A golf putter with a silver club and a bronze handle.
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Gallery Highlight: The Grand Old Game of Golf

12 March 2024

By 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum Curatorial Team

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum (QOSM)’s Global History of Sport gallery showcases sports memorabilia from the bonnie game of golf and one of its all-time greats.

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Europe’s love of sport extends back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks established the Olympic Games and celebrated athleticism, while in Rome sport was a spectacle, focussed on gladiatorial combat and chariot racing. Visitors to the Global History of Sport gallery will discover how aristocrats in medieval times used sport for entertainment and military training, and why feasts and festivals gave ordinary people the chance to indulge their love of games.

Organised sport was invented and re-invented by different societies from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution - ultimately leading to the development of the modern versions of sports that are played around the world today.

Ball sports in particular have one of the longest-recorded histories across all sporting disciplines. The ancient Chinese ‘football’ game, Cuju, dates back as far as 200 BCE.

The definition of a ball sport, or ‘ball game’, can be twofold: first, a ball must be a key element of the sport, and second, a ball is often used to score points, or goals. By this definition, many subcategories of ball sports also exist, including bat-and-ball games like cricket and baseball, or racquet sports like tennis and badminton.

A white leather golf ball with visible sewing lines rests on a metal display.

The ‘featherie’ golf ball, made of feathers stuffed into leather, is one of multiple evolutions of the modern golf balls used in the sport today. Photo courtesy of 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum ©2024

Golf lies at the intersection of several of these subcategories, the most consistently agreed upon definition classifies the game as a club-and-ball target sport, meaning players must use a club to hit the ball to score points.

While the exact origins of golf are contested, with Dutch and Latin language texts on the game appearing as early as the 16th century, most experts agree that this game of patience and skill was developed in Scotland.

It was the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, in fact, and the creation of the Scottish railway system, that facilitated a movement of sports tourism from England and other parts of the United Kingdom, popularising golf in a way it hadn’t experienced before.

A golf putter with a silver club and a bronze handle.

Putter golf club with stamp of Scottish golfer Tom Morris. The modern game of golf has earlier roots but developed in Scotland in the 1800s CE. Photo courtesy of 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum ©2024

The golf club displayed (above) once belonged to one of the men first associated with professional golf play, Tom Morris. Fondly known as ‘The Grand Old Man of Golf’, Morris hailed from Fife on the east coast of Scotland – the ‘home of golf’. Golfing from childhood using whatever materials he could find to imitate a club and ball, Morris racked up some of the most impressive accolades in the history of the sport. These include runner-up in the very first British Open (1860) and holding the record for largest margin of victory in the Open for almost 150 years, broken only by Tiger Woods in 2000.

Alongside another golf master of his time, the ball and club maker Allan Robertson, Morris was involved in the evolution of the golf ball, in particular ‘featherie’ balls (pictured above). From wooden balls, to balls filled with cow hair, moulded from sap or rubber, the modern golf ball saw many iterations to reach its final form.

Qatar is no stranger to the wonderful world of golf, hosting the prestigious Qatar Masters tournament annually since 1998, with golf heavyweights like Australian Adam Scott and South African Ernie Els regularly giving fans performances to remember.

Plan your visit to QOSM to see these special relics from golfing past and other objects from the world of sport.