The Ridge at Manitou presents “Test Your Golf Knowledge – What Does GOLF Stand For & More!” Think you know what GOLF stands for? Would you bet good money on it? Lets get started with some fun golf trivia to test your golf skills off the course!
GOLF – What Does it REALLY Stand For?
Most people are under the same common misconception that GOLF stands for “Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden”. While this is a logical theory as history shows much of the game being reserved for male players, while women were rarely known to hold a club. Some traditional golf clubs to this day still impose a gender restriction, which enforces the acronym myth even more. However, with a far less controversial origin, GOLF actually stems from an old Dutch or Scottish dialect. The medieval Dutch word for “club” was “kolf” or “kolve”. It’s believed that once the word was passed to the Scots, their dialect transformed it to “gouf”, “gowl” or “golve”. Out of that linguistic recipe and during the 16th Century, arose the word commonly know today as “golf”. Hopefully you didn’t lose a lot of money on your bet!
Why Do Golfers Yell “Fore!”
There are a couple of valid theories of the origin of yelling “Fore” when you’ve made a disastrous shot that might leave someone with a memorable goose egg should your ball find them instead of the fairway. The simplest and most logical meaning of “Fore” is cited from the British Golf Museum. It makes an 1881 reference to the word, meaning it was around well before that time period. They surmise that the word is a shortened version of “forecaddie”, which is a person who accompanies the group around the course, often in front to site where the shots have landed. Caddies are still alive and well and very much a part of the game today, particularly with professionals. If a golf shot went off the rails, it’s believed a quick shout of “Fore!” would warn the forecaddie to take cover so as not to meet a flying ball up close and personal.
The second theory derives from a military background during the 17th and 18th century- a period when golf was becoming pretty popular in Britain. Infantry advanced in formation while artillery batteries fired from behind, so an atilleryman about to fire would shout “Beware before!” to forewarn close by infantry men to take cover from overhead shells zooming by. A shortened version of avoiding getting hit by an incoming object- aka golf ball, was adapted to a simpler version- “Fore!”
Why Are Golf Courses 18 Holes in Length?
The sole credit for today’s regulation length course comes from no other than St Andrew’s in Scotland. For a couple of centuries, mainly from the mid 1700’s up to the 1900’s, many golf courses were made up of a variety of lengths, from 12, 15, 19 or 23 or really any number. In 1764, the links of St Andrews was shortened from 22 holes to 18 holes. Why? There’s no great story behind the change- it was simply easier to maintain 18 holes versus 22. In 1858, the Royal and Ancient golf club of St Andrews (R&A) issued new rules: “Rule #1 was “One round of the Links or 18 holes is reckoned a match unless otherwise stipulated”. As many other clubs looked at the R&A for guidance on rules and regulations, it’s presumed the 18 hole length was rolled out across Britain.
Where Do “Birdie” and “Eagle” Come From?
Birdie came first. 19th Century American slang used “bird” to describe something really great. Kind’ve the same notion as “cool” or “awesome” by today’s standards. Any marvelous shot on the course- one that led to a below par score for the hole, was know as a “bird of a shot”. It was slang-ified even further to “birdie” in what was believed to be an 1899 quote at the Atlantic City Country Club, when player Ab Smith was interviewed and quoted as saying “My ball came to rest within 6 inches of the cup. I said ‘that was a bird of a shot’…I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in one under par he receives double compensation. The other two agreed and we began right away…just as soon as the next one came, to call it a ‘birdie”.
“Eagle” was then added for continuity of the avian lexicon for 2 under par, as was “albatross” for 3 under par. These terms are widely used (yet seldom achieved!) on golf courses today.
Who Came Up With “Mulligan”?
A term coined much later than its above counterparts, Mulligan wasn’t widely used until the 1940’s. While there’s no definitive origin of the term, there are a couple of strong contenders of where the word came into play for a “do-over” shot in golf. The most popular are both derived from two different players who share the same last name of “Mulligan”. The first, David Mulligan, a regular player at St Lambert Country Club in Montreal, Quebec, re-teed his ball after he wasn’t happy with his first shot. He dubbed it a correction shot, but the remainder of the foursome saw a better fit in referencing it as a “Mulligan”.
The second player who may be the inspiration behind the term, and has been cited by the USGA, is John Buddy Mulligan, who was notorious for replaying shots at Essex Fells Country Club in New Jersey. Lets just hope your last name isn’t Mulligan if you have hopes of making the tour one day!
It’s a Wrap!
There you have it- five very interesting explanations behind some of golf’s most popular terminology. Try testing fellow golfer’s knowledge, as well- you might just score yourself a free drink at the clubhouse!
Do you have any golf tidbits that will stump your fellow golfers? Share them in the comments below.