Golf in Scotland was first recorded in the Scottish late Middle Ages, and the modern game of golf was first developed and established in the country. The game plays a key role in the national sporting consciousness.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, known as the R&A, was the world governing body for the game (except in the United States and Mexico). The R&A, a separate organisation from the club, was created in 2004 as the governing body. The Scottish Ladies' Golfing Association was founded in 1904 and the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) in 1920. They merged in 2015 into a new organization, Scottish Golf.
To many golfers, the Old Course at St Andrews, an ancient links course dating to before 1574, is considered to be a site of pilgrimage. There are many other famous golf courses in Scotland, including Carnoustie, Gleneagles, Muirfield, Kingsbarns, Turnberry and Royal Troon. The world's first Open Championship was held at Prestwick in 1860, and Scots golfers have the most victories at the Open at 42 wins, one ahead of the United States.
Although golf is often seen as an elitist sport elsewhere in the world, in the land of its birth it enjoys widespread appeal across the social spectrum, in line with the country's egalitarian tradition. For example, the Old Course at St Andrews is a charitable trust and Musselburgh Links is public courses. Council-owned courses, with low fees and easy access, are common throughout the country wherever demography and geography allow. Therefore, golf courses, whether public or private, are far more common in the Lowlands than in the Highlands and Islands, where shinty (a game which may share a common ancestry with golf) is often the traditional sport.
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