Today, golf is one of the most popular sports in America. Charismatic athletes like Tiger Woods, Nancy Lopez, and Greg Norman have helped to increase and maintain the sport’s popularity for decades. How did golf get to America, though, and when did it become popular?
Golf has long been traditional in Scotland. Its arrival to England can be dated to at least the reign of James I of England. Records show that his son, Henry Frederick, and his courtiers played golf in Blackheath. Today, there’s still an active golf club that traces its origins to these beginnings.
Scotland and traditional Scottish pursuits had a huge impact on the popular culture of the Victorian era. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert built Balmoral in the Highlands during this era, which made Scotland a fashionable vacation area for strivers. At the same time, technology made reliable mass production of golf balls possible. Golf soon became popular throughout the English-speaking world.
This spread of golf included North America. People in the US and Canada were eager to play and began setting up country clubs. One of the first was in Newport, Rhode Island. Founded in 1893, the Newport Country Club hosted the first amateur championship and the first US Open in 1895.
Golf continued to increase in popularity in the US, especially after Walter Hagen became the first American to win the British Open in 1922. However, the start of the Depression and the beginning of World War II brought a halt to this expansion. The rapid economic expansion in the post-war era meant that golf quickly regained ground.
In addition, the growth of residential golf course communities has ensured the popularity of the sport. This type of development was started in Florida, during the 1920s. It was seen as a way to draw wealthy people from cold northern climates to the southern states during winter months. Today, these developments are often year-round communities. They remain focused in warm states like Arizona, North Carolina, and California, too.
For many, golf has become a way of life. It’s a great low-impact sport that people can enjoy for a lifetime. Although golf continues to be associated with the wealthy, a network of public golf courses stretches from coast to coast. Golf has become ever more accessible to all people with the passage of time.