History of golf
A golf-like game is recorded as taking place on 26 February 1297, in the Netherlands, in a city called Loenen aan de Vecht, where the Dutch played a game with a stick and leather ball. The winner was whoever hit the ball with the least number of strokes into a target several hundred yards away. Some scholars argue that this game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was also played in 17th-century Netherlands and that this predates the game in Scotland. There are also other reports of earlier accounts of a golf-like game from continental Europe.
In April 2005, new evidence re-invigorated the debate concerning the origins of golf. Recent evidence unearthed by Prof. Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University suggests that a game similar to modern-day golf was played in China since Southern Tang Dynasty, 500 years before golf was first mentioned in Scotland. 
A spokesman for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the oldest Scotland golf organization, said "Stick and ball games have been around for many centuries, but golf as we know it today, played over 18 holes, clearly originated in Scotland."
However, the modern game of golf we understand today is generally considered to be a Scottish invention, as the game was mentioned in two 15th-century Acts of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the game of gowf because it was taking time from archery practice necessary for national defense. (Some scholars, however, suggest that this refers to another game which is much akin to shinty or hurling, or to modern field hockey rather than golf as we know it.) The word golf may be a Scots alteration of Dutch "kolf" meaning "stick, "club" and "bat". All these earlier games may more accurately be viewed as ancestors of the modern game we understand as golf.
The modern game of golf originated and developed in Scotland: the first permanent golf course originated in Scotland, as well as membership in the first golf clubs. The very first written rules originated there, as did the establishment of the 18-hole course. The first formalized tournament structures developed and competitions were held between various Scottish cities. Before long, the modern game of golf had spread from Scotland to England and from there to the rest of the world. The oldest playing golf course in the world is The Old Links at Musselburgh Racecourse. Evidence has shown that golf was played on Musselburgh Links in 1672, although Mary, Queen of Scots reputedly played there in 1567.
Golf course evolution
Golf courses have not always had eighteen holes. The St Andrews Links occupy a narrow strip of land along the sea. As early as the 15th century, golfers at St Andrews established a trench through the undulating terrain, playing to holes whose locations were dictated by topography. The course that emerged featured eleven holes, laid out end to end from the clubhouse to the far end of the property. One played the holes out, turned around, and played the holes in, for a total of 22 holes. In 1764, several of the holes were deemed too short, and were therefore combined. The number was thereby reduced from 11 to nine, so that a complete round of the links comprised 18 holes. Due to the status of St Andrews as the golfing capital, all other courses followed suit and the 18 hole course remains the standard to the present day.
The evolution of golf can be explained by the development of the equipment used to play the game. Some of the most notable advancements in the game of golf have come from the development of the golf ball. The golf ball took on many different forms before the 1930s when the United States Golf Association (USGA) set standards for weight and size. These standards were later followed by a USGA regulation stating that the initial velocity of any golf ball cannot exceed 250 feet per second. Since this time, the golf ball has continued to develop and impact the way the game is played.
Another notable factor in the evolution of golf has been the development of golf clubs. The earliest golf clubs were made of wood that was readily available in the area. Over the years, Hickory developed into the standard wood used for shafts and American Persimmon became the choice of wood for the club head due to its hardness and strength. As the golf ball developed and became more durable with the introduction of the “gutty” around 1850, the club head was also allowed to develop and a variety of iron headed clubs entered the game. The introduction of steel shafts began in the late 1890s but their adoption by the governing bodies of golf was slow. In the early 1970s, shaft technology shifted again with the use of graphite for its lightweight and strength characteristics. The first metal “wood” was developed in the early 1980s and metal eventually completely replaced wood due to its strength and versatility. The latest golf club technology employs the use of graphite shafts and lightweight titanium heads which allows the club head to be made much larger than previously possible. The strength of these modern materials also allows the face of the club to be much thinner which increases the spring-like effect of the club face on the ball, theoretically increasing the distance the ball travels. The USGA has recently limited the spring-like effect, also known as the Coefficient of Restitution (COR) to .83 and the maximum club head size to 460cc in an attempt to maintain the challenge of the game.
The word golf was first mentioned in writing in 1457 on a Scottish statute on forbidden games as gouf, possibly derived from the Scots word goulf (variously spelled) meaning "to strike or cuff". This word may, in turn, be derived the Dutch word kolf, meaning "bat," or "club," and the Dutch sport of the same name. But there is an even earlier reference to the game of golf and it is believed to have happened in 1452 when King James II banned the game because it kept his subjects from their archery practice.
There is a persistent urban legend claiming that the term derives from an acronym "Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden". This is a false etymology as acronyms being used as words is a fairly modern phenomenon, making the expression a backronym.