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Colf - Kolf - Golf
 
 
     
History of colf and kolf
 
Low Countries and Scotland
 
14th century: the first charters
15th century: Growth
16th century: Further growth and extension
17th century: The zenith and the end
Game of kolf
History of golf
Colf (early golf) in America
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kolf video in english (1984 | 8:14 min)
   
     
2. Low Countries and Scotland  

 
Nobody knows who invented the game. It is unlikely that this puzzle will ever be solved. To find an answer one would have to find the first game and the persons who invented it.
The mere fact that records of the game or pictures can not be found at a certain time or at a certain place is in itself no evidence that the game was not played there.
 
Keeping to the records and pictures: these are decidedly older and more numerous to the east of the North Sea than to the west. As far as pictures are concerned, the first picture in Scotland on which golfers may be seen dates from 1746. In the Low Countries there are known to be more than 450 pictures prior to that date and commencing around 1500. This may not be more than half the total.
 
Let it be said again that for a critical historian this is not a argument for or against the points of view of either party to the discussion. Documentary evidence in Scotland begins in 1457, in the Low Countries in 1261. There are a great number of references of the early days in that area.
 
 

When looking up at the maps showing the early development of the game it is curious to note that all the places where golf was played in Scotland are on the side facing the Low Countries. Golf did not in fact reach the west coast of Scotland before about 1850. Also all the places where it was played in Scotland were ports which traded across the sea with the Low Countries.

One thing, however, is certain. There has been considerable interaction between players in the Low Countries and players in Scotland. From 1485 -and maybe earlier- to well into the 17th century there was a massive export of balls from Holland and Zeeland to Scotland, while around 1650 Scottish wooden clubs were exported to, and used in, Holland. Regular contacts between the two countries afforded plenty of opportunity for exchange.

The relationship between Scotland and the Low Countries is a happy one and of very long standing. Never, in the long and tubulent history of Europe, have the countries been in war. They are probably the only two countries that can state this.

 
The oldest ambassadors from Holland to Scotland must have been the fishermen. In their frail vessels they followed the shoals of herring along the East coast of Britain in the late summer and early autumn. This took them all the way up to the Shetland Islands and the Orkneys where ancient separate Dutch chuchyards bear witness of the risks involved in fishing for herring. Part of their catch was sold in Scotland.
It may not be common knowledge but to this day the coat of arms of the kingdom of Scotland and the county of Holland are absolutely identical: gules a lion rampant dexter on a field of gold. There is a series of relationships between the sovereign houses on both sides of the North Sea.
Equally there was a steady development of trade across the North Sea from the Middle Ages onward. In that period Dutch merchantmen were regular callers at Scottish ports and their counterparts frequented virtually all the ports in Holland and Zeeland. From early on they also visited the two great annual fairs, at Easter and at All Saints Day (the 'cold' market) at the city of Bergen op Zoom on the Scheldt. Exports of golf balls from there to Scotland reached a large scope.
On the West side of the North Sea there was the Senzie Fair at St. Andrews in Fife. This annual fair was held for 15 days in April from before 1350 until 1581, reaching its peak as a trade fair around 1451. It was located in the Priory grounds, probably near the Sub Prior's house: Senzie House.
 
In the 12th century the fair was visited by many merchants from the Low Countries as well as France, Norway and other commercial centres, who sold their goods there and the harbour was filled with between 200 and 300 vessels from these countries.
Unfortunately, since St. Andrews was not a Royal Borgh but a Bishop's Borgh, no customs or excise records were made.It remains a puzzle whether balls from Brabant were sold ar the fair. As from 1400 onwards the chances are there.
On the 18th October 1578 a noteworthy treaty was concluded between the city of Veere and the kingdom of Scotland. Thereby the Scottish wool staple was extablished at Veere and privileges were granted to the Scottish merchants residing there. A 'Conservator' (today he would be a consul general) was to be appointed at Veere to look after the Scottish interests arising out of the agreement. Veere's merchantmen were first mentioned in Scotland in 1471, but must have sailed there much earlier.
Diplomatic relations between Scotland and the 'Republic of the United Six (later Seven) Provinces of the Netherlands' were fostered by the Scottish king's envoy in The Hague and the 'Agent' of the Republic in Edinburgh from about 1580.
 
Not only was there trade both ways: from 1574 to 1826 Scottish mercenary soldiers served in the forces of the States General in considerable numbers. This again led to numerous marriages with Dutch women. Marriage registers, such as are left, in the Netherlands between 1574 and 1665 record some 4800 marriages of that nature. One a week!
On Adriaen van de Velde's painting of 1668, now in the National Gallery in London, two Scotsmen in kilts may be seen playing colf on the ice north of Haarlem. These were probably two of the mercenaries.
 
Read more:
 
History of colf and kolf
14th century: the first charters
15th century: Growth
16th century: Further growth and extension
17th century: The zenith and the end
Game of kolf
History of golf
Colf (early golf) in America
 
 
By courtesy of the Early Golf Foundation (Steven J.H. van Hengel's book Early Golf, 1982).  
     
     
Royal Dutch Kolf Union | St. Eloy's Hospice | Early Golf Foundation
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