Where does the word golf come from? This and 10 other fun facts about the sport

News Shopper: Golf, the gentleman's game Golf, the gentleman's game

JANUARY 17 is an important date in the history of golf – so to celebrate here are 11 weird and wonderful golfing facts you might not know.

It was on this day in 1916 when a group of golfers gathered at the Taplow Club in New York for a meeting which would lead to the creation of the Professional Golfers Association. Later that year the first PGA Championship took place, and since then the PGA has grown into being one of the world’s biggest sports associations.

Here are those 11 fun facts about golf:

  • The name golf is said to mean Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden, but this isn’t true. It is more likely the word golf comes from the Dutch word ‘kolf’ or ‘kolve’, meaning ‘club’. Historians believe this was passed on to the Scottish, whose own dialect changed this to ‘golve’, ‘gowl’ or ‘gouf’. By the 16th century, this had evolved into the word we know today.
  • There are 336 dimples on a golf ball which are used to change the ball’s aerodynamics to induce turbulent flow making the ball move through the air in a straight course allowing for additional control.
  • The first golf balls were made of thin leather stuffed with feathers. Tightly-packed feathers made balls that flew the farthest. Feather balls were used until 1848.
  • The driver swing speed of an average lady golfer is 62mph, 96mph for an average LPGA professional, 84mph for an average male golfer, 108mph for an average PGA Tour player, 130mph for Tiger Woods, 148-152mph for a national long drive champion. How fast are you?
  • The longest golf hole in the world is the 7th hole (par 7) of the Sano Course at the Satsuki Golf Club in Japan. It measures an incredible 909 yards.
  • The longest golf course in the world is the par 77 International Golf Club in Massachusetts which measures a fearsome 8,325 yards.
  • The chances of making two holes-in-one in a round of golf are one in 67 million.
  • The term birdie comes from an American named Ab Smith. While playing in 1899, he played what he described as a "bird of a shot", which became "birdie" over time.
  • Other than a single javelin throw, golf is the only sport ever to be played on the moon. In 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard picked up a six iron and struck a golf ball one-handed (due to the restrictions placed on him by his pressure suit).
  • Before the use of tees became commonplace, golfers would play off hand-built sand piles.
  • Golf was banned in Scotland from 1457 to 1502 to ensure citizens wouldn't waste time when preparing for an English invasion.

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