The origins of golf are not really known. China, Scotland, and the Netherlands all claim to be the place where golf began. China sites an 11th century text that references a golf-like sport being played as proof that they invented golf, while the Netherlands site a 13th century text that implies that a golf-like sport was played in their country as their proof that they created the game of golf. However, while golf-like sports seemed to have been developing in other parts of the world, most people credit Scotland with the invention of golf as we know it today.
The oldest known golf course in the world is the Old Links at Mussleburgh in Scotland. Legends dictate that this course was played on as early as 1567, when Mary, Queen of Scots is supposed to have played here. While legends say that this golf course was used back in 1567 there really isn't any hard evidence to implicate that this course was used until somewhere around 1672.
The earliest games of golf had 11 holes instead of 18, however, the game was an out and back game so a single golf game ended up having 22 holes. The course was usually set up along a narrow band of land that contained a variety of terrain and hazards that the golfers had to negotiate around. By the 17th century the number of holes was reduced to nine, producing a game of 18 holes, which is the number that we are now familiar with.
The Modernization of Golf
The 19th century was when golfing was modernized by technological advancements. Better quality mowers produced manicured courses, and better golf balls and metal golf club shafts allowed the ball to be hit farther. These advancements allowed golf engineers to design longer and more difficult courses, which increased the challenge and prestige of the game.
Today golf is one of the most popular sports in the world and its evolution continues. First of all new technology and building materials have revolutionized the construction of the golf club. Graphite is now use to create lighter, easier to use golf clubs. New training tools have also been developed to help improve a golfer's swing, put, and overall golf game performance. Golf balls have also been revolutionized. Core design has been changed to produce a variety of core compressions, which impact the performance of each ball.