Golf, more than just a sport

  • Madinegolf course, Madine, Lorraine

    Madinegolf course, Madine, Lorraine

    © Atout France/Michel Laurent

  • The 18 holes golf course of Etretat, Normandy, overlooking the sea.

    The 18 holes golf course of Etretat, Normandy, overlooking the sea.

    © Atout France/Jean François Lefebvre

Golf, more than just a sport France fr

With more than 60 million registered players, golf is one of the most widely played sports in the world. In 2016, it will be making its big return to the programme of the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. France is following this trend because even though football and tennis are still the most popular sports, golf is now expanding at a rate that no-one would have believed possible just a few years ago.

Golf in France

The history of golf in France began in 1856 with the creation of the 1st French course in the town of Pau (Aquitaine), the oldest course on the continent of Europe designed under the influence of the British. The characters who have marked the development of golf in France throughout its history include Jean Garaïalde, Simone Thion de la Chaume, Jean Van de Velde and Karine Icher.

The Fédération Française de Golf was created in 1912. It has been recognised as a public interest body since a statute issued on April 9th, 1975, but the game only really took off in the 1980-1990s.

Today, there are over 400,000 registered players in France (official 2009 figures: 410 377 registered players, split 28.6% of women (117 280) and 71.4% men (293 097)) with 668 golf clubs, making the country one of the top fifteen European nations in terms of infrastructures and players.

A good number of courses were designed by internationally reputed architects, for instance the Golf de Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche (Ile-de-France) designed by Fred William Hawtree, Fontainebleau (Ile-de-France) and Chantilly (Picardie) designed by Tom Simpson, and the Golf des Sept Fontaines laid out Jean-Noël Capart.

The diversity of landscapes in France is an asset that benefits so many different courses across the land. Whether in the mountains by the sea, overseas or out in the country, golfers have a wonderful choice…

Not to mention the fact that golf goes so very well with an ever greater number of French specialities: many clubs feature their own gourmet restaurant and wine cellar! Likewise, many facilities combine golf and cultural heritage thanks to the presence of a château or an estate, or golf and fitness whenever the club also boasts a balneotherapy facility. In a word, there is always something for everybody.


The history of golf

"Golf" is not an acronym for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden”. Like the majority of modern words, the word “golf” is derived from older languages and local dialects, as it happens, medieval Scottish and ancient Dutch. "Kolf" or "kolve" meant "club". It is thought that this Dutch word was adopted by the Scots, whose ancient dialect transformed it into "golve", "gowl" or "gouf". The world “golf” emerged in the 16th century.

No-one really knows the real origins of golf. It was apparently codified in 1854 by the Scottish Club of Saint Andrews, but according to recent studies, similar games were being played in the Netherlands in the 13th century and in China as early as the 11th century. It was only at the end of the 19th century that the sport really took off in Scotland, then in England, before taking hold in the United States after the Great War. The movement was followed by other nations such as South Africa, Germany, Spain, South Korea, Japan and Australia after World War II. Although played mostly by men in the early days, more and more women were taking up the game in the early 20th century.

Traditionally reserved for the upper classes, golf has long been on the road to popularisation. With street golf and country golf, the street and countryside have become the new golf courses for the new-age golf fan.

The rules of golf

Golf is played on an open-air course and consists of hitting a ball into a hole with the help of clubs. It is played over 9 or 18 holes and the goal is to hit the fewest number of strokes on each hole. The ranking method is called the handicap system. It is determined in relation to the number of strokes made below or over par (the number of strokes set to complete each hole) at official tournaments, which are played either individually ("stroke-play") or against another player ("match play").

The new Rules of Golf 2008-2011 are available for downloading: "The Rules of Golf 2008-2011" (Copyright ©2008 Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association. All rights reserved.)

Changes to the rules of golf 2008-2011 for disabled players:

Golf, an art of living

People often say that golf is a walk with nature, out in the country, in the mountains, by the sea... but golf is also respect for the environment... It is a permanent invitation to discover the country’s cultural heritage with courses lined by castles and old buildings. It is about love for fine food and wines and French know-how for wellness and well-being. More than just a simple leisure or sport, golf is a real art of living experienced every day.