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The true origins of golf have been lost in the mists of time, with many countries claiming to have invented the game. There is no doubt, however, that the Scots popularised the sport, and spread its gospel throughout the world.

A popular theory is that a primitive form of the game began in Holland where a game named 'Kolven' or 'Kolf' was played as early as the 1200s. It used doorways and posts as targets . The earliest documentation of golf in Scotland was in 1457 when and Act of Parliament under the Scottish King James II effectively banned "futbawis, gouff or uthir unprofitable sports". Archery was encouraged in the same Act, as Scotland was under threat from the English. Two more acts in the next fifty years also banned the game, making it clear that it had a good hold on the public.

Up and down the east coast towns, the thin, sandy strips of land linking the North Sea with the arable, agricultural land played host to golfers from all walks of life. These towns were trading ports, frequently playing host to Dutch Merchants. This is the believed connection between 'kolf' in Holland and 'golf' in Scotland.

To this day the Scottish linkslands are generally owned by the public. The townspeople have been able to play golf at very little cost for hundreds of years. It is a passionate part of their culture, to the extent that the most visual objects in some town cemeteries, are not the memorials to past politicians or leaders, but the tombs and statues of prominent golfers from yesteryear.
From Scotland, golf has spread to every corner of the globe. It is very different today. From a game of the people, on entirely natural courses shaped by the wind and the rain. It has become a game that in many areas, is available only to the rich, and is played on lush, manicured courses shaped by developers, designers and bulldozers.

In October 1821 a boatload of Scots set sail from Leith, bound for the fledgling colony of Van Diemens Land. Most of these pioneering families were granted land in the highlands of the island, as it reminded them of home. Many of these settlers were from towns where golf was the popular pastime. Like St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Elie, Aberdeen and Leith. Golf has been played in these areas for over 400 years.

One of the migrants, Alexander Reid, brought hickory clubs and feathery balls with him and played golf on his new property, which he named 'Ratho'. Alex Reid (1861-1960), his grandson, told historian Karl von Stieglitz in 1957 at the age of 96:

"I think my family must have been one of the first to introduce golf out here, and I can remember seeing some very old-fashioned clubs and golf balls in the early seventies, before I went to school. They were kept in a long box with some croquet mallets, but were given to a schoolmaster who afterwards went to live in New Zealand, and I have no idea where they are now. They could have been brought out in 1822 with my grandfather's things, but I think more likely they arrived in 1842 when my people returned from a trip to Scotland."

Golf was not played anywhere else in Australia until later in the 1840's (Grose Farm in Sydney, Flagstaff Hill Melbourne). Therefore, Reid's comments that his ancestors introduced golf in either 1822 or 1842 established that the links at 'Ratho' are the oldest in the country.

With so many of the settlers having grown up in Scotland with golf as part of their culture, it is no wonder that by the turn of the century four golf courses had been established by farmers on their allocated grants. Besides 'Ratho', course descriptions and details are known of the links at 'Logan', 'Cluny', and 'Hartfield". Considering the United States claims its first course to have been established in 1888, it is significant that Bothwell had so many courses at a similar time.

Golf was not played in South Africa until 1882, or in South America until 1892, making 'Ratho' the oldest course in the southern hemisphere, and indeed older than anything known outside Scotland. The course is much the same today as it has been for over a century. Grazing merinoes keep the fairways short, and fences protect the sacred greens. If these fences are hit, the golfer has the option of re-playing the shot with no penalty.