The origins of Kolf

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 7.21.28 AM.pngClyde D. Wagoner, chairman of the Kermis committee that brought an ancient Dutch celebration to Schenectady as part of its charter sesquicentennial celebration in 1948, wasn’t just an organizer of gay events, but also a revisionist historian who was willing to speak truth to the power. Or at least to claim that golf originated in Holland.

A Schenectady Gazette article (buried on the sports page!) from June 16, 1948, elaborates:

“Golf, or ‘kolf’ as it was originally known, is not a Scotch game, as so many believe, but orginated in Holland. This statement, based on information supplied by the Netherlands government, was made yesterday by Clyde D. Wagoner, chairman of the Dutch Kermis to be held in Schenectady on June 24, 25 and 26.

“‘Kolf is one of the oldest Dutch sports. It originated in the Netherlands in the 14th century,’ according to M.M. Lourens of the Netherlands government information bureau. ‘As far back as 1595 we find regulations for the game in the historical records of the town of Goes in Zeeland.'”

So there, you Scottish braggarts. There are records!

“‘In olden days, kolf courses were laid of tightly packed loam, mixed with lime. The courses were made very level and an old Dutch saying has it “as level as a kolf course”‘ according to Mr. Lourens . . . The old kolf courses were laid mostly under a low building, consisting of a tiled roof supported by pillars and rafters. In the length of the course at a distance of about 50 feet, were put two upstanding poles of seven or eight feet of elongated conical shape. Kolf is played with hard rubber or tightly woven woolen balls. These balls are driven by a stick called a kolf, about six or seven feet in length, having a yellow copper scoop which is also called a kolf. The main object of the play is to hit both poles and be scored accordingly.”

Hoxsie doesn’t know much about golf, but that sounds like EXACTLY the same thing.

Interesting coincidence: Kermis week featured a Dutch golf match, in which all players would appear in Dutch costumes, “even to wooden shoes if they can be gotten.” The article noted that a tradition of present day golf in Holland is for the women to act as caddies and for the men to wear knickerbockers. For the Kermis Kolf event, “as far as possible the players will have members of the fair sex carry their clubs.” But apparently not their wooden shoes.


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