Golfing History - Birth of Golf as a Modern Game
The dawn of the 20th century brought with it several technological innovations. The first was the Haskell one-piece rubber cored ball of 1900, which practically guaranteed an extra 20 yards. Grooved-faced irons were introduced in 1902. In 1905 William Taylor invented the first dimpled ball. Arthur Knight introduced steel-shafted clubs in 1910 though hickory was widely used for another 25 years. Within the space of a decade, golfers could hit further and more accurately than ever before using equipment which was relatively cheaply mass-produced.
The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) of America was formed in 1916 and initially consisted of a winter calendar. However by 1944 the tour was played throughout the year and consisted of 22 events.
In 1921, the R&A imposed a limit on the size and weight of the golf ball, which began a 30-year split between the European, and Commonwealth game and the US game (regulated by the USGA). Most of the differences were resolved in 1951 when both parties agreed to a common set of rules. However the golf ball issue was not settled until 1988! Today golf worldwide is regulated jointly by the R&A and the USGA. They hold a summit every four years where they agree alterations to the published official rules of golf.
The rift was accompanied by the introduction of the Ryder Cup matches in 1927. Initially golfers represented the Europeans from Britain and Ireland. The Americans with their wealth of talent won every event between 1935 and 1985 with the exception of 1957. Only since 1979, have players outside the British Isles been allowed to play for the European Ryder Cup team and the competition becomes truly competitive.
Perhaps the greatest player of the pre-war period was the American born Bobby Jones. Amongst his many successes was the original Grand Slam; he won US and British Amateurs and the US and British Opens in 1931. Other luminaries were Sir Henry Cotton who won a third consecutive British Open in 1936 and Walter Hagen who won four British Opens. Hagen was noted for his flamboyant behavior, which included hiring a Rolls Royce as a changing room and giving his prize money as winner of the British Open to his caddie.
Great women golfers of the time were Joyce Wethered who won her fifth consecutive English Ladies Championship in 1924 and Glenna Collett Vare who won her sixth US Women's Amateur in 1935.
In 1933, Augusta opened. The first US Masters was played there in 1934 and won by Horton Smith. Gary Player from South Africa broke the American monopoly of the event in 1961. Several British players have won since the 1980s.
When World War II broke out in 1939, competition in England was largely suspended. The War Ministry diverted all rubber and metal resources into the war effort and drafted men of fighting age into the services. The Americans followed suite when they entered the war in 1942.