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Playing at The Goff

Playing at the Goff, Written Recollections From 1868
    

Golf has been played in some form for hundreds of years. But records tell us little if anything of what golf was like in its infancy. Historians know that it was hotly contested on St. Andrews Links through the 1800’s. And information about the game was filtering down toward England where the game was being popularized. Joseph Strutt was a publisher who help-ed spread the word about golf and other athletic activities. The following is excerpted from his Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, published in London in.1868.It answers to a rustic pastime of the Romans which they played with a ball stuffed with feathers, called paganica, because it was used by the common people; the goff-ball is composed of the same materials to this day: I have been told it is sometimes, though rarely, stuffed with cotton.

“There are many games played with a ball that require the assistance of a club or bat, and probably the most ancient among them is the pastime now distinguished by the name of goff. In the northern parts of the kingdom goff is much practiced. It require much room to perform this game with propriety, and therefore I presume it is rarely seen at present in the vicinity of the metropolis. It answers to a rustic pastime of the Romans which they played with a ball stuffed with feathers, called paganica, because it was used by the common goff as bandy ballpeople; the goff-ball is composed of the same materials to this day: I have been told it is sometimes, though rarely, stuffed with cotton. In the reign of Edward III, the Latin name cambuca was applied to this pastime, and it derived the denomination, no doubt, from the crooked club or bat with which it was played; the bat was called a bandy, from its being bent, and hence the game itself is frequently written in English bandy-ball.

bandy goffTwo figures engaged in bandy-ball (above), and the form of bandy, as it was used early in the fourteenth century, from a MS (manuscript), book of prayers beautifully illuminated and written about that time, in the possession of Francis Donce Esq.

Goff, according to the present modification of the game, is performed with a bat, not much un like the bandy: the handle of this instrument is straight, and usually made of ash, about four feet and a half in length; the curvature is affixed to the bottom, faced with horn and backed with lead; the ball is a little one, but exceedingly hard, being made with leather, and, as before observed stuffed with feathers.

The game consists of driving the ball into certain holes made in the ground; he who achieves it the soonest, in the fewest number of strokes, obtains the victory

There are generally two players, who each of them his bat and ball. The game consists of driving the ball into certain holes made in the ground; he who achieves it the soonest, in the fewest number of strokes, obtains the victory. The goff-lengths, or the spaces between the first and last holes, are sometimes extended to the distance of three miles; the number of intervening holes appears to be optional, but the balls must be struck into the holes and not beyond them; when four persons play, two of them are sometimes partners, and have but one ball, which they strike alternately, but every man has his own bandy. It should be seen that goff was a fashionable game among the nobility at the commencement of the seventeenth century, and it was one of those exercises which produced Henry,goff golf eldest son to James I, occasionally amused himself, as we learn from the following anecdote recorded by a person who was present: At another time playing at goff, a play not unlike paile-maille, whilst his schoolmaster stood talking talking with another, and marked not his highness warning him to stand farther off, the prince thinking he had gone aside, lifted up his goff-club to strike the ball; mean tyme one standing by said to him ‘beware that you hit not master Newton:’ wherewith he drawing back his hand, said, ‘ Had I done so, I had but paid my debts.”

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Scott’s Profile: A native Northern Californian with a deep love for pacific coast golf courses.  Favorites: Olympic Club, Spyglass, and Pebble Beach.  First golf memory: Introduced to golf at age 3 with a wooden shafted putter (while on a family vacation to Calgary),the putter didn’t make it home in one piece – broken after chasing a gopher down a hole.  Inspirational golf personality: as a kid captivated by many superstars of the 70s and 80s, ultimate inspiration was Arnold Palmer.  Current passion in golf: a slowed competitive ambition, and a love for learning, exploring and appreciating the finer points in golf. Favorite golf activity: traveling abroad and meeting new people, share a love for the game, and of course exploring both new and classic golf courses.  Hole-in-one count: 6. Handicap: a debatable 1.0 index.  College: USF

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