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Golf's origins date back hundreds of years

The first permanent golf club was established in Montreal in 1873.
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Golf is played all over the world. It may have ancient roots, but golf remains popular among people of all ages. METRO NEWS/Photo

Many people cannot think of a better place to spend an afternoon than out on the links. From prestigious and private country clubs to public courses, more than 15,000 golf courses dot the American landscape, while there are 2,298 golf courses in Canada.

The early days of golf

The modern game of golf is believed to have origins in Scotland, although ball-and-stick games are attributed to other areas as well. For example, in the 13th century, the Dutch played a game with a leather ball being hit to reach a target. According to The Golf Historian, others trace the roots of golf as far back as 100 BCE in Rome and a game called "pagancia."

Golf was played for some time in Scotland, but in 1457 King James II prohibited the game because he saw it as a distraction from archery practice and other training required for defence of the country. By 1500, golf bans were lifted and even royalty were playing — helping to spread golf's popularity throughout Europe, according to the history resource Historic UK. In fact, Mary, Queen of Scots, was believed to have played the game and brought it to France when she studied there, while King Charles I brought the game to England.

Golf officially became a sport in 1744 when the first club was formed by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith. Later, the St. Andrews Society of Golfers was formed to compete in its own annual competition, using Leith's rules. St. Andrews in Scotland is often recognized as the historic hometown of golf.

Golf equipment

The earliest golf clubs were made mostly from apple, beach, holly, and pear wood. The balls were made of wood or hard leather. Other historic documents reference balls stuffed with feathers.

North American golf

While many other parts of the world took to golf very early, the United States was late to the game, with only a smattering of people playing during the 18th century. The oldest permanent golf club in North America was not an American creation; the first club was established in Montreal in 1873. It was not until 1894 that the United States Golf Association was formed, according to the Keiser University College of Golf.

Professional golf recognition

The Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) was established in 1916 after a meeting of golf professionals and several leading amateur golfers at Taplow Club in New York City. Its purpose was to raise the status of people earning their living from playing the game, according to the PGA. Today, there are more than 8,000 members in 80 countries. PGA professionals learn the latest skills and participate in annual PGA Tour competitions testing their prowess. The top five winningest PGA Tour players are:

· Sam Snead: 82 wins

· Tiger Woods: 82 wins

· Jack Nicklaus: 73 wins

· Ben Hogan: 64 wins

· Arnold Palmer: 62 wins