FRANCO-SWISS GOLF: A PASSION STEEPED IN HISTORY
Already known in Roman times as “paganica”, the game played with a ball and a curved stick existed since ancient times. This game of princes developed mostly in Scotland and the Netherlands in the early 14th century, and it came to us due to the fervour of English Freemasons, who saved it from extinction in the period between the 18th and 19th century.
Thus, in the early 1800s – in 1814, to be more precise –, after the Battle of Orthez against Napoleon, the British, who accompanied Wellington, settled in the city of Pau. After Napoleon’s downfall, the region witnessed a great development in tourism and sports, especially due to its climate. Thus, it only came natural for the British gentry to create, under the impulse of three of its representatives, the world’s first golf course outside the Anglophone circuit: the Pau Golf Club 1856. Golf in France was born.
But another 32 years had to pass before a second golf course was created, establishing thereby the presence of this activity in the country. It is true that the technologies employed at the time – leather balls stuffed with chicken or goose feathers and wooden clubs – limited its development.
Therefore, the balls are more expensive than the clubs and their manufacturing takes longer. And the limitations imposed by the game can be easily understood when you know how many balls areGolf really developed rapidly with the advent of the gutta-percha ball in 1848 (a resin extracted from a tree indigenous to Malaysia that hardens on contact with air, but becomes flexible again in hot water, and can be easily modelled by hand or in a mould), and later on, with the appearance of the rubber-core ball in 1898 and the subsequent development of metal clubs. This was followed by the creation of the motorised lawn mower in 1902, as well as by the development of Freemasonry. British Freemasons were very fond of the game and became its most ardent ambassadors around the world, turning it into a sport after the establishment of the first competitions in 1860, especially the British Open Amateur in 1892.
The combination of these various elements allowed golf to democratise and thus, at the end of the 19th century, in many countries (such as Switzerland in 1891), golf made its way into people’s environment.
“Of course”, English are often at the root of these achievements or, at least, inspire them. The golf courses in Saint-Moritz Kulm (1891) and Saint-Moritz Engadin (1893) – the first golf courses in Switzerland – were established by hotel owners in order to meet the needs of the English-speaking clientele, which, at the time, was particularly important for the region’s economy. Thus, golf in Switzerland was born.
In 1900, during the Summer Olympic Games in Paris, golf was promoted to the status of international sport and witnessed a real boom in France. The first French Open was established in 1906 and numerous clubs began to open across France and Europe.
The structuring of local, regional, national and international associations was made progressively. The Swiss association was founded in 1902 (ASG – Swiss Golf Association) and is proud to be one of the oldest in the world – the sixth, to be more accurate. The creation in 1912 of the Union of French Golf Courses (which in 1933 became the French Golf Federation – FFG) sealed the establishment of golf in France.
In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Mommer, the President of the ASG, and Mr. Charon, the President of the FFG, for the honour received due to their forewords to this issue.
So this is the history of the beginning and development of one of the most fashionable and passionate sports of the last hundred years, especially in our two countries, France and Switzerland.
Today, golf is practiced by over 800,000 people in France and by over 100,000 people in Switzerland. Some are concerned with democratising it even further, as you will discover through the pages of this VIP magazine dedicated to golf.
Among the 24 clubs described in this work, we will introduce a sample of the different golf course styles currently available and their current state of development. Furthermore, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the presidents and directors of the respective golf clubs for the support they gave us in creating this issue, which is dedicated to them, as well as to all greenkeeper professionals, trainers and enthusiasts of this exceptional sport.
It is interesting to note that the survival of a sport irretrievably requires the quality of its service towards customers and members. Through historical clubs of closed associations with extremely high annual fees, as well as through clubs established by the large Swiss supermarket chain Migros, which offers anyone the opportunity to initiate and play, you will discover the amazing environment of golf enthusiasts.
Dedicated to passions of all horizons and to the quality of service, the VIP Services Guild fell concerned in paying tribute to this highly demanding environment. We hope that this was achieved by means of this work, meant to ensure an exciting journey in the discovery of history.
Pierre-André Dumont de CuiseryPublishing Director
Cover Page from n°14