I am a terrible golfer. I’ve taken lessons and been given lots of friendly advice, but the thing I need the most is practice. Lots and lots of practice. Yet, when the rarity of free time becomes available, I find plenty of other things to do.
The truth is, I find golf more fun when I don’t keep score and can enjoy the company of friends who do. Still, it is an interesting sport with an equally interesting history. A long history. Even an ancient history.
If you think golf started in Scotland, I propose another beginning: China.
As I was researching information for my first novel (a story almost as terrible as my golf game), I came across a painting of Chinese ladies hitting balls. The source of their leisure activity was a game of chuiwan, which loosely translates, strike pellet, ball hitting, or to hit a ball. This took place during the Song Dynasty, which ushered in an era of experimentation (gun powder, woodblock printing, and improvement of the compass, to name a few). This ruling dynasty began in the 10th century, and their penchant for ball games includes something that resembles modern golf. Here’s a Youtube video link to learn more: Click Here.
More recently, perhaps 400 years or so after chuiwan, Scotland introduced its own form of leisure. Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have students, or cadets, carry her golf equipment. And while the information about the formation of clubs and balls is quite interesting, and readily available, my interest piqued at the emblem of the famous golf course, St. Andrews, “The Home of Golf.”
The logo includes two intersecting golf clubs with another X in the center. Consider: the namesake St. Andrew, was martyred for his faith. Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter) were fishermen. When Andrew saw John the Baptist point to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” Andrew rushed home to tell his brother. And while Peter’s story is widely known, Andrew made an impact in his time by proclaiming the Gospel to Greece and Asia Minor. He was captured by Roman soldiers, tied to a cross, and killed. But Andrew’s cross was not upright, rather it was made in the form of an X. This diagonal cross is also known as a saltire.
The flag of Scotland is a blue background with a white saltire. Legend claims that it was during a 9th Century battle that a saltire lay across the blue sky. This encouraged the troops greatly, and theirs was the victory.
So, the next time you go golfing, watch a golf game, or drive past a golf course, think of the history of the game. Think about those first caddies who carried the Queen’s clubs. And should you see a pattern of clouds that resemble a saltire, think of Saint Andrew. And if you golf, trust your swing, but trust more than that my friend. There’s more to golf than meets the eye.