The game of golf is believed to have originated from a game played on the rolling links lands of the Fife coastal town of St Andrews during the 1400's.
Players would hit a pebble around the sand dunes of the natural links lands using a stick.
Claims that the ancient Dutch game of kolven and the French game jeu de mail were actually forerunners of golf have been dismissed by historians.
Neither had the single, most important element which makes golf what it is - the hole!
How golf actually started isn't known.
One of the most popular theories has it that fishermen on the east coast of Scotland invented the game to amuse themselves as they returned home from their boats.
The King gets nasty
'Gowf' soon became very popular in Scotland.
So popular in fact that in 1457, the reigning monarch, King James II, persuaded the Scottish Parliament to ban it!
He was worried that his subjects were spending too much time playing golf and not enough time practicing their archery skills.
The King felt that this jeopardised the defence of the realm at a time when Scotland was preparing to defend itself against an English invasion.
The ban was reaffirmed in 1470 and 1491 although many people largely ignored it.
When England and Scotland made friends again, golf was back in favour.
In 1502, King James IV signed the Treaty of Glasgow which ended the war with England.
Pretty soon the Scots were swapping their bows and arrows for golf clubs.
In fact, the King even took up the game himself and actually paid a bow-maker in Perth to make him a set of clubs.
It was this royal influence that helped the spread of the game throughout the country and, ultimately, overseas.
The earliest centres of golf had associations with royalty or, in the case of St Andrews, the two other influential pillars of Scots society - education and the Church.
St Andrews University is Scotland's oldest seat of learning and it was also a powerful Church stronghold.
Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, was the headquarters of the court and golf blossomed around the city aided by royal patronage.
Dunfermline and Perth also had royal palaces and they, too, developed strong golf connections as the popularity of the game continued to grow.
Rules written down
In 1744 a group of golfers persuaded the city fathers of Edinburgh to provide a silver trophy to the winner of a tournament.
The The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers founded the first true golf club and wrote down the original 13 rules.
The first tournament had only five long holes, but the final standard for holes and rules would later be set at 18 - the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
The First Rules of Golf
You must tee your ball, within a club's length of the hole
Your tee must be upon the ground
You are not to change the ball which you strike off the tee
You are not to remove, stones, bones or any break club for the sake of playing your ball, except upon the fair green/& that only/within a club's length of your ball
If your ball comes upon water, or any watery filth, you are at liberty to take out your ball, and bringing it behind the hazard and teeing it, you may play it with any club and allow your adversary a stroke for so getting out your ball
If your balls be found anywhere touching one another, you are to lift the first ball, till you play the last
At holing, you are to play your ball honestly for the hole, and, not to play upon your adversary's ball, not lying in your way to the hole
If you should lose your ball, by its being taken up, or any other way, you are to go back to the spot, where you struck last & drop another ball, and allow your adversary a stroke for the misfortune
No man at holing his ball, is to be allowed, to mark his way to the hole with his club, or with anything else
If a ball be stopped by any person, horse, dog, or anything else, the ball so stopped must be played where it lies
If you draw your club, in order to strike and proceed so far in the stroke, as to be bringing down your club; if then, your club shall break, in, any way, it is to be accounted a stroke
He, whose ball lies farthest from the hole is obliged to play first
Neither trench, ditch, or dyke, made for the preservation of the Links, nor the Scholar' Holes or the Soldiers Lines, shall be accounted a hazard.
But the ball is to be taken out/teed/ and played with any iron club.
Equipment takes shape
The earliest golf balls were made of box wood.
Feather-stuffed balls were introduced in the 17th century.
They were about the same size as a modern golf ball and could travel almost 200 yards if well struck.
But they cost a lot and took ages to make.
The gutta percha was unveiled in 1848 by the Rev Dr Robert Adams.
Made of a mould taken from the sap of the Malaysian Sapodilla tree, it was harder, cheaper to buy and lasted longer. They were also easy to repair.
At first they were made by hand, but then presses were used.
They took a while to become popular with golfers who found them difficult to hit.
The Rubber Core ball was patented in 1898 in America by Coburn Haskell and Bertram Works.
It was made by winding elastic around a core and covering it in gutta percha.
The ball was much bouncier and travelled further when it was hit with an iron club.
But it was also very expensive and only became popular when people realised that some of the professionals of the day were using it.
By 1914, the gutty ball was no longer used by golfers.
Modern balls are made in two pieces with a solid centre or core, making them easier to play with.
The dimple pattern on the ball is now marked on the outside of the ball in geometrical patterns rather than in straight lines.
The pattern on the outside of the ball helps it to fly through the air better.
In the early days players carved their own basic clubs from wood.
The feather-stuffed ball meant clubs no longer had to withstand the impact of striking a solid wooden ball.
So exquisite wooden clubs could be fashioned from ash, thorn, apple and pear wood.
When the gutty ball appeared in 1848, iron head clubs began to surface.
The irons were more suited to the harder ball as wooden club makers began searching for materials that would make the ball go further.
The Open is born
The first Open Championship was played over a 12-hole course at Prestwick in 1860.
It was open only to 'respected and known' players, which annoyed many good amateur players.
The next year Prestwick announced that the tournament "shall be open to all the world."
Young Tom Morris won the tournament three years in a row from 1868-70.
Afer his third win, he was allowed to keep the trophy, an extravagant belt of red leather with silver mountings.
The Prestwick Golf Club then invited the Royal and Ancient and the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to join them in producing a new trophy.
And so the famous Claret Jug was crafted.
The two clubs also agreed to stage the tournament on a rotating basis.
No agreement could be reached in 1871, but the event reappeared the following year and has continued ever since, with the exception of the war years.
Golf goes global
In the second half of the 19th century many new courses were built in Scotland and the rail network meant people could travel more.
But it was the arrival of a new type of ball that saw the game explode in popularity.
The gutta percha ball was cheaper, sturdier and easier to repair than the old feather ones which meant more people could play the game.
In 1766, Royal Blackheath Golf Club in England became the first club outside Scotland, followed by the Old Manchester Golf Club on Kersal Moor in 1818.
Golf didn't really catch on in America but it was popular in Canada.
The Royal Montreal Club was formed in 1873, the Quebec Golf Club in 1875 followed by a golf club at Toronto in 1876.
It wasn't until 1888 that golf began to take off in the United States - although it was down to a Scot!
John Reid built a three-hole course in Yonkers, New York and formed the St Andrews Club of Yonkers.
From these humble beginnings, golf literally soared as a new national hobby in the United States.
Shinnecock Hills was founded in 1891 on Long Island and by the turn of the century, more than 1,000 golf clubs had opened in North America.
Now the global game is run in partnership by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the United States Golf Association.
The Tiger is born
By the 1930s the balance of power in the game most definitely shifted from the UK across the Atlantic.
The invention of television also brought the game to the masses.
It made household names of American greats such as Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and the 'Golden Bear', Jack Nicklaus.
They dominated the game in the 1950s and 1960s.
But by the 1970s, European golfers were back, challenging America's grip on the game.
Players such as Tony Jacklin, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo dominated golf's 'major' tournaments.
And equality was finally restored when in 1985 Sam Torrance's putt gave a long-awaited victory to Europe in the Ryder Cup, a team competition against America staged every two years.
But by the dawn of the 21st century the game was back in the grip of America - and one man in particular.
Still only 28, Woods has already won eight majors, including a grand slam of back-to-back titles in 2000/2001.
He has some way to go to match the record of 18 major victories set by the great Jack Nicklaus.
But Woods' achievements have already seen him labelled the greatest golfer of all time.