Forces
James Leavey's Corner
Golf

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by James Leavey, editor, The FOREST Guide to Smoking in London
and The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland


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James Leavey
Throughout the recorded history of mankind, virtually every civilisation has enjoyed playing a game with a club and a ball; probably because it made a welcome change to being beaten over the head.

Many cultures claim to be the originator of golf - such as the Chinese with Ch'ui Wan.The Roman scribe, Catullus, recorded the game of Pangea - an ancient forerunner of modern Hockey, Celtic Shinty and Hurling.In Holland, Het Kolven was an early version of Ice Hockey.

Back in 1338, German shepherds were granted special dispensation to mark out their territories by striking a pebble with their crooks: the distance which the shot covered was the extent of their grazing rights.

The earliest traces of golf being played are said to date back to 1350 where in a sketch from a stained glass window at Gloucester Cathedral, England, scenes of the Battle of Crecy in France showed a man apparently preparing to strike a ball in a golf-like manner.It was probably not golf but the old English game of cambuca, a popular pastime of its day.

The late Dutch golf historian, J. H. van Hengel, acknowledged as one of the foremost experts of the origins of the game, believed that golf was probably a mixture of implements used in chole and the rules of jeu de mail, both games imported into Holland.The origin of the name golf is believed to be the Dutch word of 'colf' which means 'club'.

In medieval times, golf was also known as spel metten colve, which literally translates as 'how long', and 'colfers' were a common sight in contemporary Dutch paintings.Colf continued until the early 18th century when it suddenly fell out of fashion and was replaced by kolf, a much shorter game played on a course of some 20 metres in length.

Van Hengel's theory of colf is supported by the frequent trading links between Holland and Scotland from medieval times.Colf is believed to have travelled from east to west, across the North Sea.

The first recorded reference to chole, the derivative of hockey played in Flanders (now known as Belgium) and the possible antecedent to golf, was in 1353.In 1421, a Scottish regiment aiding the French against the English at the Siege of Bauge was introduced to chole.Three of the identified players, Hugh Kennedy, Robert Stewart and John Smale, are credited with introducing chole to Scotland.

In 15th century London, Pall Mall derived its name from an early playing place of a game which consisted of knocking a ball from one pre-determined place to another, sometimes between neighbouring villages.Some say that golf emerged when Pall Mall was completed ousted from the towns on to the nearest common land.Certainly, kolf, as it was known in the Netherlands, or goff, as it was referred to in England, was a pastime enjoyed by 15th century Kings and commoners.

By 1457, the game of gowf (as it was known in the British Isles), along with 'fute-ball' (football), was so firmly established in Scotland and its playing so widespread that an Act of Parliament was required to preserve the skills of Archery by prohibiting gowf on Sundays.

Over the next centuries, the game eventually crossed the Atlantic, either on a Scottish or Dutch ship.By 1659, golf was banned from the streets of Albany in New York - the first reference to the game in America.

1689 saw the first recorded international golf match, during which the Duke of York and John Paterstone of Scotland defeated two English noblemen on the links of Leith.By 1764, the first four holes at St Andrews were combined into two, reducing the round from twenty-two holes (11 out and in) to 18 (nine out and in).St Andrews became the world's first 18-hole golf course and set the standard for future courses, such as the Bangalore Club in India, the first golf club outside the British Isles, which opened in 1820.

In 1892, the Amateur Golf Championship of India and the East was instituted and became the first international championship event.The British took the game to the ends of their Empire, where it was promptly taken up by the local inhabitants.

In Europe, if the First World War decimated golf, the Second came close to gutting it completely: the First War took the players, the Second War the courses.Fortunately, this has all changed for the better over recent decades, especially with the enormous American interest in golf.

25 million Americans now hit the golf links every year (sometimes they hit the ball too) and for the millions of American office workers who have gone casual, 'golf style' has become the latest streetwear.

"The hottest styles in golf are less about what's on the links and more about what's on the runways," says Lanora K Everett, director of merchandising of Golden Bear Golf Centers, Inc."The old golf motifs are out and subtle tones and patterns are in.The fabrics, colors and styles allow golfers to create a casual, elegant look that's comfortable and functional for golfing but ideal for real life as well."

In recent years, golfing mania has spread throughout the world, particularly in the land of the Rising Yen. An estimated 12 million Japanese regularly play golf and the Nippon's 1700 golf courses and driving ranges are stretched to the limit.

Due to its small geographic size, high population density and the small amount of available land to live on, never mind play on, the Japanese golfing craze has spilled over into other countries of the Pacific Rim, creating a new globetrotting phenomenon - the Japanese golf tourist. Not only are the Japanese playing at the world's finest golf courses, they're also investing in new clubs, especially in Malaysia, which are a short hop by plane from Japan.

Development of golf courses by Japanese investors is seen by many as major contributors to another country's economic development and prosperity. It's said that Japanese inward investment in Britain - the largest of its kind in Europe - was at least partly attracted by the range and quality of British golf courses.

Another reason for their move overseas is the high price that golfers must pay in Japan to play golf.Besides the fact that many Japanese golfers must sometimes play in adverse conditions to keep their tee times, golf club memberships have become expensive and elevated to icons of status.Everyday fees for a round of golf to non-members of a typical Japanese club range from Y20,000 to Y30,000 a day.Corporate memberships which have also been known to be traded as a commodity, ranged in price from Y40 million to Y400 million during the late 1980s.

For many Japanese, it can be less expensive to take a trip to a golf resort in Southeast Asia, Australia or Hawaii than it would be for a week of golf back home in Japan.Lower global airfares has also made international trips more widely available for golf fanatics, while their golf widows languish at home, unless they are fortunate enough to accompany their spouses to such exotic locations as Bali, the Island of the Gods, and now one of the world's playgrounds of Paradise, where you can tee off on rice terraces or try to dig your way out of one of the largest sand bunkers in the world.

In the Asia-Pacific region, there are now more than 25 million active golfers and some 5,000 golf courses.Compare this with the USA where there are about 25 million golfers and 15,390 courses.Golf is still a case of supply and demand in the Asia-Pacific, where an estimated total investment of at least US$5 billion is being spent on new golf courses in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillippines alone.New projects include resort-oriented developments, theme parks and marinas for sea-front developments.If you're keen on the game, you can now fly, sail, drive, walk or swim to a golf course somewhere in the world, if you want to.

That's if you can afford the huge growth in green fees, especially premium green fees.Driving ranges and teaching academies are also very much in demand.Affordable public courses for the middle-class are almost non-existent in South East Asia, which probably explains why two years ago, the opening of the first public course in the working class Hong Kong suburb of Tun Mun resulted in some 10,000 new golfers taking up the game.

Typically though, golf is still very much for the rich and upper-class, whether you play at the fabulous Emirates Golf Club or at an exclusive club in Tokyo.

Whether you play in the middle of a desert or a teeming city the one thing that can be guaranteed is that the game is always the same, unless you decide the take up the latest craze for Disc Golf, whose players throw a Frisby from hole to hole.Such is its popularity that unidentified flying objects are now whizzing across Disc Golf courses around the world, from Guam to Peru.

For the traditional golfer, part of the pleasure of a round of golf is its closeness to nature.There are indeed few things as pleasant as an early morning stroll to the first tee when dew is still on the grass and plaintive birdsong is a welcome alternative to the sound (and fumes) of inner city traffic.

The golf course itself, whether it's on inner city park land or the traditional seaside links, has become a haven for wildlife.In many areas of the world, it is the only place where certain rare wild flowers can still be seen growing.

Friendship also grows on most courses, from the camaraderie of fellow golfers.And we all know that keen golfers sometimes benefit from leisurely networking with like-minded businessmen or women.

Yes, you could sit at home or in your hotel room and play virtual golf on the Internet or on your personal computer but there will always be some of us who prefer to hit the computer with a dispensable golf club and head for the nearest course and the real thing.

And the best thing about it is that most golf courses still welcome smokers, who can enjoy a leisurely puff of their favourite tobacco before or after teeing off!

Copyright James Leavey, 1999.All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the Author.

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