In this article we will take a look at where did the idea of a Club Captain come from, and how did traditions like the Captain’s Drive begin?
Golf has been played for hundreds of years and although Scotland has been associated with much of its tradition and practice, it is unclear where and how the game originated. The first golf may not have been played in Scotland but many important developments there have helped shape the game as we know it today.
The first rules of golf were drafted in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh, now known as Muirfield Golf Club. Golf at that time appears to have been played entirely on a match play basis, stroke play only being first mentioned in 1759. The City of Edinburgh had donated a silver golf club to be played for annually and the rules were drafted for the initial playing of that competition. The winner of the competition was John Rattray who is the first recorded winner of a golf competition. He also became known as the ‘Captain of Golf’ and is considered to be the first golf club Captain.
In 1754 a competition was held at St Andrews Links which was open to all golfers. The winner was Baillie William Landale and he became the first Captain of the R&A. There was a tradition that the winner of a particular competition, or the person considered the best golfer in the club, would become Captain. Most current Captains will be pleased this tradition has long since died out.
The R&A still run a ‘competition’ for which the new Captain is the only entrant and his drive off the first tee on the Old Course symbolically signifies the beginning of his tenure. This idea of a Captain’s Drive is still celebrated in clubs in a variety of ways, our own normally having a ‘nearest the Captain’s Drive’ prize at the first.
1759 is the first time a stroke play competition was recorded, previous competitions being based on the match play format.
(The stableford system of scoring was devised by Dr Frank Stableford in 1931, and the first stableford competition was held at Wallasey Golf Club, Liverpool, in 1932.)
The number of holes played in a round of golf depended on the size of the land available. A course might have had just 5 or 6 holes, while one in Montrose, Scotland, had 25. Prior to 1764 St Andrews had 22 holes, but in that year they rearranged the course to make a round of golf there 18 holes. Many other golf courses followed their lead but it was not formally introduced for everyone until 1858.