What Does Golf Stand For? (It’s Not What You Think)

Like many people who have tried their hand at golf, you may be wondering, “What does golf stand for?”

A common myth going around right now is that golf stands for Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden. This, of course, is not true, and the meaning of the word golf can be traced back many centuries. 

The first time historians have found mentions of the word golf dating back to the 15th century.

Historians found the meaning of the word golf to stand for ‘club,’ probably due to the clubs used to hit the golf balls of the time.

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Other variations that historians have found the word golf to originate from include:

  • golve
  • gawf
  • goif
  • gouff

The variations of the word golf were probably due to the lack of standardized ways to spell things when golf was invented. People in the 15th century spelled words how they were said phonetically.  

Over time, the word golf was eventually refined into the spelling we know today.

How Did Golf Get Its Name?

golf word written with golf ball and tees

Golf got its name from the old Dutch word “Kolf” meaning club. If you study the history of golf, many agree that it began with a dutch game called Kolf, where players hit a ball with sticks along frozen canals.

Eventually, this game was brought to Scotland and developed into the golf game we know and love today.

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The Dutch word Kolf turned into the Scottish word Goff, which turned into the word Golf over time in the 16th century. 

Like the Londoun Gawf Club, some golf clubs even maintain the old ways of spelling the word golf.

Where did Gentleman’s Only Ladies Forbidden Come From?

It is a myth that golf stands for Gentleman’s Only Ladies Forbidden. We know this because it has a well-documented etymological history. The meaning of golf derives from an old Scottish word meaning “club.”

Gentleman’s Only Ladies Forbidden is a phrase that probably dates back to the 19th or 20th century, when golf became more popular. 

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There were even golf clubs, like Pine Valley in New Jersey, a golf club that only allowed males for over 100 years.

Surprisingly, this could last so long, as they only recently voted to allow women in the club.  

It is clear that men primarily dominated in the early days of the sport when it came to demographics. Much has changed since those days, and women are increasingly becoming involved in the sport.

Unfortunately, the myth that golf stands for Gentleman’s Only, Ladies Forbidden persists, and with the rise of social media, men who think it is funny still keep it alive. 

However, with the rise of women golfers entering the sport, and the downfall of male-only clubs, this myth is becoming decreasingly popular amongst the sport.

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