Around 400 A.D., give or take a few years, the Roman legions retreated from the northern British Isles, leaving behind a scattered collection of relatively peaceful, Christian people known as Celts. Shortly thereafter, the Celts were invaded by pagan, barbaric hordes of Anglo-Saxons out of northern Europe. Apparently, the Celts, as best they could, tried to defend themselves. This was the darkest era of the Dark Ages, where history blends into myth, giving rise to semilegendary figures like King Arthur.
Out of this mess, eventually, the country of Scotland would arise. On the world stage, Scotland has never been especially innovative or remarkable. I suppose the mournful sound of bagpipes have a certain significance at some social functions. However, the kilt was never popular on past or modern fashion ramps. “Highland games” are traditionally celebrated in various parts of the world, including our little corner of the planet, but such “Scottish fairs” have enjoyed little popularity compared to other sports. Yet, there’s one game through which the Scots have made quite a profound and indelible impression. You see, they invented golf.
With any luck at all, God will forgive them.
True, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs indicate the pharaohs played a game with sticks, a ball, and holes in the ground. And in the 11th century, the Chinese played something similar. But golf as we know it today originated with the Scots sometime in the 12th century. Initially, they used wooden clubs to hit round stones into rabbit holes. But through the years, the implements were refined, they developed a set of written rules, established organized teams, had competitions between cities and laid out the world’s first course which, surprisingly, had 18 holes.
Today, there are more than 16,000 golf courses in the United States alone. For better or worse, as a blessing or a curse, even Enumclaw has such solemn turf. I can vaguely recall a nine-hole course during my childhood. Then, during the early 1980s, King County bought the old Walt Bruhn farm and, in 1984, the course was enlarged to 18 holes.
During the years that followed, the property and facilities grew woefully outdated, upkeep was terribly neglected and the general condition deteriorated. The country had neither the funds nor desire to make further improvements and wanted to unload the “burden,” Consequently, in 2003, the golf course – in conjunction with the county swimming pool (at our high school) – were both transferred to the city.
Granted, our mossy, wet climate and relatively short summers aren’t especially receptive to the game of golf. But the setting has its compensations. I’ve talked to a number of avid golfers who have tread such hallowed grounds all over the U.S. and there’s near unanimous agreement that, on a warm, sunny, August afternoon, the Enumclaw golf course is one of the most beautiful they’ve ever played.
More next week.