Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

Surprising Golf Trivia You Need to Know

Volvik Vivid Golf Ball Review image courtesy Shutterstock
Volvik Vivid Golf Ball Review image courtesy Shutterstock

Whether you want to bamboozle your family over Christmas or win a bet in your favorite bar, there are plenty of amazing golf facts that you can be sure even some experienced players don’t know. Let’s see how many of these are new to you – and which is the dummy?

Golf was invented around 1457 in Scotland. The word ‘golf’ is thought to originate from the the term ‘gentlemen only, ladies forbidden’. The game was banned several times because it was thought to be interfering with archery training. Early golf balls were made of leather wrapped in feathers, and at some stage around 1800 it’s thought that wooden balls were first used. The first round of women’s golf was played in the year 1811 in Musselburgh, Scotland. The happy winner received a fishing basket, while second- and third-place winners each won a silk scarf from Barcelona.

The first 18-hole golf course was constructed on a sheep farm in Downer’s Grove, Illinois in 1892. Businessman and golf lover Charles Blair McDonald moved to this quaint town and began constructing the course with his colleagues. The Downer’s Grove Golf Course is still intact after all of these years, although it’s since been downsized to nine holes.

Golf was the first sport played on the moon, when Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. used a 6-iron to play golf during the Apollo 14 mission, 50 years ago.

No-one knows why the golf course traditionally has 18 holes. One theory is that this is how long it takes to down a bottle of Scotch. Before golf tees were introduced, players would shape mounds of sand and place the golf ball on top. Tees came into use in the 1920s.

The word “caddy” comes from the French word for student, “cadet”, which is pronounced cad-DAY. The term “birdie” was coined accidentally by Ab Smith, who hit a “bird of a shot” in 1889. No-one can explain why a score of three under par is called an “albatross” or the term “condor” is applied to a hole-in-one on a par, which is almost as rare as two hole-in-ones in a single game of golf.

There are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball. Golf balls travel further in warm air, so if you want to improve your drive, try playing on a hot day.

Almost 80 percent of golfers will never have a handicap under 18. The average player has a 12,500-to-1 chance of making a hole-in-one, and the chance of making two hole-in-ones in a single game is 1 in 67 million.
There’s a legend that the longest putt recorded was 375 feet, but the Guinness Book of World Records recognises Jack Nicklaus’s putt in the 1964 Tournament of Champions as the longest one ever made in professional golf. The putt Nicklaus sunk to claim this unique line in the history books measured in at a whopping 110 feet long.

The driver swing speed of an average lady golfer is 62mph; 96mph for an average LPGA professional; 84mph for an average male golfer; 108mph for an average PGA Tour player; 130mph for Tiger Woods; 148-152mph for a national long drive champion.

There are plenty of players who have become legendary either through their performance or their antics on and off the course. Tiger Woods made his first hole-in-one at the age of eight. Jack Nicklaus was the first golfer who was able to successfully defend his Master’s title. Seve Ballesteros was legendarily so short tempered that apparently ““In the directory of difficult jobs, caddying for Seve Ballesteros is up there with negotiating peace in the Middle East.” At least two professionals have been know to fire their caddies in mid-game – Jessica Korda in 2013 and Robert Allenby in 2015.

China launched a crackdown on golf in an effort to conserve water and land in 2011. The construction and maintenance of golf courses is particularly resource intensive, and many Chinese cities face water and land shortages and skyrocketing housing prices. Though planners try to get around regulations by conveniently forgetting to list the golf course on their developments, China shut down a total of 127 golf courses from 2011 to 2018.

Officially the highest golf course in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Yak Course lies on an Indian military base in the Himalayas. A challenging course to play on at the best of times, at an altitude of 3,970m it’s often closed due to local weather conditions.

In Japan, if you hit a hole in one, you are expected to fund an expensive party for all your buddies. That’s why Japanese golfers often have ‘hole-in-one insurance’ in case they’re lucky/unlucky enough to score.

(Of course the dummy fact is the origin of the word ‘golf’. It’s actually though to derive from the Dutch ‘kolve’, meaning ‘club’.)