by shepherds to pass time
Many centuries ago, Scottish shepherds played golf to pass the time and break up the monotony of long, laborious days.
Rocks and sticks were the tools of the trade here, long before the invention of balls and clubs, with Scotland’s geography proving a perfect challenge for bored herders. That’s why they say Scotland is the spiritual home of golf as it was invented here.
6. Early golf balls were made from leather and stuffed with feathers
Contrary to today’s painstakingly designed golf balls, the original design constituted a leather ball stuffed with ordinary bird feathers.
Oddly enough, these were surprisingly effective, traveling much further than many of the designs that followed in their wake. They were last used in the 19th century before being replaced by modern alternatives.
7. Other balls were made from wood, such as beech
Post-leather/feather designs turned to other lightweight materials such as beechwood. Naturally, these were hand-carved, which made creating uniformly round balls incredibly difficult.
They also made the game much more challenging to play as each shot was really unpredictable. Needless to say, wooden balls weren’t around for long!
8. Golf holes must be in line with specific regulations
Golf courses must abide by strict standards to be eligible for competitive play. Regulation golf holes must be 4.25 inches in diameter and reach a depth of 4 inches.
Ensuring holes meet requirements isn’t an issue today, with specially designed hole-cutters removing the required soil in one pull, ready to play.
9. Golf holes actually move quite regularly
Golfers are conscious of the sport’s environmental impact and partly address this issue by regularly moving a course’s holes. This is particularly important during busy seasons that put the green at risk of wearing out
. Moving the holes gives the terrain time to recover and prevents players from becoming intimately familiar with courses.
10. Mary, Queen of Scots is known as the mother of golf
While undoubtedly our most unusual golf fact, it’s nevertheless true that many consider Mary, Queen of Scots, to be the mother of golf.
She’s believed to be the first woman to have taken part in the sport and was such a fan that she reportedly played a few holes just days after her own husband’s murder! Needless to say, some found this rather less charming than we did, and her reputation was never quite the same afterward.
11. Golf was once banned
Though Mary approved of the game, not all royalty were on the same page. King James II actually banned the game entirely in 1457, believing that it was a distraction to Scottish military personnel and thus had to be addressed.
While prohibited for a period until peace had resumed, the public largely ignored the rule anyway. This is definitely one of the most interesting facts about golf not everyone realises!
12. Women weren’t accepted by the sport until the 19th century
While Mary, Queen of Scots, was an early golfing icon, other women couldn’t enjoy the game for themselves for many centuries after her death.
Golf was considered the sport of the elite, and even high-society ladies were deemed to be unworthy of playing. St. Andrew’s introduction of The Ladies Club in 1867 changed things considerably, making the sport accessible to millions more.
13. Lucky balls are left unwashed
You heard that right! Superstitions often creep in with any sport, and golf is no exception. Many players believe to this day that a ball that’s given you a good game should be left unwashed so as not to wash away your luck.
14. The longest drive ever recorded went over 500 yards
The longest recorded drive was struck by Michael Hoke Austin, an English-American Professional Golfer, and covered 515 yards during the 1974 U.S. National Seniors Tournament. This record remains unbroken, though many have come close. Is this the year Bryson DeChambeau finally beats it?
15. The most expensive golf club ever sold is also the oldest verified club
The world’s most expensive golf club sold for a staggering $181,000.
Known as the ‘Long-Nosed Putter Club,’ it was manufactured by Andrew Dickson in the early 18th century, making it both the oldest verified club and the most expensive ever sold to date. Dickson’s stamp is still visible today, proving the veracity of its age.
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
Have any of our fun facts about golf driven you to give the sport a swing?
We certainly hope so! If you’ve any golf facts to share with the rest of the community, feel free to leave a message in the comments below!