Fun & Games

Highland Games

Caber toss and stuff


Many of us know at least a little about golf, but how many of us know its deep Scottish roots?

Golf, in its primitive beginnings, started in the early 1400’s when Scottish shepherds used their staffs to knock rocks into ground holes as a way to pass the time. Some sports historians point out that, like any established game, it’s likely that assorted forms of utilizing a stick to roll a round object at a target occurred around the globe. However, Scotland does have a proper claim to originating golf as we know it. The term itself is evolved from the Gaelic word for club with assorted written references over the centuries including “gawfe” and “golve.” It appears that, almost as soon as it became a formal recreational occupation, it was banned. In 1457, the Scots Parliament of James II issued an edict forbidding golf play, feeling it was interfering with the military training to be used against the English. In 1502, with England and Scotland reaching a peace treaty, the ban was officially lifted.

In 1744, the first recorded golf association, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was formed. The City of Edinburgh sponsored an open competition and awarded a, thereafter annual, Silver Cup, to John Rattray, the first official golf champion. In 1754, the first codified Rules of Golf were published by what became The Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Scotland. In 1759, stroke play began replacing match play at St. Andrews.

THE GOLF CLUB – After it was recognized that shepherd’s staffs were inadequate for proper sport, players began carving their own clubs and golf balls from wood. In time, skilled craftsmen took up formal production. The earliest written reference to some specially made clubs is from 1502, when King James IV had a bow-maker in Perth produce a personal use set. This set included “longnoses” for driving, “fairway clubs” for medium range shots on grass, “spoons” for short range shots, “niblicks” similar to today’s wedges and a “putting cleek.” Club heads and shafts were made from two different types of wood and were connected by a splint, then wrapped with leather straps.

THE GOLF BALL has come a long way from the round rocks it started out being. In the late 1400’s, wooden spheres were replaced by the “hairy” which was a leather stitched handball filled with animal hair. Sometime before 1600, the “featherie” replaced the hairy, made by stuffing the leather pieces with the down of unfledged birds. Featheries could be packed harder than haries and, therefore, could travel farther. Then, in 1848, “the gutty” was introduced; a ball made of gutta-percha gum. The first gutties were smooth, however, it was soon recognized that a ball would perform better if it had indentations, so a saddle maker in St. Andrews used tools to create regular grooves. Then, in 1899, a Goodrich rubber company employee patented “the Haskell ball,” which was a solid core wrapped tightly with rubber bands covered with a layer of guttapercha. In 1967, Spalding re-devised this type using Suralyn as cover. The result is a golf ball which spins slower off the driver, slices less yet still allows control in short game. The traditional 18-hole golf game dates back to 1858 at St. Andrews when a member pointed out that it takes exactly 18 shots to finish a fifth of Scotch. Therefore, it was determined a round of golf was finished when the Scotch ran out. Folklore and fun! So, “fore!” (shouted at “forecaddies”who waited down the fairway to collect personal golf balls) and let’s all enjoy the wonderful, legendary and, definitely, SCOTTISH Game of GOLF.


During each Winter Olympic Games, people around the world become fascinated with the mysterious sport of curling.

One of the oldest team sports, Curling, began in 16th Century Scotland. Accounts about a game which involved sliding stones on ice at Paisley Abbey, in 1541, by a monk and a relative of the Abbott were written down by Notary John McQuhn. It came to be called “Curling” because the round stone slid down the ice toward the large bulls eye target, called the “house” rotates, or curls, as it travels.

Curling is played by 2 teams, 4 players each. The object is to have more stones closer to the center of the “house” (blue and red bullseye) than the other team. The “skip” is the one who throws the stones. To help the stone get to the middle of the house, without going past it, 2 other team members use brooms to sweep a smooth path for it, while it’s sliding. Each segment of play is called an end. 16 stones are thrown in each end.

Scotland provides the most important section of the curling stone which is the one which makes direct contact with the ice. This high density blue hone granite can be found, in any adequate quantity, in only one locale. It is the mile long island called the Firth of Clyde, 10 miles off Ayrshire on Scotland’s West Coast. The bottom band of every curling stone, in the world, is made from Scottish granite.

If you’d like to see a curling match in person or even learn how to play yourself, you’re in luck! The Triangle Curling Club upholds this Scottish tradition and gives everyone the opportunity to experience this special sport.


Here is some information according to the North Carolina Shinty Association:

Shinty’s a team sport played with curved sticks trying to hit a ball into a goal and resembles field hockey but the ball can be played in the air. The objective of the game is to play a small ball into a goal, or hail, erected at the ends of a 140 to 170-yard-long pitch. The ball is played using the caman, a stick of about 3 1/2 ft in length. The caman would be made from any piece of wood with a hook in it, hence caman, from the Scottish Gaelic cam, meaning bent or crooked. It is also often called a stick or club.

Shinty is now played mainly in the Scottish Highlands and among Highland migrants to the big cities of Scotland. It was once competitively played on a widespread basis in England and other areas in the world where Scottish Highlanders migrated. The Scottish Gaelic name for Shinty is camanachd, iomain.

Rules are that a player may play the ball in the air and is allowed to use both sides of the stick. The stick may also be used to block and to tackle, although a player may not come down on an opponent’s stick, this is defined as hacking. A player may tackle using the body as long as this is shoulder-to-shoulder as in Association Football (soccer). A player may only stop the ball with the stick, the chest, two feet together or one foot planted on the ground. Only the goalkeeper may use his hands and then only with an open palm. He may not catch it. Teams consist of 12 players, including one goalkeeper. A match is played over two halves of 45 minutes. With the exception of the keeper, no player is allowed to play the ball with his hands. There are also variants with smaller sides, with some adjustments in the field size and duration of play.

Find out more about shinty from US Camanachd, a US shinty authority.