Monday, March 31, 2014


Ancient Egyptian golfer with his caddy behind
him holding out his putter. Distinctive
hooked pin in front of him marks the hole.

The modern game of golf is known to have been played in some form or other for a number of centuries. When and where it was actually invented has been debated however. Now, careful analysis of ancient Egyptian carvings in tombs and temples has indicated the true origin of golf to be ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian golfers holding their
distinctive style of golf clubs.

The origins of golf are unclear and much debated. However, it is generally accepted that modern golf evolved in Scotland during the Middle Ages. The game did not find international popularity until the late 19th century, when it spread into the rest of the United Kingdom and then to the British Empire and the United States of America.
A golf-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht, where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. The winner was whoever hit the ball with the least number of strokes into a target several hundred yards away. Some scholars argue that this game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was also played in 17th-century Netherlands and that this predates the game in Scotland. There are also other reports of earlier accounts of a golf-like game from continental Europe.
In April 2005, evidence re-invigorated the debate concerning the origins of golf.  Recent evidence unearthed by Prof. Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University suggests that a game similar to modern-day golf was played in China since Southern Tang Dynasty, 500 years before golf was first mentioned in Scotland.” (Wikipedia)

Bronze head for a golf club (driver) found
in an ancient Egyptian burial.

New evidence from ancient Egyptian tomb paintings and carvings, however, now shows that golf was invented and played in ancient Egypt over 4,000 years ago. Funny-shaped, but recognizable, golf clubs have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and illustrations of the game being played have been found painted and carved on tomb and temple walls leading to the speculation among some so-called “experts” that playing golf was a sacred ritual to the ancient Egyptians.

Wooden putter found in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

Indeed, careful study of many of the golf clubs held by the ancient Egyptian players shows that they have some sort of fork at the other end of the handle, evidently a “grabber” for retrieving the ball from the hole so they would not have to bend down so far (see below). This seems to be a clever adaptation that our contemporary golfers could emulate. Additionally, we can see that the head of the club is at a different angle than modern golf clubs, and the handle is longer so the golfer would have had to stand farther back from the ball to swing at it. 

An ancient Egyptian golfer wearing the distinctive golfing
dress of the period.  Note: in a display of gender equality
his caddy is a female.

How can we explain the fact that golf died out for 3,000 or more years only to be reinvented in China and Europe? Illustrations also show us that golfing outfits, the clothing they wore, was just as silly in ancient Egypt as it was in recent history. Indeed, according to tomb carvings and paintings, it appears that the players often had to wear kilts, animal masks, and headdresses. My guess is that after a short period of popularity in ancient Egypt people just felt too silly wearing the outfits, and quit playing the game. Evidently, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Oh yes, and happy April 1st.


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