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A Tradition of Excellence

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Golf is a tradition of excellence. The 15th century Scottish game is one of the world’s most beloved pastimes. The quaint rolling greens and the majestic scenery that comprise most golf courses arise from  meticulous designs by renowned architects, landscapers, and former players to challenge recreational golfers and world champions alike. Whistling Straits in Mosel, Wisconsin, the Old Course at St Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland, and the Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Australia point to the dedication and ingenuity imperative in crafting the world’s most celebrated courses.

As golf grew in popularity, James II of Scotland worried that the game would distract his subjects. His father, James I, was assassinated in 1437. James II banned golf in 1457, hoping his countrymen would turn their focus to archery. The king determined that his life and the lives of his heirs were more important than putting around in a field of grass. However, 47 years later James IV, an avid golfer, lifted the ban.

Unlike many ball sports, golf does not have a standardized area of play. The varied terrains pose great challenges to players. Golfers begin in the teeing ground, drive their balls onto the fairway, and skillfully hit their balls towards the putting green, which houses the cup. However, players must avoid hazards which typically take the forms of lakes, ponds, and rivers, or bunkers and sand traps. 
 James IV could not have imagined golf’s global impact. PGA golfers have become household names: Tiger Woods, one of the highest paid athletes of all time; Jack Nicklaus, a champion who designed golf courses after his playing career; and, Arnold Palmer, who is credited with popularizing the game among working class viewers. Society and the sport itself did not take women seriously as golfers until the 20th century and even  barred them from even entering many golf courses. But pioneers like Mildred “Babe” Didrikson and contemporary golfers like Michelle Wie helped to shift golf’s sexist history, bringing more viewership to the Ladies Professional Golf Association, better known by the LPGA acronym. 

Golf’s rich traditions are documented in many short stories, poems, and longer works. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” describes a young girl’s navigation of a golf-playing, elitist town. This Life I’ve Led, written by Mildred Didrikson, details the seemingly insurmountable obstacles she and fellow female athletes faced during the  popularization of golf in the mid-50’s. Dr. A. Mackenzie’s Golf Architecture: Economy in Course Construction and Green-Keeping illustrates the relationship between the golfer and the course, specifically highlighting the great lengths designers and engineers go through in their quests to create the perfect course.  Golf’s tradition will continue to be documented, as fans and participants alike find their own parallels to the great game. 

By Logan Williams

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