The game of golf has a simple goal, although the game itself is anything but simple. Each player must hit their ball the least number of times possible before it ends up in the hole. The basic rules surrounding this task make up the game itself and allow for it to be governed easily. When the ball is placed onto the tee for the first shot, it cannot be touched by the golfer until it is on the green. The golf ball may also not be hit from areas deemed out of bounds and in hazard zones where water or woods may lie. Keeping a correct score is also essential to the game as incorrectly reported scores are heavily penalized. No matter the set of rules that guide the golfer, the main rule is to take the fewest shots possible on the way to the bottom of the hole across the entire round of 9 or 18 holes.
One of the first versions of golf is known to have started as early as the 1200s in the Netherlands. This idea continued up until the 1500s, even reaching the newly settled shores of the United States during this time period. The modern version of the game is known to have started in the country of Scotland during the 16th century. Many of the world's oldest recognized courses are also across the country of the United Kingdom, along with some of the most famous like St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland. St. Andrews was the location in 1754 of the first 18-hole round of golf to be played, and rounds are still played here to this day. The game has proliferated since this point but will forever stem from Europe.
There is no sole credited inventor the game of golf spanning back to the early times of the game. Many countries and empires have been debated as being the inventor before the Scottish created the modern game, including early origins in the Roman Empire, early Chinese empires, and the Dutch. The game grew out of the late 16th century into what it has become today with much of the modern advancements taking place in Scotland. The royalty of the country was heavily involved in the game, including the likes of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI. The earliest recognized inventors of the rules of the modern game of golf are from the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who published these rules in 1744.
The sport of golf dates its origin back to the early 1200s, as we have already stated. The modern game growing out of Scotland started in the 1500s. The game was more "officially" established in the mid-1750s when the first 18-hole round was played, and the rules were published. The game grew and was played more regularly in the modern sense, with the first British Open Championship being played in 1860. This was the first truly established tournament in the game, which has undoubtedly grown from that point into tournaments played globally year-round at all different levels of the sport.
Golf has been a popular game since the beginning of its time being played, especially in Europe. It was originally more of a sport for the social elites, although over time it has grown into being more of a game played by everyone. It began to become widely popular around the turn of the 20th century when many of the oldest tournaments in the sport began to be created. The US Open and US Amateur were widely contested tournaments in the early years and brought enthusiasm to the game that had not been seen before in the United States. Even more, popularity surrounded the game after the creation of the Ryder Cup in 1921, pitting the US against Europe in a battle of golf that leads to fierce rivalries amongst players and spectators alike.
As of 2017, the top 10 most popular golfing countries in the world are:
Almost 75% of the world's courses are located in these countries. They also make up a majority of golfers around the world too. The United States owns almost half of the entire world's golf course at 45% of the global total. Although most of the top players on the PGA TOUR currently come from the United States, a growing number of diverse international players have flooded the rankings in recent times too.