K N K B W e b m u s e u m
     
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 of colf
 
Game of kolf
 
History of golf
Colf (early golf) in America
 
 
 
 
 
Kolf video in english (1984 | 8:14 min)
   
     
7. Game of kolf  
 
The exact origin of the game of kolf is as difficult to determine as that of the game of colf. The period of uncertainty falls between 1700 and 1730. 1730 was the year of formation of the still existing kolf-club 'Utrecht St. Eloyen Gasthuis'. This club has always been part of the The St. Eloy's or Blacksmith Guild of Utrecht. The kolf-court originally belonged to the adjoining public house 'The Holland Garden' (a heraldic device) on the Boterstraat. When the public house was closed the court was simply connected to the 'guest-house' (hospice) on the other side, which belonged to the guild. There it is to this day. This club provides us with a firm date.
 
For the rmainder conclusions have to be drawn from some data. An anonymous author, writing under the motto 'Concorde nous guide' wrote a 'Treatise on Kolf' in 1792. He does not mention anything about the origin of Kolf. Nearly all kolf-courts were constructed near public houses,
 
The layout of the course is simply a shortened mail-course without the 'archet' in the center. The rules of kolf as they appear in the 'Concorde' books show a marked relationship with the older rules of Mail, be it in a version adapted to the shorter form of play. The most essential difference with Mail is that the ball reaches a destination after having ricochetted from the posts rather than the posts being the ultimate destination. This lies in the nature of the short game. All in all we are lead to suppose that the game was conceived in a public house, perhaps by some former colfers who could not forget their old long game and a sympathetic publican who thought of making up for the loss of turnover which he had sustained when the colfers stopped playing.
 
The game of colf had always aroused a lot of thirst. Already in 1500 the magistrates of Delft had ordained that colf for grown-ups was admissible inasmuch as they played for 'a modest round' (of drinks) 'according to the (social) condition and status of the players'. In 1762 the same magistrates ruled that the keepers of kolf-courts had to be in possession of, or inmediately apply for, a license for extensive dispensing of liquor. The publican of 'In the white dog and the black one' in Rotterdam left no doubt about his intentions. His pub-sign read:
Lovers of kolf, here hang club and ball
for the Rotterdammers, for them all
who wants to play kolf, let him come hither
but bring your ducates and balls with yer
 
The confession of a player on the wall of a kolf-court in The Hague is also rather revealing:
 
One plays kolf cheaply here
and sweats here for the joy
As playing ball makes purse and body sweat
I am a fool no more nor buy my sweat so dear
But love, in modesty, wine women and good fare
 
Publicans also provided prizes in the form of silver kolf-balls and the like to lure the players to their courts.
 
The game, thus developed, grew tremendously popular wintin a short period. Concorde's first book of 1769 lists no fewer than 190 kolf-courts in and around the city of Amsterdam, 31 of them covered. In the second issue, 23 years later, there are 165 courts in the same area, 45 of them covered. The total of all the listed courts in that issue is 350, 149 of them covered.
The listing is far from complete. Kolf-courts could be found in other provinces, like Zeeland and Frieland as well. In Goes in Zeeland, for example, there were at least two kolf-courts with the public houses 'Prinses Marie' and 'De Prins van Oranje'. Two posts of the latter court date from 1772. On early 18th century pictures players can be seen playing kolf with clubs and balls of the colf type.Gradually clubs became heavier and balls became larger the better to meet the requirements of the new game. In the long run the two posts which used to stand straight up were put in an inclined position (towards each other). Concorde praises sajet balls (tightly wound crude wool) covered with leather and sewn with copper thread for their resistance against disintegration when becoming wet on an outdoor court. There were other balls stuffed with hair (like the old colf balls) of with tightly wound feathers. Clubs had iron or brass heads.
 
Concorde shows a preference for long courts of 33 to 39 meters length. He thought that a good court should measure al least some 24 to 27 meters, Many were shorter though and today's standard length for a court is 17,5 meters.
 
The growth of the new game between 1730 and 1800 may well be called spectacular. After 1800 the decline sets in. The introduction of the rubber ball around 1840 did not help. In 1841 the first warning against the game becoming extinct was given. Many of the covered courts were converted into banqueting and theatre halls. Billiards replaced kolf.
 
The only province were the game of kolf continued was Noord-Holland. On the 13th May 1885 Dr. G.C. van Balen Blanken founded the Netherlands Kolf Union at Haarlem in an effort to rally the remaining kolf-players and stem the decline. Nine kolfsocieties joined the Union at its foundation. Three of these still exist today: 'De Vier Enen' at Spanbroek, 'Op Maat' at Zuid-Scharwoude and 'Over de Helft' at Nieuwe Niedorp. In a later stage the old Utrecht club also joined the Union. Today we count about 600 kolf-players, men and women, and 31 clubs are united in the Union, since 1985 the Royal Kolf Union.
 
The beaten-earth and cement courts have been replaced by artificial fibre courts. One technical problem confronts today's kolf players. A rubber ball improves for play by age. After about a century the bounce in the rubber has vanished and it rolls more gently than before. In the delicate game of kolf this is of great importance. No method has been discovered to speed this process of ageing up. So the sajet-balls may well be in the majority in the end.
 
Read more:
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 of colf
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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