In 2016 golf will return to the Olympic Games. It is perhaps not widely known that it featured in the 1900 and 1904 Games. “It was very important to bring golf to light”, claimed the official report, “this is such an interesting and healthy game, aimed at all social classes, and men and women”.
The 1900 Paris Games formed part of the Exposition Universelle Internationale, also known as the World Fair Games. Two of the seven golfing competitions had Olympic status, the Grand Prix de l’Exposition for men, and the Prix de la Ville de Compiègne for women. Golf was one of the few sports women were permitted to compete in. Twelve competitors from the USA, Britain, France and Greece took part in the Grand Prix, which was won by American Charles Sands.
The 1904 Games were held in St. Louis, USA. Two had Olympic status, the individual Olympic Championship and the Team Championship. Seventy-two Americans and three Canadians contested the Olympic Championship. George Lyon of Canada beat H. Chandler Egan of the USA by 3&2.
London hosted the 1908 Olympic Games, as part of the Franco-British Exhibition of Science, Arts and Industry. In the months before the Games, debate raged as to whether golf should be included. Much anger was expressed in the press over the fact that Royal St George’s and not The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was organising the golfing competitions. According to the R&A, no letter from the British Olympic Association informing them of golf’s inclusion in the Games had been received.
Despite advanced arrangements, the BOA cancelled the golfing events two days before they were due to begin. It appeared that many British golfers had incorrectly filled in their entry forms.
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During and just after World War II, golf ball supplies reached crisis point, due to a shortage of rubber. In 1942 the Government forbid the remoulding of old balls. Following R&A intervention, the ban was lifted. One of the arguments used was that the Army Medical Council encouraged golf as a remedial exercise for wounded personnel.