Source: Vermont Golf Magazine | Issue: Summer 2009 | Author: Ross Forbes
Synopsis: This article discusses what different games have lead to the creation of the sport of golf we see today. It also speaks to the evolution of golf that occurred throughout our history.
Ball and stick games have, in all likelihood, been around as long as man himself. The irresistible urge to swat at a nearby stone has befallen most of us at one time or another. Not many years ago I observed my sons’ earliest efforts, which predated even their first birthdays. Apparently we are born with the urge, and some of us never lose it. Now, granted, this act alone does not constitute a game. Nevertheless, history has shown that many formal games have, in fact, evolved utilizing this seemingly simple premise.
The Romans enjoyed a game called “paganica” using a leather ball stuffed with feathers that they propelled with a curved stick. Although the rules of the game are unknown it may have been similar to the English game of “cambuca” which was played in the 14th century. In this game a wooden ball was utilized and a distant target was predetermined by the players.
One of the earliest known depictions of a golf-like game is a roundel at the Gloucester Cathedral in England that dates back to the 1350’s. The stained glass window shows a figure swinging a curved stick or club at a stationary ball. Considering that there are no records of golf being played in England for another two hundred and fifty years, it seems very likely that it is portraying a cambuca player.