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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

Game associated in particular with Scotland, where its first mention dates from the 15C. A decree of 1457, in the reign of James II, banned 'fute-ball and golfe' so that greater attention should be paid to the necessary sport of archery. Similar decrees were issued in the reigns of James III and James IV, suggesting that both football and golf were immensely popular. A game using a stick or club to strike a ball had been played in many parts of Europe since Roman times, and the earliest representations are outside Scotland – the figure of a single player in the great 14C east window of Gloucester cathedral, and a group of three golfers on a putting green in an early 16C Flemish manuscript (now in the British Library). But it was the Scottish game which spread round the world.

Among its greatest enthusiasts were the 16C Stuart kings (in spite of the prohibitions of their immediate ancestors), and James VI made it fashionable in London after he became *James I of England. He is recorded as having played on *Blackheath common, and a society of golfers was established there in 1608. It is on this rather inconclusive evidence, and with that year as its foundation date, that the Royal Blackheath is often described as the world's oldest surviving golf club.

More solid milestones are the founding of the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith in 1744 (see *Muirfield) and of the Society of St Andrews Golfers in 1754 (known from 1834 as the *Royal and Ancient). The courses of these clubs on the east coast of Scotland established 'links' (undulating sandy ground) as the classic golf terrain. During the 19C the Royal and Ancient became accepted as the international authority on the rules of the game. Since 1920 the club has managed the annual *Open and amateur championships.

Three important biennial team competitions with the USA were launched between the wars: in 1922 the Walker Cup (amateur men, British and Irish against the Americans), with a trophy donated by George Herbert Walker, president of the US Golf Association; in 1927 the *Ryder Cup; and in 1932 the Curtis Cup (amateur women, British and Irish against the Americans) with a trophy given by two sisters, Margaret and Harriot Curtis, who had both won the amateur championship in the USA.

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