by Sahm Adrangi
My organization, Kerrisdale Capital, specializes in research into a broad range of industries. I’ve written about privately-owned golf clubs and golf courses in the past, in the course of my work for Kerrisdale Capital. The following article takes a look at the history of golfing and some of the interesting points about the game’s evolution over the years.
Sahm Adrangi on the Origins of the Game of Golf
Historians disagree about exactly when the game of golf was first invented. Some believe that the game can be traced back to ancient Rome, when players struck a small ball with a bent stick. That game, called paganica, spread throughout Europe and continued to be played long after the fall of the Roman empire.
Other attribute the invention of golf to the Chinese. A Chinese game named chuiwan involved hitting a ball with a stick, with the aim of getting the ball into a small hole. However, some historians believe that the game was imported to China from Europe and was introduced at some point during the Ming dynasty.
Sahm Adrangi Discusses the Roots of Modern Golf
Historians may disagree on when, exactly, golf was invented. But it’s generally agreed that the modern game of golf can be traced back to 15th century Scotland. There’s plenty of historical evidence showing that people were playing an early version of golf by the late Middle Ages in Scotland. In fact, the game appears to have been very popular.
At one point, King James II of Scotland reportedly banned the game, because he felt that it was distracting the Scottish population from practicing their archery skills. There was widespread outrage, which demonstrates how popular the game of golf had already become.
Sahm Adrangi on the Popularity of Golf
While some Scottish kings – like James II – may have disapproved of golf, it wasn’t long before the game was popular with the ruling class in Scotland and elsewhere. James VI, who became the king of England, was probably the first monarch to play golf in London after his coronation in 1603.
And back in Scotland, the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots reportedly was seen playing golf just days after her husband, Lord Darnley, was brutally murdered. Being caught golfing at such a moment probably didn’t make Mary very popular – but it does indicate just how popular the game of golf already was.
Sahm Adrangi Discusses the Modernization of Golf
Golf was originally played with a hard leather ball; the oldest golf courses had 22 holes each. But by 1764, the course at St Andrews was reconfigured so that it was just 18 holes, instead of 22. Soon after that, the golf ball was changed. Instead of a hard leather ball, or a ball stuffed with feathers, golfers began using a gutta percha ball.
A gutta percha ball is a solid ball which is made by softening strips of a Sapodila tree in boiling water; they are then molded by hand into a ball.
Early golf championships began in the mid 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, golf wasn’t just a game for men any more. The Ladies’ Golf Union was formed in 1893 in the UK. The next year, in the United States, the US Golf Association was created.
Just one year later, in 1895, the US Open was played for the very first time at Newport Country Club, in Rhode Island. The US Amateur Championship was also played for the first time in 1895. And, in the same year, the US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship was played at Meadow Brook Club in Long Island.
As you can see, golf has a long and proud history – and the game remains hugely popular around the world.
Sahm Adrangi is the founder and Chief Investment Officer of Kerrisdale Investment Management. He has been at the company’s helm since 2009. Kerrisdale Investment is known for its research-based approach and its no-nonsense approach to short-selling.