Chinese drink to golfing pioneers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 1995, 12:00am

IT seems Chinese historians are working themselves into a lather over the origins of the Royal & Ancient game of golf.

With interest in the sport booming on the mainland, a number of rather droll theories about the game's genesis have emerged.

Several international golf magazines have picked up on a cheeky claim that the Chinese actually invented the game. Although details are hazy, the conjecture is that a sport similar to golf, chui-wan, was played on the mainland as early as 943 AD.

But the more noble-minded golf researchers in China have countered that assertion with a wonderfully romantic, if historically debatable, account of golf's evolution.

In the totally up-front Propaganda Handbook of the Finals of the 41st World Cup of Golf which was distributed at Mission Hills Golf Club, Shenzhen, last month there was a fairytale type 'Introduction to the Sport of Golf'.

It read: 'Golf as a sport originated in Scotland in 15 D.C. (sic) or earlier.

'Scotland is a hilly region with humid climate and much mist or fog, which is good for grass growing and husbandry. Once upon a time there were huge pastures there.

'When shepherds got their cows wandering around, they played a game with wood clubs. They threw stones or rocks into rabbit holes. As the time went on, they changed their clubs and followed a certain set of rules. [As] the winter in Scotland was dreadfully cold, the shepherds had to take a bottle of liquor with them to keep warm.

'They took one mouthful of wine with the cap of the bottle while they hit a ball. It so happened that a bottle of wine was 18 ounces and one cap happened to hold one ounce of wine.

'Thus when they hit 18 balls with their clubs all the liquor in the bottle had gone. This resulted in the rule of 18 holes for the game. This game then was introduced into Britain in 1500 and made the British Royal House very interested, which helped the game develop rapidly until 1600. In playing golf, the players can enjoy fresh air and tranquil wildness so as to keep fit. This attracted many nobles and aristocrats, which gave golf a noble air.

'It is surprising that the word 'golf' is the combination of the initial letters of the four English words - green, oxygen, light and foot.' Golfers like Sam Torrance and Fred Couples were highly amused by this - they could just visualise the shepherds knocking back the whisky while whacking a stone into a rabbit hole.

There are numerous theories about golf's beginnings and the idea of a bored shepherd using an upturned crook to hit a stone is well recorded but the bit about the liquor is a new angle.

Good on the Chinese for de-mystifying golf's origins in one easy lesson.