1502 Week at KCCC

“It is statute and ordained that in na place of the Realme there be used Fute-ball, Golfe, or uther sik unproffitable sportes.” -- King James IV of Scotland (1473 to 1513), reaffirming the ban on golf and football in 1491.

It is 1502 week at The Kansas City Country. This is the 12th anniversary for our annual intra-club competition between Clan Campbelland Clan MacGregor. Normally, this is our club’s opening event, but in this very different year, it has become our club’s closing event, moving from April to October.

The initial, 2009 invitation described The 1502 as a “tip of the hat to the people of Scotland who perfected the game and have watched over it for centuries. The 1502, A Scottish Golf Day, is about competition, friends and fun!” The Campbells now lead the MacGregors 6 to 5 after winning three of the last four matches, including last year’s lopsided 46 – 34 score. For once, the golf gods looked kindly upon me by making me a Campbell!

The Campbells

The MacGregors

Why 1502?  As you look at the year-by-year timeline of golf, it becomes apparent that one man and one year stand out – King James IV of Scotland & 1502.  In 1502, James saved “the world’s greatest game” from extinction by lifting the ban that his grandfather, James II, had instituted in 1457 and his father, James III, reaffirmed in 1471.

James IV is considered to be the brightest and most talented of the Stewart Scottish rulers. Desiderius Erasmus (1469 to 1536), a Dutch-born Renaissance scholar and Catholic priest, said “He (James IV) had wonderful powers of mind, an astonishing knowledge of everything, an unconquerable magnanimity and the most abundant generosity.”

Even though he had an agile and open mind, James IV reaffirmed the ban on golf 1491, still fearing that England was a threat to his homeland.

Despite that unfortunate decision early in his reign, his résumé is impressive. “He inherited the Scottish throne at the age of 15 and unified the outlying areas of his kingdom by force of arms. He practiced dentistry and founded the Royal College of Surgeons in Scotland, many years ahead of that in England. He introduced compulsory education, requiring large landowners to educate their sons by sending them to one of the universities at St Andrews, Glasgow or Aberdeen.”[1]

Yet, we now know that his most lasting legacy is based on his 1502 ruling. That is the year he concluded “that the threat of war with England had receded sufficiently to lift the longstanding ban on golf, imposed to encourage archery practice. (He also realized cannon were going to replace bows).” [2]


1421 – A Scottish regiment aiding the French against the English at the Siege of Baugé is introduced to the game of “chole.” Hugh Kennedy, Robert Stewart and John Smale, three of the identified players, are credited with introducing the game in Scotland.

Soon thereafter, the Scots perfected the stick-and-ball game by introducing the hole. In other words, the Scots are the original source for the worldwide plague known as the “‘yips.”

1457 -- The word “golfe” was first recorded in the 15th century, appearing twice in an Act of the Scots Parliament on March 6. In a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to protect the Scottish homeland from the English invaders, the Scottish king, James II, and the Parliament, banned golf (and football) because it was believed that “the golfe” was interfering with archery practice.

1471 – The ban on golf is reaffirmed by King James III and the Scottish Parliament.

1491 – The golf ban is affirmed again by King James IV.

1502 (GOLF’S BIG YEAR) – With the signing of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace between Scotland and England, King James IV lifted the ban, thus preserving civilization and man’s right to happiness. In September, according to the records of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, James IV paid 14 shillings “for clubs from the bower at Saint Johnston.” This is the first recorded purchase of golf equipment.

1504 -- James IV plays in the first officially documented golf match. It was against the Earl of Bothwell.

1505 -- James IV purchases a dozen balls to play at Royal Park in Stirling.


[1] Scottish Golf History

[2] Ibid

Wherever you are playing the golfe this weekend, be sure to say a little “Thank You,” to Scotland and its wisest king, James IV.

Play Away!
Allan Stark

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