It may be that golf originated in Holland, historians believe it did, but certainly Scotland fostered the game and is famous for it. In 1457 the Scottish parliament, disturbed because football and golf had lured young Scots from the more soldierly exercise of archery, passed an ordinance that 'futeball and golf be utterly cryit doun and nocht usit'. Kings James I and Charles I of the royal line of Stuarts were golf enthusiasts, whereby the game came to be known as 'the royal and ancient game of golf'.
Golf balls used in the early games were leather covered and stuffed with feathers. Clubs of all kinds were fashioned by hand to suit individual players. The great step in spreading the game came with the change from the feather ball to the gutta-percha ball in about 1850, and in 1860 formal competition began with the establishment of an annual tournament for the British open championship.
Golf is both fun and profitable for businessmen. No one keeps record of how many millions of Baht worth of business was done on the golf links, but considering its increasing popularity and the time executives spend in playing golf, the amount is staggering.
Golf was first introduced into Thailand in the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) by certain Englishmen who played it among themselves. In the course of time, the Thais joined in, but as it was enjoyed as a sort of social function, popularity was limited.
Later the Europeans who had come to settle in Thailand requested the King's permission to found a sports club, known as the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. Apart from horse racing, the club organized golf for its members. Meanwhile, the game was gradually gaining more popularity and enthusiasm. King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) commanded the establishment of a golf course at Dusit Gardens, and King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) who was a golf enthusiast and played it regularly, encouraged the idea of setting up a golf course at Hua Hin.
In Thailand the opportunities for golf abound. There are estimated to more than 30,000 golfers in Thailand. Half of them play a round or two at least once a month, a quarter play a little less. The rest comprise the 'active' players who make it a point to get out on the green at least once or twice a week. There are 36 golf courses all over the country of which 12 are in Bangkok. Thai golfers have from time to time competed in neighbouring countries, and likewise, golfers from neighbouring countries have come to Thailand to compete.
Tournaments in Thailand are blossoming and the prizes becoming more intriguing. There are competitions for professional and amateurs, men and women, youngsters and collegians. Though the sport is popular, it is mostly played by adults.
While the sport is taken up, most often, for relaxation, it also provides a forum for salesmen to develop contacts for future sales, politicos to extend diplomatic courtesies, bankers to talk about floating loans, and doctors to gain prestige in being called away.
In Thailand today any businessman worth his expense account owns a set of golf clubs and has the use of a membership at one of the countries many clubs. Skill on the course has become a valuable executive asset. Some companies ask prospective employees their golf handicap. Naturally, along with Thailand's golf boom, the manufacture of the sport's equipment is also on the upswing. While imported clubs of advertised brands, with endorsements by star foreign players, still have significant prestige value.
In 1979 there was forty-three Thailand Golf Association member clubs around the country. Thailand, blessed with a plenitude of land, has the natural golf assets that can make this sport one of the most lucrative. Golf has become such a vital part of Thai life that a businessman no longer has to call his office from the clubhouse and try to explain his absence by saying he is detained by his doctor.