A commemorative version of a historic document that contains the earliest known written evidence of the game of golf has been presented to Medinah Country Club by First Minister Alex Salmond in recognition of its position as host of this year’s Ryder Cup.
The act of the Scottish Parliament, which was laid by James II and dates from 1457, banned Scots from playing golf and football to encourage more of them to practice archery and improve the country’s military prowess.
During this period, as well as distracting Scots from military training, the playing of golf and “futebaw” was considered a nuisance by the authorities, who were concerned about the sports being played in public spaces such as cramped city streets and churchyards.
The original document – stored in the National Library of Scotland – decrees that the playing of these sports should be “utterly condemned and stopped” with transgressors to be punished by the local barons and King’s officers.
A special framed extract of the historic act was presented to Tony Graffia, President of the Medinah Country Club, by the First Minister
The First Minister said:
“Today, Scotland is known across the globe as the home of golf, but if this act of parliament from 1457 had remained in place, things may have turned out very differently!
“Given how important sport is to Scotland today, and all the effort we now make to get people exercising, it is remarkable to think that the authorities in James II’s time wanted to ban Scots from playing golf and ‘futebaw’ in favour of military training.
“But aside from offering a fascinating insight into the sporting life of 15th Century Scotland, this document is historically significant because it provides us with the earliest known written evidence for this fabulous game of golf which brings joy to millions around the world.
“I am therefore absolutely delighted to present a commemorative copy of this fantastic slice of golf history to Medinah Country Club in recognition of its position as the venue for this year’s Ryder Cup and the magnificent job it has done staging the tournament.”
“More than 500 years after this Act of Parliament, Scotland’s rich golfing heritage has gained international acclaim, as shown by the huge warmth for our country I have seen during this weekend’s Ryder Cup.
“The game is a massive driver for our economy, bringing in £220m in tourism revenues and directly supporting around 4,000 jobs as people flock to play our magnificent courses.
“Meanwhile, far from banning the game, the Scottish Government is looking to put a club in the hand of every nine-year-old in the country with our ClubGolf initiative to help us remain at the forefront of the sport for generations to come.”
Tony Graffia said:
“I am so grateful that he thought of us to bring this wonderful gift. It’s an amazing experience for me and all the members of Medinah. Scotland means so much to the game of golf and we are so excited about Gleneagles and I can’t wait to get there.”
Further information on the document can be found at the National Library of Scotland website.
The full text of the act’s extract is as follows:
“Item it is ordanyt and decretyt that Wapinschawing be haldin be ye lordis and baronys spirituale and temporale four tymes in ye yeir. And [th]at ye futebawe and ye golf be uterly cryt done and not usyt And [th]at ye bowe markes be maid at all parochkirks a pair of butts And schuting be usyt ilk Sunday … And touch and ye futebaw and ye golf We ordane it to be punyst be ye baronys unlaw. And if he tak it not to be tain be ye kings officars.’
“Item, it is ordained and the decreed that the lords and barons both spiritual and temporal should organise archery displays four times in the year. And that football and golf should be utterly condemned and stopped. And that a pair of targets should be made up at all parish churches and shooting should be practised each Sunday … And concerning football and golf, we ordain that [those found playing these games] be punished by the local barons and, failing them, by the King’s officers.’