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Golf Pictures

Golf – the sport of royals and rustics. Born in Scotland; or was it Holland? Golf pictures we have aplenty – golf prints, cartoons, players, rules (3 different sets!), posters and more. Your framed golf picture will be supplied at any size you desire, and framed in any way you want.

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The game of golf, or at least hitting a small ball around outside with a stick, has been around for a long time. It started, of course, in Scotland - or did it? Just across the North Sea the Dutch were also frittering away their leisure time and spoiling a good walk; in fact the first documented mention of golf, or rather spel metten kolve (or colf, or colven) is Dutch, being in 1297. The Jocks were positively tardy in comparison, a Royal Decree of 1457 forbad the playing of futeball and gowf as they got in the way of archery practice (not then so much a sport but a way of killing people!).

And golf pictures? Well the Dutch virtually invented realist and landscape painting as well, so there are loads of pictures of golf (or kolve etc) around from the 16th Century on. Strangely enough, much of those golfing paintings show the game being played on ice, and not an orange or lime-green plastic ball to be seen! Perhaps that is because in iced-up wintry Holland there wasn't much else to do (in the daytime) but skate and play golf, so they combined the two.

When England ran out of suitable Royals and called upon King James I (and VI of Scotland) to take over in 1603, he brought the usual bunch of hangers-on with him - and his golf clubs. So they laid out a course at the back of Greenwich Palace and hacked around on Blackheath common. Thus the oldest golf club in England, and perhaps the world, is Royal Blackheath (where Lord Price has enjoyed many a round and even driven that short par 4 18th over the hedge!), founded, so they reckon, in 1608 and residing in a splendid 1664 Restoration mansion with perhaps the finest collection of original golf paintings.

Anyway, golf, roughly as we know it today, flourished in Scotland and was spread around the world. Golf clubs were established in Calcutta in 1829, Bombay 1842, Australia 1842, The West Indies 1810, Pau (in France, and the first in Europe) 1860 and Montreal in 1873. Oh, and in 1743 David Deas of Charleston, South Carolina, ordered from Scotland 96 golf clubs and 432 golf balls, so it's reasonably certain that he had a golf course to play on and a golf club to drink in!

Apart from those Dutch paintings, there are a few pictures of golfing worthies from Scotland (and fewer from England) in the Georgian period to prove the early existence of the game. Let's face it, if you were wealthy enough to play the game, you wanted a golf picture or two around the place to show up the fact. But it was wealth, leisure, transport and technological advances which saw an explosion in the game, and number of golf pictures, in the latter half of the 19th century.

Golf balls had been awfully expensive, being made from vast numbers of feathers (the feathery golf ball) stuffed into a leather case. But in 1848 the gutta-percha tree was found in Malaya; its resin, like rubber, could be turned into much more resilient, and cheaper, golfing balls. This happened at the height of the industrial revolution in Victorian Britain, which created a burgeoning middle class with leisure time on their hands and money to spare. Along came mechanical mowers to allow grass to be kept short on inland courses, and railways to allow golfers to get out of the cities to those courses, and up sprouted the courses. In 1870 there were 34 Golf Societies and Gold Clubs in the UK, in 1890 there were 387, in 1900 there were 2330 and in 1910 there were a whopping 4135. Even ladies started to play golf - outrageous! Of course the Yanks had to go one better. In 1888 there were 10 golfers in the USA (well so I am told - it sounds a suspiciously round number to me; please let us know if you know better); in 1946 there were 5 million.

The golf explosion coincided with the development of the technology for the reproduction of pictures, which is where the Lordprice Collection comes in. From Victorian golf engravings and the odd painting of the game came a plethora of golf illustrations and golf cartoons to be published in the expanding number of illustrated magazines. Even the wonderfully outré Aubrey Beardsley knocked out a couple of golf-related drawings in his inimitable style. And of course the symbiotic relationship between golf, leisure and railways produced some wonderful golf posters advertising courses and the railway companies which got the golfers onto them.

The Rules of Golf, being multifarious, esoteric and downright confusing, have been a rich source of humour for cartoonists. Those great Edwardian illustrators Chas Crombie and Tom Browne, among many others, drew deep from the well of funny golf rules situations and added greatly to the stock of funny golf pictures.

More than any other Victorian sport, even more than cricket, golf needed its professionals. For teaching, equipment making, and of course demonstrating how to play the game properly, and thus reveal a glimpse of the holy grail that is the perfect round, the golf professionals were essential to the spread of the game. The Scots had an early monopoly, Old Tom Morris of St. Andrews to the fore, but the trade spread with the game. Of course the most celebrated group of professionals in golf history were the Great Triumvirate of Harry Vardon, JH Taylor and James Braid (that's two Englishmen and one Scot) who dominated top golf in the wider Edwardian era. Many a fine golf picture resulted from this rivalry; think Tiger Woods times three!

The 1920s and 1930s saw continued growth of the game, as widespread car ownership allowed even better access to the courses, increased wealth and leisure time, and the growth of city suburbs pushed demand for the game even higher. This was the heyday of the exclusive golf club, retired Majors to the fore, where Membership became a privilege and the middle classes could keep the proletariat at bay. PG Wodehouse needs a close study on this subject! The widespread availability of colour magazines meant an even greater range of golf pictures, and yet more resorts sprang up advertising their attractions with wonderful Art Deco golf posters.


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