I was watching a YouTube video about a free golf course in America. It was just a 9 holer but very well maintained, just the same. The narrator and video maker was struck by the confluence of these two seemingly disparate elements – golf and free of charge. Especially in America where selling stuff is more akin to a religion than anything else. Yes, we all know that most things in golf are decidedly not free of charge. Indeed, retailers and manufacturers seem inclined to inflate prices whenever the term golf can be included in their description of the product or service. The game of golf was born out of a wealthy Scotsman’s pastime and charging like a wounded bull has accompanied most manifestations of golf ever since. The 9 hole completely free of charge golf course in Pennsylvania was bucking that trend bigtime. It was a gift to the local town from a wealthy industrialist, who had put money aside in trust to maintain it from its inception. BuhL Park Golf Course.

Golf boy #8 the class journey of golf
Golf boy #8 by Library of Congress is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Free Golf: A Rare Exception

Imagine, if you can, rocking up to play and not checking in at the pro shop but just going out to golf. The narrator of the video was stunned by this fact of life at this particular golf course. He could not get his head around it, not in America, not in the land of the free market, where everything costs something. Golf was democratised in America but it was also commercialised at the same time. It was no longer just a game for the wealthy elite, as in the old country, but now everyone could play in the US of A, as long as they could pay. Country clubs were exclusive and expensive, but municipal courses were accessible and affordable.

Arnold Palmer, hitching up his daks, had turned on the masses. Golf became a working man’s game and not just a silly sport for snobs.

Moray golf course and clubhouse at Lossiemouth
Moray golf course and clubhouse at Lossiemouth by Walter Baxter is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Oldest Golf Course In America

Oakhurst Links is regarded as the oldest golf course in America, as it was created in 1884. It was another 9 hole golf course carved out of farming land in West Virginia. A couple of expatriate Scotsmen decided to build their own golf course in their new American home. Russell Montegue and friends dallied with golf in Scotland and brought their love of the game to the new world. The course closed in 1912 and was left fallow for more than 80 years. It was restored in 1994 by a passionate course designer. Oakhurst was bought in 2012 by the Greenbrier Resort.

Couple playing golf at Big - the class journey of golf
Couple playing golf at Big by U.S. Forest Service (source) is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Golf’s Geographic Journey

The class journey of golf has travelled from Scotland to America, with other stops in places like Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand. There are now golf courses in Europe and Asia, as the game has infiltrated many realms previously thought immune to the charms of the small ball game. Dimpled balls have invaded grassy pastures and fairways in some of the globe’s most unlikely places. In the beginning, it was only wealthy people who could afford the time to play a 5 hour long recreational pursuit.

However, with the modernisation of industries and economies we have seen working people reduced to a 40 hour week, with plenty of time to strike the links in the late afternoons and on weekends. Golf has become democratised and widely commercialised.

white flag marked near the saudi arabia
Photo by Lara Jameson on Pexels.com

Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom Of Golf?

Indeed, Saudi princes are buying the PGA tour of America with their trillions of Petro-dollars. The Middle East, where the locals don’t play golf, has become a destination for the world’s top tour professionals. On narrow strips of grass surrounded by parched deserts golf championships are held in honour of the tourists and their dollars.

The sportswashing kings of the world are buying up players and teams.

Bobby Jones
Bobby Jones

Bobby Jones & B/W Golf

Golf has heroes of yesteryear, like the great amateur Bobby Jones, who shimmers in the mists of antiquity, in golfing terms anyway. Those hickory shafted sticks and percha gutta balls are like the religious relics of the golfing realm. Plus fours and skinny shins, tweed jackets and caps, these are the antiquarian picture postcard images of the bygone era. Some imagine that the soul of golf resided within this time. The black and white, soft focus, vision of golf’s past.

Zeus png Greek god clipart

Did God Play Golf?

Did god play golf? This is the question on every true golfer’s lips. Eventually, at some point during a round the golfer is forced to confront the golfing gods or their barometric doppelgangers. The anthropomorphic treatise demands answers, even among the discombobulated golfers deep in the bushes.

What came first, the small white ball or the golf club? The chicken or the egg?


God creates the land and