The Oldest Golf Course in England
In 1608, five years after King James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, a seven-hole course was laid out in Blackheath, London by Scottish courtiers who were homesick for their beloved game. This fact gave rise to the Royal Blackheath's claim to be nearly 400 years old and thus the oldest golf club in England.
The King's Golf Course - The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews
In 1834, Murray Belshes of the St. Andrews Society of Golfers had approached King William IV, asking him to agree to be their patron. The King not only agreed but also permitted the society to rename itself to "The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews" (or R & A for short). Since the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers had left Leith and had yet to re-establish itself at Muselburgh, it's members were not allowed to challange R & A's claim to the title of "Home of golf". From then on, the authority and eminence of the R & A had been undisputed, except in the continent of North America. The R & A was responsible for formulating the "Rules of Golf" in 1897 and in 1919, at a meeting in Edinburgh, the most prominent British clubs appointed the R & A the "supreme ruling authority for the management and control of the game". Since then, St. Andrews has become the most revered golf course in the world.
Golfing at St. Andrews - This 1798 illustration shows a game in progress on the first green.
Royal Golf Courses
Many famous golf clubs which now bear the proud title "Royal" were created in the last two decades of the 19th century. They were Lytham & St. Annes (1886), St. George's (1887), Ashdown Forest and Nirkdale (1889) from England, Belfast (1881), Dublin (1885), Portrush (1888) and County Down at Newcastle (1889) from Ireland and Porthcawl (1891) and St. David's (1894) in Wales.
Golf - A Royal Game. Golf has always enjoyed the patronage of Royals. This illustration from 1563 shows Mary Queen of Scots having a game at St. Andrews.
Golf Goes to Asia
A club was founded in Calcutta in 1829, later to become the Royal Calcutta. This was the first golf club outside the British Isles and it was followed in 1842 by another course on the opposite side of India at Bombay. The Indian Amateur Championship which began in 1892, is also the world's oldest national tournament, apart from the British Open and the Amateur which were founded in 1860 and 1885 respectively.
British expatriates took the game to Asia, via India in 1829. From 1888 to 1890, courses were built in Taiping in Malaya, Bangkok in Thailand and in Hong Kong. The first Japanese golf course was opened in 1901 on the sloped of Mount Rokko, near Kobe.