The Evolution of Golf

By rbalke Feb 27, 2013

Over the past 500 years, golf has evolved in many different ways--from locations and equipment, to attire and even the players themselves.

Golf’s origins aren’t as cut and dry as basketball, which began with James Naismith and his peach basket. However, many publications often agreed that 15th century Scotland marks the true beginning of golf.

From there, the sport has changed quite a bit, from the way the game looks to the tools used during play. The advancements of the ball and club have allowed for great athletes like Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson to play the game with grace and power in today’s game. But before those guys had a chance to hit the links, let’s look at how the ball and clubs used by the sport’s earliest golfers.


Today, there are so many unique materials in golf clubs that it’s hard to believe the earliest clubs were made out of wood. While today’s clubs are built with both durability and weight distribution in mind, the first golfers had, literally… sticks. Just sticks. Today’s clubs undergo strenuous stress testing as they are manufactured to make sure they’re balanced for a specific body type, while the earliest golfers had no such luxury.

As clubs moved from wood, to steel, to titanium, golf balls also evolved to withstand greater impacts of force. Unfortunately, many had to lose their amazing names, like Cleek, Baffing Spoon, and Space Mashie.

Below is a list of the retro clubs featured in Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 14:

Clubs have not only evolved over the years, but have also become more specialized. The technology has advanced so much that regulations have been put in place to keep the game fair and challenging. Back in the day? You hit the ball with your club and hoped it went in the hole.

As clubs evolved, so too did the clothes that golfers wore on the course.


Over the years, golfers have been on the forefront of sports style. The formal look of jackets and ties has given way to a more modern, mainstream feel that can be seen all over today’s PGA TOUR.

Early 1900s

Golf’s early heroes could often be seen wearing stylish, albeit restricting, jackets and ties. Golfers such as Bobby Jones wore clothes that matched the game’s “gentlemanly” reputation.

1950s and 1960s

As golf moved more and more into the mainstream, so too did the attire worn by the pros. Arnold Palmer not only made the sport more popular to the masses, he also made it more casual in the form of polo shirts and khakis.  

1970s and 1980s

Style influenced all aspects of life in the 1970s and 80s, and golf was no exception. Players like Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros began sporting bright colors on the links such as pinks, blues, oranges and yellows. This look was a stark contrast to the toned down nature of the sport.

21st Century

Today’s fashions have been influenced in large part by brands such as Nike, Adidas and Callaway. Form-fitting polos and mock tee shirts have become popular on the PGA TOUR, no more so than Tiger Woods’ traditional “Sunday Red” Nike polo.


As equipment began to evolve and change, so did the courses. The earliest golf courses were shaped by their surroundings, and resulted in what we now know as “links” style courses. The earliest golf course designers were mostly Scottish golf professionals, but the roots of modern courses came out of England in the early 20th century.

Today’s courses come in a wide variety of terrain, layout and overall design. The era of 1911-1937 is commonly known as the Golden Age of Golf Design, and boasted legendary designers including Donald Ross (Pinehurst #2, Oak Hill), A.W. Tillinghast (Bethpage, Winged Foot) and George Arthur Crump (Pine Valley).

The transition golf course between the Golden Age and Modern Age was Augusta National, which opened in 1932. Today, Augusta is considered one of the game’s most influential courses, and hosts the annual Masters Tournament. 

Following the 1934 death of another famous designer, Alister Mackenzie, Augusta slowly evolved into the course we know and love today. Today’s Augusta features round greens and bunkers, threatening water hazards, and impeccable grounds keeping. 

Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 14 is now available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Order your copy today!

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