I never thought I’d be citing Sports Illustrated here (Alan started it!) [via], but a Chinese historian has found references from over a thousand years ago to what he claims is the earliest known form of golf:
Professor Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University says he has uncovered evidence in a book called the Dongxuan Records that proves golf was played in China in AD 945.
The book, written during the Song Dynasty from AD 960 to AD 1279, claims the game was called chuiwan and was played with 10 different jewel-encrusted clubs, including a cuanbang — equivalent to a modern-day driver — and a shaobang — the ancient three-wood.
The term chui actually means “to hit” while wan is the term for a ball.
[H]e claims the game was imported to Europe by Mongol traders during the late Middle Ages.
[H]e claims a reference in the Dongxuan Records sees a prominent Chinese magistrate of the Nantang Dynasty (AD 937-975) instructing his daughter “to dig holes in the ground so that he might drive a ball into them with a purposely crafted stick.”
I was going to say “obviously, more research is needed” but then I realized that I really don’t care…. The evidence at the moment is decidedly thin — “smoking gun” traces rather than credible documentation — and there’ll be lots of heat back and forth with the Scottish, but it’s going to be a long time before there’s enough evidence to be worth revising the historical record. For one thing, is there any evidence that the Mongols played any such game or could have transmitted it any other way?
As the article says, “The Chinese have a history of making audacious claims to having invented sports,” not to mention everything else.