The Ancient Sport Of Golf



"To gowff" is the old Scots' verb meaning to "strike hard."

Golfers in the Rim Country can test their skills on the holes of the Payson Golf Course, the Rim Country's public course.


Over the centuries, ancient fun seekers to modern fanatics have refined golf into a leisurely pastime and a competitive sport.

"The basic course is designed so you never want to be long on the holes and you've got to hit it straight because this is kind of a tight course," said owner Harry Parsons.

"No. 13 is our signature hole," he said. "It's got trouble on the left and trouble on the right. It can be the most intimidating hole, but different holes are tough for different people."

Why anyone would want to hit a little ball at a hole they can't see is the classic non-player's question.

"You aren't playing against the course," said avid golfer Larry Smith. "You are playing against yourself. Golf will get in your blood."

Golf is an ancient sport.

Romans played "paganica." They hit a feather-stuffed leather ball with a curved stick.

Dutchmen in the 14th century engaged in "Het Kolven." The player's goal was to drive the ball far away, aiming at perhaps, a tree or a door (one wonders what happened if a poor soul opened said door at the wrong moment).

In 1353 there is evidence of the French playing a game called "chole." Chole was played in the fields after harvest. A club with a wooden shaft and an iron head was used to hit egg-shaped balls of varied sizes.

While historians disagree about the origins and evolution of golf, the game is generally associated with the green hills of Scotland, and Scotsmen are credited with adding the hole to the modern game.

Why 18 holes?

"I think the Scots ran out of liquor after the 18th shot," Parsons said and laughed. "Those seaside links are colder than heck and a drink probably took the nip off the wind."

Early golf courses had different numbers of holes. Leith Links in Edinburg, Scotland, started out in 1744 with a five-hole course.

The St. Andrews club in Scotland laid down an 18 hole course for its members in 1858.

In fact, according to Parsons, when the Payson Golf Course was built by Bill Miller in the late 1950s (or early 1960s) it was only nine holes. The back nine were built in 1975-76 when Russell Zakariasen owned the course.

Then, as now, no two golf games are ever the same even if they are played on the same course.

"We take care of our golf course, but Mother Nature makes the rules," Parsons said.

Hot or wet or cold, weather definitely effects playing conditions.

"(This is) when you are in a constant state of adjustment," Parsons said.

PGC is typical of courses where water is an issue. Reclaimed waste water irrigates the greens; the water trap on the eighth hole is dry by midsummer.

Lawn mowers have replaced the woolly, four-legged critters that were used in ancient times to mow the grass.

How the grass lays is partly responsible for how the ball rolls, how the ball travels through the air down the green is up to the player.

"The challenge of hitting the ball straight takes a lot of practice," said Smith, a 25-year golfing veteran.

I've gotten better since retiring to Payson a year ago from Oregon, Smith said. Now he plays at least three and often four times a week.

"I walked in here and (all the other golfers) treated me like I'd been here all my life," Smith said.

Meanwhile, running a golf course cuts into Parson's green time.

"It's a great game," Parson said. "You can play it until the good Lord wants to take you."

Summer hours at PGC are from 7 a.m. until about 5 p.m.

Pull carts, power carts and clubs are available to rent and golfers can choose to play nine holes or the full 18.

Tournaments open to the public at Payson Golf Course

Please contact the hosts, not PGC.

June 4: Carquest - benefits local Special Olympics; contact: Derrie Lucht (928) 468-8610.

June 17: Jack Morris Memorial; contact: Gary Cordell (928) 474-4401

Aug 12: Pioneer Title Tournament - benefits Payson Community Kids; contact: Pioneer Title (928) 474-3235

Aug 25-26: Christmas for Kids - benefits area children; contact: Detective Matt VanCamp at (928) 474-5177, ext. 251

Sept. 23: Safeway Shotgun - benefits Payson public schools; contact: (928) 472-8208 Russ Youngcourt or Dan Dillon

Golf Trivia

1. Who was the first caddie of record? Hint: In the 17th century he carried the golf clubs for the Duke of York - later King James VII.

2. In what country was "ti-khi" (a game with similarities to golf) played?

3. Where were the first set of rules for the modern game of golf written?

4. What were "spoons" and a "niblicks"?

5. "It's still good sportsmanship to not pick up lost balls while they are still rolling." Who said this?

Answers to Golf Trivia

1. Andrew Dickson of Edinburgh, Scotland.

2. Laos

3. Historians generally agree that modern golf rules were debated and formally written at St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

4. The niblick is an old-style golf club that was used to get out of trouble and back onto the fairway. The spoon is an ancient term for just about any fairway wood. The face was slightly concave to help hit the ball.

5. Mark Twain

Just for Fun

Want to find out if today a good day to play golf according to your bio-rhythm? On web:

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