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1200-1450 | 1450-1700 | 1700-1885 | 1885-now
   
     
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)
   
     
3. 14th century: the first charters  
In 1360 the Magistrates of the city of Brussels issued an ordinance: 'Whoever plays ball with a club, that is at 20 shillings or at their upper garment' (Item 'Wie met colven tsolt es om twintich scell' oft op hare overste cleet'). Brief and clear!
 
This is the first of an endless series by which scores of cities in the Low Countries tried to ban the game within their walls because of the breakageand of the damage resulting from it. The size of the fine in this first ordinance indicates the gravity of the offence in the eyes of the magistrates. Confiscation of clothes and otherwise were a method of collecting the fines. They could be redeemed later against payment of the amount due.
 
On Saint Barbara's Day (4th December) 1387 Albrecht of Bavaria, Regent of Holland (for his mad brother William V) sealed a charter for the city of Brielle. It was an anti-betting ordinance of that city ('any game ... for money, whatever it may be called'. Four axceptions were made to the general prohibition, however: kaatsen, backgammon-by day and not by night-, to play the ball with the club ('den bal mitter colven te slaen') without the fortifications of our afore said city, and shooting with the arch.
 
Whether these four exceptions were inserted by the city or by the Regent, because they were the four games popular at the court of Holland, cannot be traced. The Counts of Holland were notorious gamblers!
 
Whatever else, the charter shows that the game was accepted, even with betting, as long as it was played outside the city's walls.
 
This ordinance is even more typical and more specific than the earlier one from Brussels. The game, which was too popular to stop it, had to be dislocated from the cities and to be transferred to places where the chances of damage to persons and property were minimal. And damage there was. Many ordinances are quite specific about it: Streets were blocked and good people injured. We can read that windows were smashed, mud and dirt were thrown against buildings by the clubs, persons using My Lord's streets were struck in their faces, against their bodies and against their legs, grass and crops were damaged, cows were chased away ...and all of this is but a small selection!
 
Play commenced right in front of the door of a player's house: in the 17th century one even sees children commencing their play in the hall and nobody seemed to worry about the damage. Breaking of window panes and church windows, some of them with stained glass, is most frequnetly encountered.
 
Before leaving Brielle let us mention that a wide and long street there was named Kolf-alley (now Kaatscourt) and that it had an inn at one corner called 'The Club' ('De Kolf').
 
The desire of the magistrates to push the colfers out of the city is quite understandable!
 
'Twenty days into February in 1389 after the reckoning of our Court' (The Court of Holland used the Easter Style at that time: today we call this 1390) the same Albrecht, who had recently succeeded his mad brother as Count of Holland, sealed another charter. He wished to display his gratitude to the city of Haarlem for services it had rendered him. He hoped moreover that they would render him still more services, as becomes clear in reading through the charter.
 
He granted the city 'the course', which they had already been using, 'for eternity'. It was a stragely shaped piece of land and therefor difficult to describe in the charter, It reads that the grant concerns 'the course that lies without the Forest Gate towards the forest, as big and as small it lies there in these days'. In a way it was a planning permission in a modern style. The course was destined as 'a playing field'-'for eternal days'. The term 'course' was only used in connection with kaatsen and colf at the time. That is was used for colf is clear from a later charter dated 22nd August 1497 concerning the mowing rights of the course and sealed by Philip the Fair of Burgundy, then Count of Holland. Haarlem is a city where one finds few ordinances against playing colf in the city.
 
This is not surprising when one considers the magnificent course they possessed just outside the city gates. On 12th December 1483 the Mayors of Haarlem had already granted the mowing rights of the course to the 'Masters of the Hours' of the Parish Church (now the cathedral) 'provided that, notwithstanding this privilege, the course remains lying there as a playing field in accordance with the charter'. From the same document we learn that the course had been mown by the city's archery companies before then. This was the ordinance which Philip the Fair confirmed in 1497.
 
So Haarlem was unique in having a mown public golf course as early as the 15th century. Later on, when the game became still more popular in the 17th century, another colf-field was set up at the other side of Haarlem, outside Cross-gate.
 
If Haarlem calls itself the City of Sports today it can proudly point to the possession of the world's first public golf course at such an early date.
 
Read more:
History of colf and kolf
Low Countries and Scotland
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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