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BELGIUM..THE HOME OF GOLF; Expert claims it's NOT Scots invention.

Byline: CHARLIE BAIN

GOLF lovers could cut up rough after a historian claimed BELGIANS invented the game.

Scotland's claim to be the cradle of golf rests on a 1457 Act of Parliament when King James II banned it, along with football.

But Bonn University's Dr Heiner Gillmeister claims this is a fairway from the truth.

He maintains King James had banned an early type of hockey which could have sparked big riots - much like ancient games of football.

Golf as we know it was first played by the Belgians and possibly the Dutch, he claims.

Dr Gillmeister rubs salt in the wound by saying his evidence comes from Sir Gilbert Hay, a Scot who lived at St Andrews - home of the Royal and Ancient.

In 1460 he wrote a romantic tale in which he described a game played with a "golf staff."

However, the ball was driven to and fro between two teams. But in the Low Countries around this time real golfers were getting into the swing of things, claims Dr G.

In 1545 a teacher helped students learn Latin by describing scenes in everyday life.

A chapter in his manual is devoted to golf - in which players knock a small ball into a hole.

Dr Gillmeister added: "My theory will not be received with much enthusiasm in Scotland.

But at St Andrews, famed as the "home of golf" they were unfazed. Peter Mason, external relations manager at the club, said Flemish traders visiting St Andrews learned about golf by watching the locals' stick-and-ball game.

In the 15th century the game of "kolf" was played on ice in the Low Countries, he said.

But the local game at St Andrews was played on short grass on land donated to the city by King David in 1123.

Mr Mason said: "St Andrews was a main place of pilgrimage because of the Cathedral, then the largest in northern Europe.

"There was a lot of trade between St Andrews and the Low Countries at that time.

"The traders would have made their way through the links to get to the town and would have seen locals playing a stick and ball game, which looked remarkably similar to what they called kolf.

"Nothing in this research makes us doubt that the game of golf we have today originated and developed on the east coast of Scotland, particularly St Andrews."

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DAYS OF FORE: Early golfers
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 20, 2002
Words:403
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